There is no comfort here. There never has been.
No matter the decorations brought or flower arrangements designed around this stone, it is cold, lonely and sad. A reminder of loss. Tangible-punch you in the throat-proof that our son is gone. Forever.
Such stress there was in choosing his headstone and plot. What parent ever imagines this is a task they’ll have to do? I felt the weight in the finality of the process, heavier than I imagined the actual stone might be if it fell over and crushed me. My husband was unable to be of much of help. He attended and looked at choices but seemed blank and empty in the process, so the burden weighed fully on me.
We selected a stone unlike any other because that was Austin. One of a kind. A lover of rocks, the fact that his stone came from India would’ve been the coolest thing to him. And I wanted it to be in a natural shape, much like he might have stumbled upon on in his explorations.
After so much planning, I expected different emotions the day the monument was installed. Instead I sat in my car and wept, unable to even step out and see it fully. The next evening I returned around dusk, hoping it was beyond visiting hours for anyone else.
From the beginning, my feelings of worth as a mother were connected to how well I maintained his grave. It was the only thing left for me to do. He wasn’t here anymore for me to take care of, only his grave remained. Sometimes I’d wake after a storm, frantic that his flowers or treasures would be damaged. Constantly worried that someone would visit and it would look untidy; I visited religiously to clean the stone, dust around it, and replace the flowers well before they were due. Maybe others have experienced the same but, in those early days of grief, it was an added heavy burden to an already crushed heart.
It has never been a pleasant experience to go to the cemetery. Other child loss parents seem to find comfort spending time graveside with their child. While there have been times we’ve felt Austin’s presence in a strong way there, for the most part, I just felt empty and alone when visiting his grave.
In the years since, I’ve noticed a decline in my attendance. Gone is the worry that someone might question the appearance, as I wonder if anyone else even goes. At least weekly, I pass by the cemetery and somehow guilt of not visiting still lingers. Even so, it seems procrastination wins more often than not. Now I visit once or twice a year to replace his flowers and check on his stone.
Perhaps I find no comfort there because of my beliefs. The stone is just a marker of his earthly life but I know where he’ll spend eternity. I can visit him in my memories and prayers and choose to see Austin in yellow butterflies and other signs.
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep,
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the Diamond glints on snow
I am the sunlight on ripened grain
I am the gentle Autumn rain
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quite birds in circled flight
I am the soft stars that shine at night
Do not stand at my grave and cry
I am not there ,I did not die
-Mary Elizabeth Frye