When Bob died, one of the questions that came up was where are we going to bury him. “What cemetery do you want to use?” was a question that I heard in those first few days. Bob’s family wanted to bury him near them and, as we had made no provisions (nor had we discussed this topic). Others around me kept suggesting cemeteries around where we now lived. In the end, I allowed him to be placed in a cemetery near his parent’s home. This would mean that he would be about a 45 minute drive from our home.
This also meant that he would be buried in a cemetery that was in a remote location. Previously, I had a friend buried there and had gotten lost when I tried to return to visit his grave. So, after the decision had been made to lay Bob there, I literally had someone drive me there about 10 or so times so that I would always be able to find him. I was terrified that I would not be able to get to him when I wanted to be there.
As I am thinking about this day and writing, my mind goes back to the day of the funeral. I can still hear the dirt hitting the casket as the first shovel was going into the grave. I think that is a sound that I will never forget. It had a sound of finality. It was like...he really is gone. Thump, Thump, Thump. I stood shivering in the cold and watched as the dirt fell. Thump, Thump, Thump. He is not returning. Thump, Thump, Thump. This is really the end. Thump, Thump, Thump.
Now what? Now, I have to go on. But now, I have somewhere to return to talk to him. This plot of land. This spot in the ground. This is where I will return to talk to him. This is our new place to be.
The first time I returned to the cemetery, I literally laid down on the ground. I cried as I wanted to be near him. I wanted to feel his arms wrapped around me and the closest I could get was the cold hard earth that covered him. It was like I wanted the earth to open up and envelope me and take me to him. It was so hard to be facing not only the daily decisions but also the more difficult ones that we had always tackled together and I longed to be with the person whom I loved so dearly. For a while, I made sure to visit on a regular basis. Even so, he was 45 minutes away and I had 3 children to raise.
I couldn’t visit as much as I would have liked. As time passed, I also discovered that I did not visit as often as others thought I “should.”
I felt guilty that I wasn’t going that often...I went when I could. I talked to him, I cried, I yelled. I watched the hawks fly and the deer near the cemetery. I found peace, I found fury, I felt comforted, I felt awkward. It was a mix of emotions. I put flowers there. I watched others put stuff there. I felt he was there. I felt that it was only a stone and a piece of ground.
As time has passed, I have made peace with the fact that I can go when I want to and I don’t owe anyone an explanation as to the frequency or non-frequency of my visits. I don’t do it for them. I do it for myself. I can find him when I want to and I go when I feel the need to do so. This is my journey...not theirs.
My visits are not as frequent anymore. However, they still help me in doing what I need or want to do in this regard. The little remote cemetery was the right choice for him. He is in the country where deer and hawks frequently come through. It is peaceful there. His parents have now passed and are next to him. So, now, when I visit, I see all three of them.
Sometimes, when I visit, I will run into another widow or widower visiting as well. This often leads to conversation about our lost ones and where we are in our respective paths. It is comforting to share when these opportunities arise. There are also times when someone is there and it is evident that it is not a sharing moment. Other times, it is just me and the fields and that is comforting as well.
Writing this reminds me of two gentlemen I met long before I was even married. The two of them would meet on a regular basis at the cemetery. Their wives had passed and they now met for lunch and a game of cards while visiting the gravesites. I used to think this was odd. Now, as a widow, I understand. This was how they processed their grief. This was their version of the journey. They didn’t care what others thought.
Visiting the grave is a personal decision. It is your decision. Go when you want to. Go when you need to. There will be some who will tell you to make this trip daily. Others will not want you to go as much as you already do. This is not their decision to make. This is not their grief to process. Take the time you need to visit when you are there.
Go when you feel that you need to -- not when others dictate -- it is not their journey.
May you find peace and blessings always.
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