I took mom to the cemetery on Monday. She had already walked there once. This was my first time since the burial. I don't know what I must have expected, but I didn't expect a big mound of dirt coming up from the ground. I knew the headstone would be awhile longer, but somewhere under that messy mountain of clay, your body laid there.
The floral arrangement from the service was still on top and the roses turned brown and flaked off. I started compulsively removing them, tried picking up the arrangement altogether, but it was too heavy. Mom wept and wailed. When she was a bit better, I went to my car and took out some of your clothes I had in a garbage bag to donate and brought the bag over to your grave. The man at the cemetery had told us they wanted family to keep the spaces neat and clean.
Mom asked, "Why are you taking away the flowers?" She was upset by it.
I told her about the man at the cemetery, but didn't tell her the real reason. I didn't want you laying there under a pile of wilted, dirty flowers. You deserved more than that.
I started by pulling out the dead red roses. I moved onto the other wilted leaves before I started pulling off the healthy ferns. I couldn't stop. Once I could see the green wet sponge and holder, I tugged it off hoping to not pull off a mound of dirt in the process. That would have been too much for mom and I to handle.
I tucked back into the dirt the small glass frame that had your name, picture and dates of your birth and death. I wanted to collapse on the dirt right there with mom, but I couldn't. I couldn't do that when she needed strength. So I sat on the grass cross-legged and talked and listened to mom. In the middle of words, in a soft whisper, I recited Hare Krishna for you. I didn't know what else to say.
Mom said she loved and hated you in one fell swoop and then took it all back. She's in pain. Half of her heart is gone. It's buried with you. She didn't say it then, but she's told me multiple times she doesn't know how to live without you. I wonder if she's right, but I hope she finds a new reason to go on living.
S's aunt sent a sympathy card. She said she understood what it means to lose a child. I think she's the only one right now that mom can relate to. S's aunt has no idea how her one small action created a massive step in healing. It helped mom feel not alone, not misunderstood, for a moment. She offered in that small gesture the greatest gift anyone could offer mom.
I know you see our pain. I feel you around us all the time. I hear you whisper to me. Mom sees you in dreams. But you can't hug a dream. And that's the hard part.
I love you. You are always in my heart.
*Authors Note: On Friday, August 5, 2016, my brother passed away. I had toyed with the idea of writing him letters, and finally began to write them. I am sharing my imperfect letters to my brother in hopes that others who are grieving, understand they are not alone. One day in all of our lives, we will all understand this place. I hope to give someone that feeling-of understanding- and help assist others in their grieving process.
Susan Kiskis is the publisher for Freedom Journal and author of memoir, Born Fire Dragon. She has a deeply seeded case of wanderlust.