When my father died, he was buried in a double grave. The grave would be the final resting spot for he and my mother. Being that it was a double grave, the marker would be a double marker as well. When my father died, we really didn’t need to think too many things through, except what would be inscribed on the marker. It takes several weeks for grave markers to be engraved so in the interim, they put up a nice picture of your loved one with their name displayed — that’s it, just a picture with their name on it. When you go there to visit you have a smiling picture to remind you that someone is missing — the person who is looking at you through that photograph is buried in the grave you’re standing on.
It took a little longer than usual for my fathers marker to be engraved because, being that it was for my mother as well — who was still alive, we had to come up with the words to mark her final resting spot too. The words for my father’s side of the marker were easy enough — father, husband, son, kind. To be honest, I don’t know what it says… I’ve never been able to look at it long enough to read it and when my mother and I were deliberating what it should say I remember giving many “uh-huhs” desperately trying not to hear the actual words she was saying. If I heard the words it meant I had to succumb to the realization that my father was dead.
Our angst at finding the perfect words for his marker was magnified by the fact that we also had to find the perfect words for my mothers marker, who, as I said, was still alive at this time. When we first began contemplating the marker, we were unaware of the cancer that was coursing through my mother’s blood stream. It was the cancer that was making it impossible for her to walk and eat and sleep and get dressed and care for herself. We thought she was overly tired from taking care of my father as he battled lung cancer. A short six weeks after my fathers funeral, my mothers diagnosis was complete — Multiple Myeloma. The saying on the marker became too much for us to contemplate once we learned that cancer was again infiltrating our world, a little too real, so my mother finally choose a saying without too much fanfare — mother, daughter, wonder woman. Again, I really have no idea what it says, I “uh-huh’d” when I thought she sounded sure of whatever she decided to put there.
I’ve never been able to look at it long enough to read it — ever. Three years after my father’s death and a year and a half after my mother’s death… I’ve never let my eyes rest on that marker long enough to read the words.
I can remember when I was young. I had a cousin who died — hit by a car. She was older than me, beautiful, smart, funny… my own superhero. A tragedy that has possibly affected and shaped my interactions to this day but that is another post for another day. I was 9 or 10. I went to her funeral. I saw her in the casket. She and I had played together a few days earlier. I cried. I shook. I couldn’t stop. A harsh reality that I was unable to avoid — as long as I was at my grandparents house anyway. When the summer ended, I went back home as I did every summer and I continued. My cousin and I lived in different states, we only saw each other during the summer so when I was at my home it was so easy to pretend everything was completely the same because at my house, it was. I didn’t have to face the reality until the next summer when I visited my grandparents and I would be repeatedly punched in the gut with her absence on a daily basis. But, then, at my home — I was free from the pain of loss. I didn’t have to see it.
It’s the same premise of not looking at that damn marker. If I never look at it, if I never read their names on it, I can pretend a little longer. I can pretend they’re at their house waiting for me to arrive with my kids. I can pretend we are all going to go on a hayride or to the movies or to the mountains. But once I look at that marker, it’s over. The fantasy ends. The reality begins. One look at that marker and I have to finally concede that they’re gone.
A concession I’ve been unwilling to make… until now. Seems my life has led me down a path of letting go, of making new connections, of relying on a community of friends and strangers to guide me in the lessons of this life. Seems an easy task, really. Holding your gaze on a few words. Reading the letters that form the words that signify the time to move is now. Reality is an awesome place. We can shape it and bend it and coddle it because we are the reason it is real. The reality is, it’s time for me to open my eyes and see where I’m going. The reality is, it’s time for me to see what that marker says. The reality is, it’s time for me to embrace reality. What about you? Any realities you need help to see?
The reverb10 prompt today was community… this post is just where I ended up.