Two years ago this morning came that terrible phone call. For half of my family, today is Pioneer Day. This is the day the immigrants and refugees who trekked across the great plains seeking peace and a place to make a life finally found their home in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. For me, this day will always be the day that David died.
I’ve been a loss for how to process—let alone write about—the complicated feelings and swirling emotions that accompanied flying with Jeffrey to California to claim David’s remains. Alone, I never would have presumed to do so; it wasn’t my right. It was Jeffrey’s inspiration, and Jeffrey’s belief that David belonged with us, which led us to the coast of Mendocino county to claim his father.
But I cannot lie; am so grateful he is with us.
Throughout my life, David was my constant. In writing The Burning Point, one of my desires was to show the David I knew and loved to our children. Jeffrey has the most intact and cohesive sense of who his dad was, but Bean and Abby remember broken things, fractured pictures. I wanted them to understand—to deeply believe, as I do—that David was so very much more than their fragmented and incomplete memories.
I wanted them to remember his laugh, to know why I fell in love with him, why I believed in him, why I chose him as their father, and why, even now, I do not regret any of those decisions. It will be for them to determine how well I have told that story.
In some very real ways, I owe David my life. I’m not being bombastic because he’s gone; we had this conversation many times. He changed the course of my life, and he helped me realize the person I wanted to be, who I am able to be today. He felt the same, and used to say to me, “I am who by virtue of you.” Our marriage was a disaster, but the flaxen ties to one another are absolutely eternal.
My responsibility towards and love for him are real. When Jeffrey handed me the box in which his ashes rest, I was shocked at the density, and at the physical reality of his remains. Just as I cared for him in his life, despite our mutual brokenness, I will continue to care for him after death. I feel protective; I do not want him scattered and lost. His spark of madness and glory will be sheltered in my words forever.
In the car the other day, Jon and I were talking about the logistics of David’s final resting place. I alluded to this in my last post, but here is what is real: David will be interred near the place set aside for Jon and I in our family cemetery. Our three children will make the decisions regarding his headstone, and they will have the peace of knowing where he lies, and that someday, their other two parents will rest nearby. They will also know, forever and ever, that all three of their parents loved them enough to choose mercy and forgiveness above and beyond any earthly pain and sorrow.
David loved them enough to not just allow, but fully support their sealing to me and Jon. I loved David enough to fully forgive him and myself for the mistakes we made. Jon loved us so much that he warmly welcomed David into his home while living, and then literally made room for him in our family after his death.
If you ever find yourself at a fork in the road wondering between judgement and mercy, I have some advice…
Life is hard. Life is unfair. Hard and painful things are going to happen. When–not if, but when—you have the choice? Leave the judgement to God, and choose the path of merciful love.
For where David will rest, please see this piece at By Common Consent.
5 thoughts on “The Twenty-Fourth of July”
Beautifully written, Tracy. Your loving soul inspires me. Wishing you and your family peace today.
I can’t decide whether or not it is harder to have the day of loss be a memorable day (winter solstice, in my case). It makes her day never forgotten, one of the days I love and ponder her. But it’s hard when there’s a spirit of celebration all around, and I am feeling achy and tender. It’s become more bittersweet five years later, where it was just bitter loss the first couple years. Hoping that time sooths some of the pain without erasing the memories for you.
I think “bittersweet” is apropos.
Thank you, my friend.
Tracy’s tis morning about 3 am I finished reading your book. Beautifully written, beautifully presented and lovingly preserved are your raw accounts of rock bottoms and heavenly highs. Something to be cherished by your children & family.
Tracy, this brought tears to my eyes. This continues your beautiful tribute to David and his life…and his story you are telling for your children.
And Jon…Jon has a blessing to you and your family…David is included in that family.
Love you friend.
I just read your post at By Common Consent…beautiful!! There is a spot in that same cemetery that was purchased for John and his birth mother, who passed away and doctors were not sure if he was going to survive at 26 weeks gestation. He is my miracle…and we were sealed in the Logan temple almost 16 years ago. Your writing is beautiful, a gift to all who can read it. Thank you for sharing.
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