I snapped my head up and looked around the room. Matt was sitting next to me, completely out of his element. My Mom sat along the wall opposite the table, on a bench. I looked at my Mom. My Mom would know. My Mom knew that spraying Aqua-Net would take blue ink off the sleeve of my white shirt. My Mom knew how to file taxes and hard boil eggs and how to varnish woodwork. She would know.
I turned back to the funeral director. "Um? Can I?" I stuttered. "I just? It's, uh? I just, uh, don't want her to be stuck in a corner...." I turned back towards my Mom, pleading with my eyes, help me!
My Mom spoke. I heard her but couldn't make out most the words. I heard my grandfather's name. The funeral director suggested we meet the next morning to pick out a final resting spot together.
Except, the next morning I was late. I was sitting stoically in a sterile chair that was trying too hard to pass for comfortable and reassuring, watching, as my oldest daughter sobbed tears of rage to the counselor who nodded her head in a pitying manner when I should have been picking out my youngest daughter's final resting spot. And as I sat I noticed no mascara fell because for the first time in years my daughter's face was naked with pain; who bothers with foundation and blush and a smokey eye when a sister lies dead?
I gripped my purse too tight on the drive back to the church. Tried not to let my panic and fear slide into my eyes. We were so late. Too late. I bolted from the car, to the small gathering of Mom and Sister and Brother-in-Law. They pointed up the hill to the cemetery. We began to climb. I tried not to run, but I wanted to run. What if they put her in a corner? She wouldn't want to be in a corner? What if she's all by herself? I don't want her to be all by herself. I didn't understand how this worked. What I was allowed to do or say. Can I request things? Can I tell them no? What are the rules? No one ever tells you the rules.
When a child is born you read all about how to cure diaper rashes and have long discussions about the value of making your own baby food. No one ever says, as they sit cradling your newborn, or sipping a much-needed glass of wine at a Mommy Play Date, "so, do you plan on burying your children or cremating?" "Oh, Bob definitely wants a burial. He's sort of old fashioned that way. But he wants them all to be buried by his parents and well, I just put my foot down. Why would we bury the kids in Sarasota?" "Well, I'm afraid that if we bury little Annabelle here, what happens if we decide to move in ten years?"
As a mother, you are so incredibly unprepared.
I was so incredibly unprepared.
I planned on watching years of volleyball games and school plays and suffering through beginning band concerts that pay off beautifully by high school. I planned on shopping for fancy dresses for dates to dances and teaching her how to cook. She wanted to live above a sub shop, just like in Wizards of Waverly Place. I had laughed it off. But if meant she would be back in my arms I'd do it. I'd buy that blue Victorian downtown that used to be a restaurant and I'd make sandwich after sandwich, slathering on mayo, shredded onions up to my elbows, just to see you one more time. Just once more....
Ahead of me a truck was parked between too many headstones. Three men stood. My eyes filled with tears. I didn't want to be doing this. I wanted to fall to the ground, let the dirt fold over me, feel my pain seep into the tunnels already dug by earthworms and bugs. I wanted my anguish to fall into the waters and the flowers to feed off my sorrow.
The man whose back was to me turned around and smiled; Pastor Dan Roeda, the pastor of our church. With his right arm, in a graceful, sweeping motion, he led my gaze to behind where they stood, "we thought you might like this spot."
Instead of falling to my knees and spitting grief into the soil, I laughed. I laughed and I smiled and I cried and I yelled, "YES!" It was as if a thousand angels sang out and caught my heart.
Because the spot that was picked out, was the spot right behind my grandfather's grave. The one where he was laid to rest so very long ago. My grandfather, who wanted to come back as a hawk because his vision had been so poor, and on the day of his burial we looked up, and a hawk flew over our heads. That same spot.
I don't understand how such joy can exist among such anguish and sorrow but I know that it does.
|My grandfather's grave, with Avery's unmarked grave behind it.|
The flowers were beautiful. Avery always wanted to live in the country.
On the day of Avery's burial, my cousins raised their heads and saw not one, but three hawks flying over head. A sign (to me) of my grandfather, Henry, my uncle, David, and my daughter, Avery. I had prayed to my grandfather as I had prayed to my uncle, please, please take care of her. And, once again, it was as if the angels reached out their hands to me and said, we have her. She's going to be just fine.