On our way home from our Labor Day weekend vacation, we stopped by Eddie's graveside. I don't always stop there, even when I'm in the neighborhood. I know some people find this surprising, as if it shows a lack of concern or honor for my son to go months on end without a trip to the cemetery. Personally, I think when it comes to loss it is best to maintain a "to each his own" attitude about these matters. I know people who practically live at their child's gravesite for the first year or so after his or her death. It helps bring them comfort. It does not comfort me, though. I know he is not there; he is at home with a loving Savior having a great time. That graveyard houses his shell, nothing more and nothing less. Going there just reminds me of the hardest day of my life and makes me feel his absence so sharply that it takes my breath away.
All that being said, I do occasionally stop by. To make sure it's tidy and that his headstone, picture and vase are unbroken. To bring fresh flowers or seasonal decorations just because I love him and I can't give him gifts any other way. To let myself be brokenhearted, even if just for a few minutes, before picking up and moving on. I remember the first time I visited after Baby Boy was born. He was just a few months old, just beginning to sit up on his own. I set him down on the grass in front of the headstone while I tended to the grave. Finally, I just lay down on top of the ground where my oldest son is buried, feeling overwhelmed by grief and unable to do anything else but just lay there. When I lifted my head, Baby Boy was eating grass by the handful and gave me a huge, toothless grin. It made me laugh and broke my grief paralysis. I stood up, brushed myself off, picked up my silly second son and kept going.
I visited on Valentine's Day this year and decorated with some red silk flowers, hearts, and a small glass rose mounted on a mirror that said "I will love you always." Eddie would have hated the latter. He was anything but sentimental. He wanted to be treated like a little man and did not like Mommy getting all mushy any more than a teenager would have. Still, it made me feel good to place it next to his name. I was not surprised to find out from my sister-in-law a few months later that it was broken. Eddie always seems to get his way, even after death.
So, this time I opted for something simple. I grabbed a bouquet of bright yellow daisies that he would have liked. Driving into the cemetery, Baby Boy asked me what we were doing. I told him we were bringing flowers for Eddie. Since he knows Eddie is in heaven, this was a little confusing. So I explained that even though Eddie was in heaven with Jesus, his body was buried here. His response: "I bet he's dirty." Again, I laughed. We went to the grave, replaced the silk flowers with daisies, and showed the kids their brother's picture. While Phillip chased the munchkins around and made sure they didn't "borrow" anyone else's flowers, I took a moment to shed a few tears and ache. Then I pressed a kiss into his headstone, stood up, and moved on.
There are so many things to teach to my children that sometimes I feel overwhelmed. I'm having to tackle the subject of death earlier than I would have chosen, but that is just the way it is. I am teaching them about what happens when our bodies stop working. I tell them that our bodies die, but that our souls, the part of us that is the real us, keeps on going and gets to be in heaven with Jesus. I teach them that this is a happy day for them, even though it is sad for those of us who are still here on earth and miss those who have gone on to heaven.
Right now their responses to these lessons are mostly a simple "Oh, okay." It's going to get more complicated, I know. There are going to be more questions, some of which I won't be able to adequately answer. I'm dreading those "why" questions more than anything, but I know God will give me the wisdom to answer them as best as I can. I want them to learn early what I learned only through a long, hard and winding road: that the point where our human understanding ends is the point where God begins. If we trust in God, if we really, really trust in Him, then we don't have to know the why. He is the why and He is enough. The why keeps us laying on the grave; He gets us to our feet and keeps us moving on.
And I want to keep on moving. I want to laugh at the little class clown God gave me to get through the hardest moments. To enjoy my prissy little princess as she picks up the faded silk flowers from Eddie's Valentine's Day decorations with a breathless "For me?" and uses them to decorate her hair. Because I think that is the best lesson I can give them, to see their mother's joy even through her tears. To see my love for their brother, but also my hope in my Savior. To see me press on, joyfully, toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.