Last night I was crying before bed. I start crying about one thing, and then move to the next, and then eventually land at my mom’s murder. Not every time, but most of the time I end up there. The saddest story of my life. So there I was, crying and comforting myself in the blanket when I thought “I wish my mom was still here. What would it be like if she were?”
I spiraled down the dark rabbit hole of questions.
What am I doing with my life?
This doesn’t make sense, sex and trauma (when others do it, yes, but me? no).
There’s no point to anything.
I just want to see my mom again.
I don’t even know when the last time I went to the cemetery is, I guess last June when it was the anniversary of her death. It’s been a while. I realized this last night.
I want to disappear.
Maybe I should go visit my mom tomorrow.
I wish I could just move into the cemetery and live right next to her.
I want to sleep near her grave.
Irrational? Maybe. But when I am in these dark places that doesn’t matter.
Her body, or what’s left of it, is there… so even though I *know* I don’t need to be there to feel her (I feel her everywhere), there’s still a part of me that is drawn to her ‘final resting place’.
I remember the day of her funeral, the closed coffin on display right in the summer sun, all of us grieving around her. I knew this was the last time I would see this box with her remains in it. Someone took a picture for me, but of course, I either lost it or got rid of it (as I do). There is a permanence about her grave, a reminder that this is real. At first, I’d just pretend she was away on business, and this wasn’t actually my life. But once she was buried and her name on the stone, when I look at it, there is no escaping.
When I began visiting her grave somewhat regularly, I found myself taking pictures of her stone or selfies of myself there, smiling. A few times I’ve stopped myself and asked why. Each and every time I go, her stone looks the same. What’s the point of taking a picture? And smiling? I’ve come to realize that while her stone may be the same every time, my life will not be. One of the effects of PTSD for me has been horrible memory loss. These pictures help me document my own life and symbolize me going back for her, trying to involve her again.
It’s almost been 12 years since her murder. In that time I’ve learned to feel her again no matter where I am, no cemetery required. But at first, I couldn’t. I was too heartbroken to feel her. I wasn’t ready. So I’d go to the cemetery with big thoughts that needed to get off my chest, and I’d confess them to her there. There are always people around, so I got used to whispering them or thinking them, knowing she could hear me. I’d imagine her sitting right next to me on the grass, nodding, and looking at me with those understanding eyes that only she could give.
The first big news I had for her was just two years after her death. I made a vow to myself after surviving attempted murder that if I was forced to survive, I was going to truly live (or try to, anyway. I’ve made tons of mistakes in this area since as far as being my authentic self-goes). I went to the store and purchased a rainbow balloon, and in sharpie, I wrote “I’m GAY!” in big letters, all caps. I excitedly brought them to her grave, and then said it out loud. It was bittersweet because I never thought I’d be coming out to my dead mother at her grave. But if that was my only option, I had to take it. And I felt proud. Coming out is a major milestone in so many people’s lives, and I didn’t want to miss out on having my big moment.
I’ve also gone for birthdays, holidays, to tell her how sad it is to have never known her as the adult I am today, to tell her about my separation and then divorce, new jobs, to introduce her to a new partner. I’ve written her cards and letters, brought her flowers, potted plants, and stuffed animals. I’ve brought her favorite beer and drank one next to her, and even poured some on her stone, wondering what it would be like to cheers her now. Our love still exists. A few times I’ve been, there have been folks who bring a radio and play oldies as they sit and gaze off at the stone or into the air, I imagine it’s their special song with their loved one who’s now passed. I’m reminded each time I go that so many of us are still finding ways to show our love, even years later.
If the bond of love transcends death, then there is love everywhere. In cemeteries, at our altars, in our minds, and always in our hearts.