The covered drive breaks away to cobblestones and then asphalt, lined with trees, magnificent grandfather trees, strong, old, wise, shading the path that sharply rises.
At the crest of the hill, up through that tree-canopied drive, is my little man's resting place.
And that's why we're in the little brick building, which isn't a fairy tale at all. It's hot and stuffy and lined with monuments and markers and urns. Daniel and I are seated in 1970's era squeaky chairs with papers spread on the Formica table. Polly, the lady helping us design Gabe's stone is new to our ideas. She isn't familiar with substituting different fonts. She wants to add clip art. We don't want clip art. She seems relieved to answer the phone and her associate begins to small talk.
Twenty-five thousand people buried out there, he begins, waving his arm in the general direction of the tree lined drive and we're quite aware that he is just referring to the size of the cemetery. . . but my baby is numbered there now.
Maybe thirty thousand.
Maybe I hate death.
Maybe I never wanted to drive through cemeteries trying to pick a spot to bury our son.
Maybe I'd rather be anywhere but here in your office.
I think back to the days of wanting to scream at the unthinking comments of well-meaning people. I did scream.
Two weeks after Gabe's death Daniel asked me if I was going to stop crying. I remember being incoherent, retching, wailing, screaming the grief out at him. . . I want my babyyyyyyyyy. . . . .
He didn't know. He was just scared, too, unsure, life spun out of control and searching desperately for mooring. He wasn't finding any stability in me.
I bring myself back to the present, a startling new concept for me. The Hayley of a year ago didn't have the strength to overcome insensitive words. This is a new Hayley, a different one. Mr. Cemetery Man (Tom? Ted?) is rambling on about how they do rubbings of grave markers all the time.
We finalize a bunch of details and write a check for an enormous sum that still doesn't feel like enough and then we leave and I feel spent and wasted.
There won't be Cubbies, swimming lessons, drivers ed or football. No snow-shoveling businesses, no camping trips, no first car, no graduation parties, no wedding plans.
I feel like this is the last thing I get to plan for my little man.
Yay! We get to plan a grave stone!
Oh, I'd so much rather plan little boy stuff right now. . .
My friend Loren asks me how I'm doing and I tell her that I'm fine.
I tell her that I think I'm just stuffing the grief away because life is so good right now and the grief. . . two years of it. . .was so very dark.
It was, frankly, a nightmare.
I've reached the point in my grieving that it feels like reopening a deep wound to go back to the grief, the loss.
It took so much time. It was exhausting. It was sleepless night upon sleepless night. It was so dark. I cry just thinking about the darkness.
And now it's different. I don't know exactly at what point it changed, but now I have the ability to cope, to laugh, to sleep, to smile about Gabe.
This is freeing.
It is not fun to be the people with red rimmed eyes.
It is not fun to be the drain on your friends and family.
It is not fun to be broken and needy.
But the grief didn't really go away, it just sinks below the surface, and the calm, apparently still waters of life hold so much deep pain.
On Mother's Day this year. . . that's the last time I broke down and wept for everything that could have been.
That was . . .well, two months ago. Initially I never imagined being able to go a day without the screaming, burning pain being eased by tears. But even in the tears of today, the calmer, gentler tears, there is a different sort of grief.
On Mother's Day. . . Cambria (with much help from my sister Elizabeth) brings me breakfast in bed at 6:30 am. I am thinking about Mother's Day two years ago and our happy little family, untouched by loss. Gabe "wrote" me a mother's day card too, and I still have it, treasured. We ate at Las Lomas and he nibbled on beans and rice. Details that would normally be forgotten are seared in my brain because it's all I have left of him. One week away will mark two years without Gabe and the grief is mixed up with Eli's laughter and the music playing. . .
The sun comes up
It's a new day dawning
It's time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes
The tears spill over and I weep for all of the pain and the growing and the changing and I cry because God is still so good.
I cry for the weariness that comes from "fighting the lies of the economy of deficit." I cry for the simple trust that is broken and will never return, because I found out that life was cruel and earth is not my home not by being told, but by finding my little son asleep forever in his safe little bed.
That cruelty, that brokenness, that's not a reflection of God.
Those twenty-five thousand graves (or thirty) - that's not about God, that's about sin.
He is not okay with all of this pain.
He is not sitting in the Heavens watching suffering, cold and unmoving.
He is the only way out.
He is the only reprieve from the suffering.
You're rich in love and You're slow to anger
Your name is great and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find
So I while I weep for the 25,000 graves (mostly just one), I look for the 10,000 reasons that His heart is kind.
Well, it's not tidy and it's not neat, but there's the grief post for the summer.