Day 31: Mourning


Taking part in the Ann Dee Ellis 8-Minute Memoir Writing Challenge. This is Day Thirty-One.

Oh sweet Jesus, where do I start with this one? As I type, David’s ashes are in a small, white paper-wrapped box in my antique book cabinet over my right shoulder. The only other person I can remember deeply mourning was my grandma when she died in 1999. The losses I have experienced have been mostly temporal; only two people who I deeply loved have died, and neither of them wanted a funeral or services of any kind.

Because of honoring their wishes, I have come to better understand the need for mourning rituals. While I deeply believe that whatever the wishes the departed, they need to be honored, I can also clearly see the importance of having something to demarcate the before and after for those who go on living. My own children desperately want a permanent place to go an visit their father, and I do not believe that place is in the bookcase in my office.

Having a final resting place somehow places the punctuation on the life.

There is an unfinished-ness to their emotions, to my own emotions, knowing that David does not yet have that wild rose bush (with wicked thorns specifically requested) that he told me he wanted. Our children want to pick a meaningful stone, carved carefully with his names and the dates of his time on earth, and with a quote that he loved. They want to take him flowers and sit and visit with him, and I finally understand the cathartic and healing finality this act places on a life and death.

But how am I mourning? I don’t know. I honestly don’t know what that actually means. I talk to both my grandma and to David when I miss them, and sometimes the loss still hits me in the chest like a claw-hammer. Is that mourning? I miss David’s wit and wisdom and his unparalleled insight into human nature in general, and into our children in particular. They are so lucky to have had him as a father, and I wish I could tell him that and see his face. I miss my grandma’s hands resting on mine, telling me that everything would be okay. I keep a bag of grapes in my freezer, and snack on them like little frozen popsicles, just as she did. The smell of Oil of Olay makes me cry. The sent of Sandalwood and rose does the same. I can close my eyes and feel them near, and then my doubting mind kicks in and I wonder at the meaning of anything.

My faith fails me here.

So I hope. I hope they are close. I hope David can hear me when I sit in the quiet car and talk to him, tears running down my face, like we used to on the phone. When I tell him what the kids are up to—as though he doesn’t know otherwise?—I hope he can help spark my receptive mind to know what’s right for them on any given day. I tell stories of my grandma and her 18K gold necklace that said “Oh Shit” she wore when I was a child. It’s in the genes, I’m afraid, and they laugh. I hope she is close sometimes. I hope she knows how much I love her. I hope David knows what he means to us still. I hope they both have the answers they wanted and needed, and I hope I get to see them again someday.

That’s everything I have; my hope.