The last time I was at the cemetery, I was a deranged wild woman. We were there for my uncle’s funeral, and I wanted to see Baby K and Sarah and Benjamin. It was warm for February, and much of the snow had thawed, but there was still a relatively thick layer of ice covering their headstones. Out of nowhere, I started using my heel as an ice pick, digging at the ice, and kicking away the water, switching from one leg to the next. My parents and sister stood speechless for a moment watching me until they tried to dissuade me from breaking my foot or worse. They grabbed snow brushes from the cars to help, but I shooed them away, not wanting the scrapers to scratch the markers. I kept going until I was able to break away the ice. There was nothing I could do about the pool of water.
I’m not sure what came over me. Perhaps it was maternal instinct, but I couldn’t have that layer of ice suffocating my babies. I realize how silly that sounds, and even knew it then. I mean, how could they suffocate, when they’re already dead? But at the time, it seemed like something I had to do to protect them. Like the only thing I could do. It was a reminder that the swell of overwhelming grief can still pop up at any given moment.
Skip to today, just over a month later, and a completely different visit. I’m off this week as I transition out of one job into the next, and since it was a beautiful 70+ degree rare March day in Chicago, I decided to stop by. Now, I have never been to the cemetery by myself. And I didn’t even tell Double A that I was going. I just had to go, which is strange because while I know their bodies are there, I don’t feel like they are. I got a little panicky when I arrived as I couldn’t find their gravesite, but my fears calmed as soon as I did.
It was so peaceful at the cemetery today in spite of the many funeral services I could see all around. The winds had calmed and the warmth of the sun between the clouds beat down. I took time at each of their headstones to clear off the dirt, leaves and grime of a long Chicago winter. I gathered rocks, two sets of four, one from each Double A, C, J and me to place on the two headstones. And I talked to them through tears. Only this time, the tears were a bit more controlled. I said hello to my Papa and my cousin who are both near by, and thanked them for watching over my babies. And then I walked over to find what I call the inspiration marker:
Be healthy. Be happy. Be yourself.
Doesn’t that just sum up living a good life? Ever since I found it last year, I’ve wanted to take a picture, but it felt wrong to do so. I’m not even sure to whom it belongs, as it is on a little bronze plaque, no more than 18 inches wide and 2 inches tall. There are other markers near it, but nothing that connects it. I like to think that someone wanted to remind their family of what is important, and I’m grateful to have come upon it. Its proximity to Baby K, Sarah and Benjamin brings a great comfort to me when I need it most.
Going to the cemetery today brought to me a sense of peace and calm interspersed with the grief and sadness. It brings my past and my present together, and serves as a reminder of what we’ve been through and just how far we’ve come. There is no letting go of the past, nor would I want to. There’s only trying to do the best I can every day (which varies greatly from moment to moment) and not judging myself for what happens in between. I’m not sure who to thank for the inspiration, but I certainly appreciate it being out there.