Sunday, November 7, 2010

Headstones and hospital programs

Friday we drove up to visit my parents, but really to look at stones. We still, almost three years later, don't have a headstone for Henry. Making that decision was more than either of us could handle when Henry first died. Then grief was heavy, Brian was in nursing school, I was pregnant, we had a new baby, Brian was still in school . . . we didn't have the time to look or the energy to talk about what we wanted. Still it bothered me that he did not have a marker, and we finally started talking about it this year. We talked about getting a piece of granite from my hometown. I never got to bring him there, so we thought we'd bring a piece to him.

While my mom chased Kathleen around an very old cemetery, Brian and I poked through a pile of stones in the yard of a family friend. I wasn't sure we'd find anything. I kept telling Brian we could always get a stone from someplace else if we didn't find what we wanted. Then he found it. Not too big, not too small. A flat face for his name, curved on the back, not quite a perfect arch at the top. It looked natural, but workable—just what we wanted.

We still need somebody to carve and install the stone, but we are one step closer to having a marker on his grave. One step closer, maybe, to keeping people from driving over him. One step closer to anybody being able to find him.

Saturday we left Kathleen with my parents and drove into Boston for a program that Children's runs each November for grieving families.

The timing good for me. It feels right to go back in the fall, during the time that I lived there with him. It feels right to make space for him, for grieving, for talking about all of it, right before we head into the darkest days for me.

Strangely, it feels something like a reunion. We saw our chaplain and the woman I knew best from the family life center and the psychologist and a couple from our grief group and a mom who had helped me a lot while Henry was in the hospital and another mom who was in our small breakout group last year. There was that odd happy to see people feeling, despite our reason for being there.

It was an exhausting day, but a good one. I talked about the things that seem like the big issues right now for me: telling new people I meet about Henry and December. I cried the hardest talking about what I want for Kathleen and this new baby—fun birthdays, happy Christmases—and my fears that the weight of December won't let me give them that. These are the things I struggle with right now.

When we left our house on Friday, I thought of it as a grief weekend, thought it might be kind of depressing. It wasn't though: we found the stone; I talked to people have I haven't talked to in a long time; I talked about Henry. It was sad, exhausting, but not depressing.

The moment that sticks with me most clearly isn't sad at all. Friday evening we brought Kathleen over to see my grandmother. She was shy for about the first five minutes; then she was running around with her cousin like she owned the place. When it was time to go, I told her to go say goodbye to Big Nana. Kathleen ran right over to her and gave her a big hug and loud kiss, and my grandmother gave one of her famous neck-breaking hugs and sang "I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck. You bet your big blue eyes I do!"

Going to look for the stone, the extra night with my family was a last minute plan, but when I think of this weekend, the first picture I see is Kathleen with her arms around my Nana and it makes me smile.


  1. If I could find Henry, I'd leave him a red rose from Sierra's rose bush - which is still blooming! I'm glad the weekend was not depressing, and glad you had some time to focus on Henry as you approach December. Kathleen and her Big Nana made me smile too - and get a little teary.

  2. So glad the weekend was good. Thinking of Kathleen hugging your Nana makes me smile, too.

    Thinking of you extra hard as December approaches.

  3. It must have been sad and exhausting but I am glad that it was not depressing. I hope it brought you a little peace. Lovely image of Kathleen with your Nana, I love the little song. C xo