This morning, I dropped my daughter off at school and then headed out to the cemetery to place a wreath at my son’s grave. Last year, our first Christmas without him, I hadn’t thought to do this, but to be fair, we were still reeling from the shock of his death, still struggling through all those firsts that one must go through those initial twelve months after an unexpected and tragic death. Luckily, my mother-in-law came to the rescue (as she so often does) and placed a wreath at his grave, even adding a blue ribbon instead of the traditional red, because that was his favorite color.
I admit, that hadn’t occurred to me as something we had to do after a loved one died. Probably because until last year, my husband and I were blessed with not having had to manage the death of a close loved one. Now we’ve discovered not only are we supposed to put a wreath at his gravesite each December, but we’re also supposed to maintain the area in the summer, too.
Okay, “supposed to” is a strong way to say it. You see, we chose to bury his ashes in a natural (aka green) cemetery. This means they don’t cut the grass, they don’t use pesticides to make it look perfect and pristine. The grave markers are boulders dug up from that very site, and you can either let the natural landscape (aka weeds) take over or you can plant your own flowers, so long as they’re native to Michigan.
I’ve had intentions since last spring to plant flowers: Bulbs for spring color and perennials from my own yard, selecting varietals that would ensure something was blooming for the entirety of the growing season. And it seems terribly appropriate that the flowers would come from my own yard, the one he played in, the one he grew up in.
Those intentions haven’t yet turned into reality because, well, I’m good at coming up with excuses to avoid doing things I don’t want to do. And kneeling in the dirt, digging into my son’s gravesite ranks damn high on the I Don’t Want To list. One of these years I’m sure that perspective will change. Hopefully, eventually, I’ll find some sort of comfort in doing that. If I keep telling myself that, it’ll come true, right?
And then there was the drive home. Taking my daughter to school has become routine, a new one created after my son died. She’s at a different school from the one he attended (on purpose), although we do have to drive past his old school every single day to get to hers. Today, because I dropped her off and then went to visit him, as I headed back to the house, my mind suddenly delved into territory I don’t often go into.
If he were still alive…
If today was just another day, and I’d dropped them both at school instead of have them take the bus. He would be in high school now, a freshman, so he’d get dropped off first, since high school has an earlier start than middle school. I would have made a giant circle, as the high school is further away from home than the middle school, and there are a couple lakes in between. The kids would have argued over who got to sit in the front seat. He probably would have won because he’d use the argument that he would get out of the car first, and then she could get into the front seat for the ride to her school. She would have acquiesced because she always deferred to him. He was the big brother, after all; larger than life, her idol.
Until he wasn’t.
That’s as far as I could get into that particular daydream. Not surprising. First, I’d just come from his gravesite, which is a guaranteed cry. Then, I’m thinking about things that simply cannot be, no matter how hard I wish for them. And when I think about it like that, it gets reeeeaaallly depressing, so I have to deliberately cut myself off and mentally change the channel to avoid that scary, dark path.
I sure wish he’d had that ability. Then I wouldn’t need it today.
Tami Lund is an author trying to juggle the various aspects of real life, some of which are damned depressing. That’s probably why she insists upon writing happily ever afters. Because everyone deserves them, and since life isn’t always so accommodating, she ensures her books are. Check out her website at: www.tamilund.com.