Why do we go to the grave?
While I meticulously arranged and rearranged the flowers we had brought with us to adorn the headstone of our second born son, Jeremy, this thought swirled in my imagination. Why am I here? The reality is Jeremy is not here. I certainly don’t believe that his spirit is held captive in the casket we laid his body to rest in 2010.
My heart sunk. A wave of nauseous energy overtook me. I shuddered imagining what was actually left of his broken body now six feet under along with all the other bodies. As my eyes scanned headstone upon headstone reaching out to Hwy 90, separating the grave from the water’s edge, I was brought to my knees. With jealous rage the grave seeks to devour, yet, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” I know that I know that I know the grave cannot contain Jeremy.
So, why do we make this annual trek to mark Jeremy’s birth, death, Christmas, Easter and other special occasions? I guess somehow in the ritual of the rhythm of returning to the grave we find comfort as we remember. We seek closure. We find consistency. We seek to make sense out of a situation that otherwise makes little to no sense. We find the death of a child remains. The. death. of. a. child…have you really ever stopped to imagine the brutal life-long implications?
It’s not just the loss of the child. That’s painful enough to bear. You love that child. You delight in that child. “This is my dearly loved son, who brings me great joy.” You are that child. That child is you. Mothers carry that child for nine months. Fathers help to carry mothers as they carry that child for nine long months. That child is so intertwined to who you are it’s as if an eternal umbilical cord connects your souls. When they leave a piece of your very soul, the connective tissue holding you and that child together rips away, too.
But there’s more. Parents are the link to the past for the child. The generation upon generation the child was brought forth from. The heritage. Lineage. Pillar the child is building their life upon. Parents hold the familiar stories of old days that are told and retold to the child. In a reciprocal fashion, the child holds the parent’s future in their tiny little hand.
Oh, the dreams and plans we make in our imaginations for what are children will grow to be? Do? Achieve? We hope, plan, and prepare for them to go further than us. We willing sacrifice in order for them to have a better life than us. We long for them to grow in knowledge and stature and far exceed us. We create stories in our mind filled with us helping our children along the journey. We “see” ourselves loading them up in their car and sending them off to college as we silently weep. We envision ourselves sheltering them from heartache when their first serious relationship breaks apart. We are there when they enter the workforce, cheering them on. We see ourselves a nervous wreck as they take the hand of their loved one and vow “til death do us part. ” We sit in the waiting room, anticipating yet another generation that will be a branch in our family’s tree. And we feel the warmth of Christmas after Christmas gathered around the fireplace telling and retelling the stories of old that link us to our past, and provide a foundation that will take us into our preferred future, together.
All those carefully ordered dreams that felt like definites are suddenly, violently ripped away. A branch is torn from the tree. With the shattering of the future dreams comes the equally disturbing ripping away of the innocent, yet blissfully ignorant, sense of security, hope and promise that the future would hold uninhibited blessing. Now, you are left with your family tree missing a branch that cannot be replaced or reformed. A wound in your heart for the child you are missing in the everyday present, but also you are tasked with the daunting reality of recreating a new vision of a family future. A future, if you are completely honest with yourself, that you are not looking as forward to journeying through because someone is missing from the story. Your story. You scramble to begin to rewrite the story. You have a spouse. Other children perhaps. The story must go on…
There is nothing left to do but muster up the courage to journey on. To write new chapters. To sing new songs. Not clinging too tightly to a vision of what you think should be. Nor getting stuck in the past of what could have been. In ninja-like fashion you become keenly aware that all we have is now. Today. This moment. This breath.
So you embrace this fleeting moment. Breathe in all its complexities. Embrace the joy, as well as the pain. Be still as the winds of change blow you onward. Living in the moment, loving extravagantly, and laying your head down at night thankful for what you do have.
Reprinted with permission from www.7piecepuzzle.com.