16 June 2013

I’ve been sitting in Starbucks for about an hour, working (imagine that!) on Max’s mousebreath! column for tomorrow. There have been far more kids in here than usual, almost all of them shuffling behind their dads; their dads all have the same look: is this day over yet? Will a giant cup of caffeine make it better?

The kids all look excited as hell. The dads…very, very tired.

It amuses me.

Sitting next to me for a while, though, was a couple without kids in tow. They were very solemn, and it was apparent from the get-go that their father has passed away, and they’re struggling with it.

Today sucks for them.

There was talk of going to the cemetery and seeing him, putting flowers down, and saying a few things to him. There was also an undertone of guilt because it seemed like neither one really wanted to go there. They were trying to figure out a way around it, wondering if not going made them bad kids for skipping a visit on Father’s Day.

They didn’t ask me; I’m sure they weren’t even thinking about the idea that even though I was sitting here typing away, I could hear and take in their conversation. But had they asked?

No. You’re not bad kids for not wanting to visit your father’s grave. It doesn’t matter that today is Father’s Day or not. You are not horrible, awful, or any of the other adjectives that are threading through your brains.

Maybe it’s because my brain is wired differently that others’ brains are, but I have never visited a grave post-funeral. It’s not that I’m opposed to it; I just don’t see a point.

I don’t need to visit a grave to have a conversation with the now-gone person I care about. They’re not there. What remains is only the container; the soul I loved is wherever souls go: heaven or the ether or a whisper in the wind around me, but they’re not in that grave.

On the other hand, if visiting someone’s grave is important to you, I do see the point. I grasp that some people need a place to visit, where they have something tangible to see and a focal point to talk to. I understand that decorating a gravesite means something, and to not do it feels like a mistake.

I’m just not that person. And I don’t think anyone should feel guilty for not being that person and not wanting to go.

Even on Father’s Day.

There’s nothing magical about Father’s Day or Mother’s Day. It’s not as if I will miss my dad any more today than I do any other day. And the truth is that if I were in Texas where he is buried, I wouldn’t be visiting his grave, not unless my sisters wanted to and wanted me with them.

It would be for them. Not for me. Not for my father.

I imagine I’ll feel the same way on Mother’s Day. I’ll miss my mom…but not quantitatively more than I miss her on any other day.

I miss them every day.

I hate the idea of their not existing in this world. I hate that they didn’t get as many years as I wished for them, or that all the years they did have were not as kind to them as they deserved. I hate everything about dying and feel a bit robbed on their behalf. I was supposed to be an old, old woman before they died.

But…I can talk to them anywhere I happen to be. I can create a visit with them in my own home, on Ocean Beach or the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, in the middle of staring at incredible works of art in a museum, or hell, even here in Starbucks.

When I get to NY someday and go to see Van Gogh’s Starry Night in the MOMA, you can bet I’ll be carrying them with me.

A grave is not necessary for the communion of sharing with the dead. No one should feel guilty for not wanting to visit the grave of someone they loved. No one should feel weird or awkward because they want and need to, either.

Remember the people you loved on your own terms. That’s all that matters, as long as you remember them.


Nancy said...

Wonderful sentiment beautifully written. Thank you.

conny warren said...

I agree with you completely. I've always felt that it would be better to go to a place where you and your departed loved one enjoyed spending time together. That's where the memories are.

Mia said...

My mother was feeling guilty today because even though she went to the cemetary she didn't bring any flowers. Cemetaries are not for the dead...they are for the living. In this case, it is indeed the thoughts that count.

Jan Scholl said...

I never go back to cemeteries either. I don't plan on being encased in the dirt of one. My cremains will be left to the wind over Tiger Stadium in Detroit. The only place I was ever truly happy. BTW-the people that mean the most to me have never left-human or fur. They are a part of my soul and to this day 41 years later, I always save a spot for them on the sofa or in the movie theatre or at the ball park.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree! Very well said and even very appreciated! My Dad once told me that I need not be sad at their passing because we would meet in the loving arms of God. For some reason that gave me comfort. I miss him but I know that he is closer in spirit now than he ever could have been in life and that also comforts me!

Carolyn said...

I don't like funerals. I only went to my parents because of family. I do not go to their graves... no reason as you say.

I have told my son to cremate me and put me in a rose bush pot .. OR scatter me over water ... ocean, lake, stream, river ... off in the wind

OR recently somewhere... this just reminds me... you can have a tree urn thing... I'm going to google that ... forgot about it.

I'm not afraid of dying... it's part of who we are. BUT I don't want the getting there part. I just want to wake up dead. no going piece by piece... man I'd hate that.

Carolyn said...

found it! what a great idea...

Derby, Ducky said...

I have visited cemeteries after the funeral, but not so I can "communicate" with them. It is more of a remembrance thing.

Shaggy and Scout said...

I love cemeteries for the lovely peacefulness. I will be visiting my sisters grave next week. Yes, her physical remains are there, (along with Dad) but she herself is as close as the air I breathe wherever I am. As a Catholic we call that the "communion of saints" (small 's'...we are all saints) and you gave a perfect explanation of it.