Why I Do Not Visit
I used to go to my mom and sister’s grave-site somewhat frequently. As a teenager if I was walking home from school I’d go out of my way to stop by and just sit. I remember spending time sitting on the grass and slowly watching the weeks pass as the brown dirt return to green grass as time passed. I even remember stopping by with friends. I remember going before the headstone was placed.
I remember seeing the headstone the first time – one of my mom’s favorite mountain locations and a picture of each of them. The years they lived and died. The simple words forever in our hearts are forever etched in my mind.
I always stopped by on significant dates, like mother’s day and birthdays and the anniversary of the car collision that claimed their lives. I’d stop to take a moment and reflect on what was and what is and how much my life had been turned upside in a flash.
Sometimes there would be a note or flowers from someone else sitting there. Once I even saw a candle that had burned out. I suspect they were from one of my sister’s friends or one of my mom’s colleagues or one of our family friends. It always brought a smile to my face to know they were missed by others, because it reminded me of the positive impact they left on the world.
There were times when I cried. Cried for their deaths and cried for my own loss. There were times when I talked, as if somehow they could hear me. There were times when I stood and said nothing at all, as I simply had no words.
I remember always being grateful that they were together. Somehow, it’s wrong that a mother and daughter should share a headstone, but it always brought me comfort to know that they were together. I struggle with the concept of an after-life and what the means to me, but yet somehow seeing them together for eternity on that stone brought me comfort. Their togetherness on that stone was a visual representation that they didn’t die alone and wherever or whatever they are now they are not alone, they will always have each other.
But, then I I moved away. And my visits started to become less frequent.
First my Dad moved me to live in my step-mom’s house. The move meant there was more distance, and it became harder to visit the grave on a whim.
Then, I moved much further away to attend university, and even further away to attend a second university.
At first, I’d stop by whenever I went home. I’d make a point to buy flowers or a Christmas wreath or something nice to leave as a marker of my love and my longing to have just one ore moment with them. I would always stop by and clean up the area – sweeping snow off the headstone or removing dead flowers.
I remember the first time I took Mr. MPB. The first time he saw that part of my life. I remember thinking how weird it is that this is how my boyfriend will meet my family – and yet, he stood their with me. Albeit, it was slightly awkward, but he did it and he held my hand and comforted me.
I also remember the first time I was back home and didn’t stop by. I remember the transition from frequent visits to infrequent visits.
I started buying fake flowers so they’d last longer and it would like look someone was coming by often.
Slowly, I stopped stopping by.
I used the excuse that we didn’t have enough time to stop and buy flowers and then stop at the cemetery. I made excuses not to drive out of my way.
But, then I was a bit more honest with myself about why I wasn’t going. I stopped going because I realized that my visits only made me angry. I realized that when I went by the cemetery I spent more time cursing at someone who made a catastrophic mistake the day they missed a stop sign. I felt more angry that my mom and sister were no longer here with me, that my family had been torn apart, that my Dad no longer seemed to care about me. I felt frustrated at the events in my life that they had missed – like my high school graduation or my wedding or even just a simple family dinner or a conversation about nothing important. I felt anger that my sister missed out on so many firsts that she should have had – no-one should die at the age of 15, it just isn’t right! I hated that my mom didn’t get to see her children grow up and mature into pretty decent adults. I despised seeing my last name on the back of the headstone – this wasn’t supposed to be how my family turned out. Seeing my mom’s smiling face and my sister’s innocence etched into the headstone made my blood boil. I hated that I had to visit a cemetery to visit my mom and my sister.
And with this, I realized that I never left the cemetery feeling better. I simply left feeling bitter and angry.
I also knew that I did not want to spend my life bitter and/or angry, I cannot live that life, I need to be more then that. I’m the one living today and I owe it to myself and to them to live positively just as they did.
I realize that for me, a headstone is simply a marker of a life once lived, but it is not life. I also realize that I do not have to stop by the cemetery to feel a connection with either of them. Even with my confused thoughts on the afterlife, one thing I adamantly believe is that just because their ashes are there does not mean they are. In fact, I don’t believe for a second that they are there. Ironically, as the headstone says they are in my heart, yesterday, today and into the future.
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