I visited my Dad’s grave alone for the first time last week. It wasn’t something I specifically went out of my way to do … I just felt compelled to go there one cold morning.
I had just dropped Hubby off at his new place of employment and had nothing on my own work schedule until a 12:00 pm meeting. And since I had been in Chicago, I hadn’t had a chance to visit Dad for the past two weeks.
I don’t know what the “etiquette” (if there is one)** for how often one should visit a loved one’s gravesite. I’ve never had to deal with a direct relative’s (let alone a parent) passing before; never had a relative buried in close proximity to where we lived.
The closest experience I had to losing someone I felt incredibly close to was well over 20 years ago. And when I look back now, I have to believe that being part of my Godmother‘s journey — especially that last year when I was a Senior in High School — is what pushed me to believe I could make a good nurse. Or at the very least, she taught me to be compassionate in the midst of pain and sorrow.
After her passing, my Mom and I made it a point to visit her at least once a month. But as I had started university that fall, I must admit that the visits started to become more scarce. In fact, the last time I visited her grave was 11 years ago during the funeral of another close family friend. Even after all those years of not visiting my Godmother, I couldn’t help but open those floodgates once I saw her gravestone.
Since my Dad’s passing, I’ve made it a point to try to visit him once a week. Usually it’s on a Sunday after Mass with my Mom, followed by brunch and a trip out to the cemetery. Regardless of the weather … and believe me, there were those horrible Snow-maggedon days this past winter … I’d be at the cemetery. Hubby even went with me during the three weeks my Mom was in the Philippiness, just so that I wasn’t alone.
It’s now been close to 4 months now, since my Dad died. Every time we’ve been to the cemetery, I still feel the unexpected loss of my Dad. I might not shed a tear when I’m physically there at his grave site (perhaps to appear “strong” in front of my Mom?), but once we’re a distance from the cemetery, I still break down in tears. I still feel the intense sadness I did the first time I visited Dad’s new living quarters; which happened in the dark of night, less than a week after his burial.
This week I believe that I was compelled to go to the cemetery on my own; not because I hadn’t gone in two weeks. But rather, because I wanted to test how strong I could be; if I could survive going at it alone. I wanted to know if I could be strong enough to cry in front of him and still be able to pick myself up and drive away. After all, if it wasn’t for my Hubby during that first late-night visit, I might have spent the night on top of Dad’s grave.
So with a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee in my hand (it was 20-some degrees outside at 8:30 am, after all), I walked from my car to Dad’s grave. I told him some funny stories and told him how much I missed him. And I cried. And cried. And cried.
Afterwards, I picked myself up, said a few prayers, and walked back to my car. I sat in the car for a bit, warming myself up and drying my face off from my frozen tears. And after a few minutes, I drove away.
So now I know: I am strong enough to go to the cemetery on my own. However, I also know that I’m still raw inside; I’m still tender around my heart.
And I wonder if it’s ever going to go away***.
** What do you think, oh Internets? Anybody who has had experience in losing a parent … how often did you visit them in the beginning? And …
*** Will the intensity of how I feel right now ever go away?
One of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands. EVER.