A LITTLE PREFACE :: I’ve thought about sharing this piece of writing for a few months now. The only thing holding me back was I thought I had lost the original work entirely from my first semester back in school last fall. For some reason I didn’t think I had transferred my documents from my school computer to my external hard drive. But I had also misplaced my hard drive so I hadn’t been able to scour the folders for this very personal piece of writing.
I kind of forgot I had written this for about a month. I wrote this for an assignment in late November for my college writing class. I remembered it in January on the truck ride when my friend Cody took me to the cemetery just days before my dad was to join my mom n their final resting place.
This, I believe, is one of the most pure and raw things I’ve ever written and I’ve thought about it’s contents a lot since it was originally penned.
Just a Stone
There is a line of vehicles being escorted by police. Lights are flashing in unison to a silent song. Traffic is stopped amid the everyday routine of life because it is after all just another day to everyone who is not in the long line of vehicles. The world for an hour or two to the people in these cars are altered severely, one of their own has passed from this living world. This is the final goodbye.
A few miles outside of town is a small well-kept country cemetery. The pasture next to it has cattle roaming throughout the year and the fields across the road hold winter wheat. Between cows mooing and the occasional vehicle driving by a train can be heard a few times a day in the distance as it passes through to the next town. This cemetery is home to a series of head stones marking lives of people that have been forgotten about and those whom will be forgotten about soon.
One of the more difficult things to handle when my mother passed away nearly a year ago was figuring out what the head stone should look like. The company my family went through had slabs of example material in the store ranging in color from dusted pink, to yellow, black, grey, white, blue, and everything in between. Just after completing this hurdle we were faced with another, how big or how small should the stone be? Unsure with our decision we were then asked what shape we wanted the stone. There was an emphasis placed on the importance of this head stone and getting the stone to look just right.
During our visit to the store emotions were running high. Of course this was important, this was the final marking of my brother and I’s mother and our father’s wife. We spent a couple of weeks debating back and forth if we wanted the tall standing stone or a flat one. Did we want to spend the extra money on the blue material or should we keep the plain grey? Through the trials of these questions I struggled to grasp making such an important decision without my mother.
The need to have a marking on one’s final resting place has become a necessity as the means to keep the memory of them going and nothing more. For my brother and I it will be the place we take our future children to see their grandmother. It will be the place where holidays are celebrated and birthdays remembered for a multitude of people who knew her. The purpose of the stone is to be a marker and nothing else. It marks the place where our loved ones are laid to final rest.
The entire process from funeral service, internment, placing of a head stone to holiday decorations is something we’re told to do. Not a direct order from any one person in particular but an unspoken order we follow. The person that was once living and breathing, someone whom one could speak to and interact with is now replaced with a stone and some flowers while following this unspoken order. The head stone represents the one who is no longer living by the way of engravings of names, birthdays, anniversaries, children’s names and quotes. What happens when the last relative or friend of this person is gone? There is a series of head stones marking lives of people that have been forgotten about and those whom will be forgotten about soon.
I was upset for months about the finished product of my mother’s head stone. The poem was supposed to go on the back side of the stone not the front. I wanted the family name at the top not in the middle. The list of minor details continues. It wasn’t what I wanted but my father had already signed off and the company had engraved and placed it; the stone is still there and will continue to be. For me I was initially caught up in feeling like this head stone was the final representation of my mother’s life and legacy. In some ways it is. When family and friends come to visit they will see it may recall the surprise birthday party we held for her fiftieth. They might remember my mother and father’s wedding or when my brother was born. It is personal to those who know.
I realize this now more than I began to understand even a month ago. It is no longer about not having the “perfect” head stone but understanding the stone is just a stone and does not represent the hard lived life my mother courageously lived with passion. No stone will truly ever be able to capture the essence of a single individual because that person cannot be recreated. The head stone is just a stone in a row of other stones.