Both my parents lay side by side in their respective graves, and quite possibly in the ever after. I’m not certain about the happy ever after because we can only assume there is peace and congeniality on the other side.
Twenty-six years ago yesterday, January 9, 1991, we buried our father.
After 26 years of my father laying peacefully by himself, finally finding peace from his ailing and broken heart, he awaited my mother’s arrival for all those years, for her to be buried beside him. We buried her there just over 2 years ago. He got his wish to have my mother with him in eternity after pining for her all the years without her while on earth. But I can’t help but wonder if it was a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’ or if something magical happens on the other side where even the coldest of hearts can become humble.
I can only hope he’s still at peace.
I’m writing this here because of a conversation I had with my sister awhile ago. My sister, like me, still talks to our dad frequently and visits his grave in times of despair when in need of some solace. While he was alive, my dad was always there for us, and his departure from this world never changed the way we felt about him in our hearts. My sister told me a story about how she recently went to visit Dad, poured her heart out to him, had a meltdown, then felt an inner peace after her tearful release. I listened to her story with a heaviness in my own heart for her own weight of loss and for my recollections about how many times I’ve gone there and done the same.
As is customary for us when we visit the grave of a loved one, we leave a token behind to mark our visit. Often that token can be flowers, a coin, or anything we may happen to have on our person we wish to rest around the headstone. At the very least, we can pick up a pebble or rock and leave that instead.
My sister finished her story by telling me she had a tiny angel in her pocket that a friend had recently given her and she placed it on our father’s grave. I couldn’t help but ask her, “What about Mom’s grave?” She hung her head as though in shame as she continued to tell me she had picked up a small stone and placed it on our mother’s grave but couldn’t bring herself to say anything to her.
In her next breath she said, “I feel horrible that I was talking to Dad and didn’t talk to her. I feel like a terrible daughter because it didn’t bother me that I ignored her.”
I told my sister not to feel horrible. That was how we lived our life with our mother, always dodging her as best we could to avoid conversation with her, in fear whatever we said would stir her wraths or opinions, a cycle which repeated itself throughout our entire lives.
I tried to console my sister as best I could because I too have those same strange, uncomfortable feelings now when I visit my father, no longer alone in his peaceful place where I always felt comfortable and free to speak to him in private. After 24 years of being able to confide in him one on one, my sister and I both feel as though we should be including our mother in our conversation, yet we can’t bring ourselves to do so even after her passing.
Some people have a way of burying the past once the death of a loved one with whom they may have shared a troubled relationship with, passes. And other people like us, can’t seem to change what’s been engraved in our hearts for our entire lives. I told my sister I understand how she feels, even though our reasons are slightly different for feeling at unease, hers because she felt nothing of it, and mine because I still feel guilty excluding my mother when I visit my dad. But I reminded my sister that I have found my way to forgiveness for our mother’s sins and I’ve learned that I no longer feel like a horrible daughter, just sad for our lives with her and for her own lonely life and how pathetic her life was when it ended.
It’s difficult to visit the grave of a parent you couldn’t share anything with in life, a parent that made us nervous just being in her mere presence, a parent who wasn’t a parent, and then perhaps expected her children to feel differently once she left this earth.
So as was in our life, when my sister and I always tried to our best to ‘do the right thing’ by our mother, we remain respectful and acknowledge we have visited by leaving behind a simple stone, respect, but choose to keep our conversations with our dad private as we always did while he was alive.