Friday, June 13, 2014
Of Graveyards and Visiting The Dead
That was the thought that went through my mind this morning as I skimmed through my Facebook feed.
A fellow grieving mother had posted a picture of her son's new grave marker, dates less than 20 years apart.
I wept for us both and for the other moms I know who have stood where she stood.
I still haven't been back to Ethan's grave. I'm not sure if it's cowardice or because I'm not one tied to graveyards. Ethan was long gone before we placed his body in the ground last December and I don't feel like going back will be visiting him.
In fact, since Ethan's death I've had far more empathy for the families and friends who erect memorials at the scene of a loved one's death. There is where I would feel some connection. The roadside crosses that mark the site of fatal accidents, places I once found disturbing for the memories they triggered for me after photographing crashes for so long, now draw me instead. There people can treasure that last earthly connection, remember the moment when bonds with a body were severed and a spirit soared free of pain. There heaven and earth touched for a moment as a loved one pulled free of the pain of the moment and slipped into the arms of the angels.
I still have the vision in my mind of that moment for Ethan. That heaven-sent glimpse of his smiling face and glowing countenance as he rose from his battered body, escaped the addiction and pain and fear he'd lived with so long, and took the hands of the shimmering angel who escorted him home. That is a moment I'd memorialize, if I could. But I doubt the new residents of his apartment would appreciate flowers and a cross in the bathroom, let alone a weeping woman at the door.
There, I've finally managed to make myself smile with that mental image, and I feel more connection to Ethan in that smile than I expect to feel in a windswept graveyard full of discarded shells.
There will be memories, because the old family graveyard has been part of our family for so long, but there won't be an immediate connection. They will be memories of a blond-haired boy decorating summer graves with my granny, memories of a curious middle-schooler wondering about the names on the markers, memories of a quiet teen and a struggling young man putting in a familial appearance. There will be plenty of memories to make me cry, but I can summon them wherever I am.
Yes, one day soon I'll visit the grave where his body has rested since December. I expect I'll go alone, wanting that time to myself -- my boy and I had that streak of solitude in common. But I won't go thinking I'll find him there.
I'll look for him instead in the inappropriate smile, the dance of the sun on a million summer leaves, the bite of a winter breeze, the twinkle of a firefly, the heartbreaking sight of another young man walking down the sidewalk, the homeless man I slip a few dollars. I'll greet him there with a smile, a tear, or a prayer for a stranger.
I'll visit him when I'm home and never have to say goodbye.