Somewhere in the top ten worst things to have to deal with as a human being, I’m just guessing here, I imagine picking out a casket or a headstone for a loved one would rank in the horrendous category.
Also in that same range of horrific would be picking out your own casket and headstone. Worse, if you happened to be younger than fifty.
Can’t even get my head around those things.
A few years ago Mom and Dad bought their shared headstone. They had it engraved with all us kids’ names on the back. On the front they have their names with their birth dates and then the dash. The blank after the dash will get filled in eventually. Hopefully not for a couple more decades. They had it set in the ground next to my brother’s resting place. Some fifty odd years ago they had the wisdom to buy a couple of plots when they purchased his. Brian wasn’t even a year old.
Talk about horrific things in life to endure. That’s surely the absolute worst. Losing a child. How does someone survive that? I don’t ever want to know.
They made that purchase to save us kids the expense and hassle. That’s just like them, always thinking about everyone else. Not long after they did this I was visiting and they wanted to show me the headstone. I gotta’ tell ya’ I was a bit freaked out by the idea. Once I got there, I was okay with it, sort of.
A beautiful cemetery. It’s in the northern foothills of the town I grew up in. A green sloping knoll with a few small trees. The view from their plot overlooks the entire valley north to south and east to west. In my younger days we used to visit every Memorial Day, place flowers in the metal vase, pull a few weeds, try to figure out where to stand so as not to be disrespectful. That’s Memorial Day to me. Remembering my brother that I never met, since I wasn’t born yet. But we remembered him.
The last 8mm reels Dad transferred to DVD had scenes with Brian and my other older brother. It felt like Memorial Day watching that. I wanted to reach out and hug him, say hello, ask how things are going up there. Part of me pictures him as growing up, getting married, hanging out with the rest of us. Part of me pictures him staying small, sweet and cuddly. Part of me wishes I’d had a chance to know him.
Isn’t that odd? He’s family though. So it shouldn’t feel odd, I guess.
This isn’t what I thought I’d say today. Surprising what sneaks out of your heart when you open the door a little for something else you stuffed in and quickly slammed the door on.
Maybe what I really meant to write isn’t for public consumption. Maybe what I really need to say about death and dying can only be spoken in the language of tears.
Of course, there’s an exception to that. I know someone who can talk about death in the language of laughter, too. She has a braver and more urgent reason to speak about it. Sure, she cries the words, too, sometimes. But the mixture of the two languages is part of what apparently keeps her sane in the face of something very nearly unspeakable.
Death and dying.
Tears. And Laughter?
I think I need language lessons from her.
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