Yesterday morning Larry and I visited Jon's grave. The snow here in Northern Virginia is still deep, at least 2 feet and drifted higher in many places, and his grave is in the center of the cemetery, a long, snowy walk. But I could not go home until I made a final, private good-bye.
We tried walking in from one end of the cemetery, but the deep snow was too difficult--well over my knees in many places. After about 50 feet of hard going, we turned back. At the other side of the cemetery we found that the road was plowed but chained off. We drove up to the chain, got out and walked in.
Snow-covered graves stretched on each side of the road, serene in the silence of deep winter. Jon's grave is close to a stone chapel, shaded by a large sycamore tree. Beside him in a grave over 100 years old lies a veteran of the Civil War. Other old graves surround his site; for me the old stones are a source of comfort, a reminder that people still care for those laid beneath them, even these many years later. While at one time I thought cremation was what I wanted, I have come to realize that a grave is a place to go to reflect and remember those who have left us, and a place that remains for many, many years, even when those of us with immediate memory of the person at rest are gone.
We stayed a short while, looking at the mountain in the distance with one small white cloud hovering near its top, at the snow-covered fields with their dark board fences beyond the cemetery, at the branches of the sycamore that stretched beseechingly to heaven. The sound from cars passing on Route 15 was muffled by the heavy quiet of this place.
Leaving was difficult. Each step felt like I was dragging lead weights on my legs. One foot in front of the other, blinded with tears and yet not unhappy--simply sorrowful, which is different from sadness or unhappiness. I am learning these definitions intimately and trying to get to a place where the hurt is not so great. I know it is there; I found it after the death of my parents 5 years ago. I think this time the search for it will take more time and the journey will be a difficult one.
Today we return to West Virginia, taking advantage of a break in the weather to make the trip over the mountains. There is little to do here but wait for documents and paperwork that finalize the ending of life and the arrangements for the future of his family. I will need to come back soon, but even knowing that leaving is not something I want to do. How to go back to the everyday of getting up and going to work and caring about my job? How to plan storytelling programs and present them? There are many hurdles ahead, and leaving this cocoon where I am surrounded by Jon's life and family is like tearing out my heart.
But leave we must. So in an hour or so we'll be in the car, and back to the other cocoon that has always brought me comfort.