My mother has a grave.
This image is hard. It hurts to look at because I know it is my mother there, but also because it is beautiful and death seems as if it should be ugly and rancid, it is hard because it reminds me that we are all so close to this moment. Our mortality is finite.
My mother has a grave and a piece of my heart is left in it. All the questions I still wanted to ask, all the memories I was imagining we might make. She was to move in with us soon. We had plans for her own tiny house on our land and a path from me to her and her grandchildren skipping to her door. Hopes of digging deep in the earth together, a garden and silly chickens and dying surrounded by love. I didn't know. I didn't know it might not happen.
My mother has a grave and laying her there was too soon and uncomfortable and perfectly right. My faith tells me that God guided our hands to the place where she rests. I prayed and prayed and chanted in my heart and mind and begged God to make it right, to guide my siblings and I, to show us where she wanted to be, to show us HOW to be.
Every step was guided. Random internet suggestions told us about Eloise Woods, we found papers in her home about the very place. I walked the trails of that place, my heart crying to God. "Show me God. Show me where." And he did.
My mother has a grave and I am at peace that it is the exact right one. Walking the trails, my heart reaching out, He came close. The sun peered at me here and I knew. We walked through to find a quiet, secluded little place, sunbeams just plentiful enough to let the wildflowers in but not so harsh as to dry the land. Everything can grow here. Even in death my mother will do what she always loved. She will help beauty grow, she will be fully one with the ground and the most beautiful plants will thrive there. We planted Texas lantana at the foot of her special place. Together we sprinkled bits of her garden down deep with her. Soil and flowers growing in her garden, rose petals from the rose bush she had nurtured for so long. Momma rose will miss her careful pruning.
My mother has a grave and when they carried her past me the finality of it made sense. There she was, she was right there, but she wasn't. They wrapped her body carefully, beautifully, fully naturally she lay there. From dust she was, to dust she would return. Until this very moment nothing felt real to me. The day we worked through her home, collecting important papers and special keepsakes for the children, it felt like she was going to come home any minute and find us there. Maybe she was just at the grocery store, some one must have made a mistake. But no, in this moment every truth of that phone call the day before Mother's Day impacted fully. The tears my sister and I cried to together, the shock, the waves of grief and disbelief and all the careful planning in the days prior, it was all laid bare when her body was carried past. My sister, so strong and brave to carry her to this final place.
My mother has a grave and I no longer have a reason to visit the town where I was raised. The last ten years of life with my mother have been mostly digital. Emails and Facebook posts, phone calls where her typing was evident background noise. Our time physically together was never quite as joyful or comfortable as these electronic interactions. I often felt like it was two people I was pursuing. I see now that they were both the real her, just expressed differently. I wish she would have been fully herself for me, I wish I could have heard from her own lips and voice what she thought of me, I wish I had told her more of my favorite memories from my childhood. Memories of home made chicken soup on sick days, of biscuits and gravy on special weekend mornings, of playing Scrabble and being so proud the first day I beat her fair and square. I wish I had told her how glad I was that she never just let me win. I wish she knew how much it changed me to volunteer at the nursing home where she worked, how it taught me to value age and life and wisdom and to treat them with dignity. She was gifted at that. My heart aches that she never had a chance to meet Zoe, to smile at her and see how sweetly she smiles back. My children will never know their grandmother who was so proud of them, who posted their pictures for all to see, who filled her home with their photographs. Zoe met her grandmother in the most tragic of ways.
My mother has a grave and just a handful of us have touched its earth and seen it in its serene beauty. My heart is filled with determination now that she is gone. To not squander the gifts I have because of her. My love of books and writing, my desire to make life in the barren soil, and in the wake of her passing my heart finds itself empowered to connect in real time. To see the faces of those I love, to look up from the digital and touch the real in front of me, to make time for the family she left me. Brothers and a sister, an aunt who has always reached out despite my distance. If there is good in death, it is this. It forces us to truly see the people who might not always be around us, but who are HERE. To draw them into our own daily life. To begin our own lives anew, connecting more fully to the sacred, to the tangible, to the given gifts of our days. I write these words to work through my own shrouded understanding of this loss, but I do hope that if you have come here you will think deep about your own time. How you spend it, and whether the people near you know how special they may be to you. My hope is that I will be better about not holding back my praise, my sentiment, that people will know how very loved and important they are to me. I pray you will consider these things too. Let not the days of our lives be wasted.