I forgot that it's hard to drive by the cemetery at night, the expanse of blackness in the middle of my normal suburban route south from Mom and Daddy's to the place I pretend is my home while in truth I inhabit a strange limbo land that I can only trust will have a natural end before I go completely fetal.
I stopped at the Chevron although I didn't need gas because although I was totally sober a police car was randomly close behind me and I didn't feel like dealing with him if he felt the need to stop me. Back on the road after watching two blinged out guys broker some sort of deal in the parking lot (under bright lights, really, just before ten on a suburban Maryland night, you are riding super high my friends. Who knows, maybe they were buying milk, one cannot always assume nefariousness, get a grip) I saw it loom up beside me although I couldn't really see it, it was so exceptionally dark.
Yes it was exceptionally dark and the first summer after you died is finally waning and it occurred to me that what was left of you was in there disintegrating dust to dust in the ground inside a metal box and I couldn't stand it, couldn't stand it. You were so tiny already, there was so little left of you in that bed at the end, just skin and bones and a slowing heart that finally stopped. And I could see you in my mind while I lived on the edge and drove past you unsafely through messy tears, just as I saw you lying there eight months ago in that horrible room with the people who didn't belong there, tiny in your cardigan and purple dress with the rosary-wrapped hands and that picture of Katie and me in the boas that I put in your sweater and the sunglasses too. And as much as I understand about mortality and age and running out of time, as much as my very days have been steeped so frequently over the years in these concepts, I still only want to scream very loud when it's dark and no longer warm and you're just feet away from me buried in the ground while I go about whatever this latest idiotic thing that is whatever I'm doing and what I would really like is to go and talk to you as you lived and breathed. It's selfish, grief.
I haven't been through those gates since you died and I left you a flower and took several more from the arrangements dying on the ground around you that I couldn't bring myself to dry. I don't want to go, because I know when I do it's not that it'll be real (because the loss of you is real, I get it, I hold it in my hands) but realer and sadder and focused for that period of time on a metal plate in the ground engraved with your names (because he's there too, that was bad enough) and dates on either side of dashes enclosing nothing at all obvious about two essential lives. You lie on either side of that gilt vase that's turned upside down when there's nothing in it, in some act of intelligent memorial design that makes it easier for the lawn mower men, that's all.
Because it'll be cold when I go see you for the first time, I know, because I can't get through the winter well as it is and I know one day it'll just be time and I'll feel like the heft of completing this task is too important to ignore, the water will be turned off and I'll bring something as non-perishable as possible to put in the vase when I flip it right-side up. I don't think I'll do that on your birthday, though, which I hope is okay because I want to be somewhere warm on that day, the first day of the month that I too was born, a fact I've known for most of my life but only recently remembered, a fact that pleased me all over again.
And I know all the things about it's okay not to go and you're not really there and all of that's true but so much of it is just dancing around the fact that just because I don't want you to be there doesn't mean you're not. And where you are I have always, eventually, gone, as I have always, eventually, walked away, which may be the fate of the loved child as she grows.
Nobody gets out alive but when it comes to the people I lose it will always be fresh and mind-blowing information. And when it comes to you especially I will never be able to stand it, even when it seems like I can because the time has passed and life has lent a certain veneer to the loss because that is what we need to get by.
I have as many questions as you had certainties about how this life is designed, about why we must constantly let go of what is good, whether we can see it or not. In meditation Dawn reminded us every time to feel the power of the people who came before us who support us and to imagine ourselves as connected no matter where anyone has physically gone, no matter what we can see. I'm trying to make peace with that shifting sand as much as it requires suspension of my disbelief to do so. And you, you are a hole in my heart as much as you continue to fill it.