It is, undeniably sad, to buy flowers for your mother’s grave on Memorial Day. The store was filled with holiday revelers purchasing ice cream, hot dog buns and briquettes for their evening barbecues.
I felt alone.
Most of the day was spent in the yard– hauling dirt, cleaning the chicken coop, weeding, planting– the boys took breaks to whittle sticks into swords and stage battles (yes, even the big boys) and Mary drifted from weeding to circling her bicycle around the basketball court. Erik and I worked until our limbs ached and his arms were scorched with sunburn.
It was, as Erik said, exactly the sort of day my mom loved: improving our own little patch bit by bit, admiring the kids at play, long cold draughts of lemonade. Sometimes I wonder at this desire to create our own slice of paradise, but I find it soothing and satisfying. I am patient with my yard– “Ah, I’ll tackle that shade garden next year.” “Those petunias will fill in by September.” “The flower boxes will get hung someday.” My garden is the work of a lifetime, not of a season. Ever since man was cast out of the Garden of Eden we’ve been trying to create it anew.
The last rays of sunlight spread across the lawn as we drove through the cemetery. Flowers honoring loved ones dotted nearly every grave. Extended families sat around tombstones, some with a half dozen lawn chairs and blankets on the grass. And there were others, many others, solitary figures sitting on the grass with their foreheads pressed against a single headstone.
I wasn’t feeling particularly grief-stricken, but the simple act of placing flowers on my mother’s already well-adorned stone dropped me to my knees with sobs. The grass has yet to grow in around the edges and the fresh cuts of sod assured me that this was a recent loss, that my tears were legitimate.
And in grief, I am never alone.