My dad was always wanting us to visit our mother. After church on Sundays, he would suggest we stop by and see Mom, to pay our respects. My brother, dad and I would stand at my mother’s grave and silently stare at it. Sometimes we would bend down to clear the grass or pick a weed so the marble headstone would stay pristine. What a sight we must have been to other mourners; a grieving widower and two small children.
As a young child, I was never quite sure what I was supposed to do or say while we were standing there. I just knew Daddy needed it and he wanted us to have whatever closeness or comfort the visit could provide. As strange as it may sound, for us, this was a perfectly normal thing to do.
As I grew up, the visits became less frequent, being relegated to holidays or important milestones. In high school, I went even less often, partly because I was ‘too busy’ and partly because I was a little embarrassed to show that un-cool side of myself; that side that was still hurting.
When my brother or I would come home from college, my dad would always ask, “Would you like to go by and see your mother?” Sometimes we would ask him first and I could tell he was pleased, his answer always yes. Often, as we stood there, he would tell us a story or share a memory about her. He so wanted us to find solace there, just as he did. I could tell he never wanted to leave, hating for her to be alone.
Through the years my desire to visit the cemetery changed. It may have been because I had moved away and we were no longer just a short drive apart. I especially wanted to visit her when I first married and became a mother myself. I knew she really wasn’t in that grave, but I also had no other place to go where I knew her spirit would be. I had no memories of our time together, no past heart-to-heart chats to recall. I only had this place, where somehow I knew I could find her and she would be waiting there for me.
A few years ago, I went back home for a high school reunion and visited the cemetery, perhaps for the last time. As I got out of the car, I slowly walked up the familiar hill to my mother’s grave. The only difference this time was that my daddy laid next to her. Strangely, as I stood there, I knew they both were at peace. They were finally together again and I was satisfied with that realization.
I don’t know if I will ever visit that cemetery again. My whole family resides there except my brother and me. Grandparents, parents and an aunt all underneath the Panhandle sky.
I am grateful for the effort my father made to keep us all connected. He did the best he could; I wholeheartedly believe that now. My peace has come with time and work.
I may feel the need to return there again. But, for now, I know that their home is in my heart, not in that grounded space, and with that, I do find comfort. The comfort I was searching for was inside of me all along.