With tears streaming she looked at me through the net of the trampoline. Trembling she said “I dont think I can do it. It will be too sad.”
I nodded. A few tears also trickled from my eyes.
It was the day before Father’s day. My ten year old daughter had been jumping to burn off some pent up frustration, anger and confusion.
We had had this discussion a few times in the past few months as we navigated significant dates. Should we visit the cemetery or not?
In June on the 7 year anniversary of Mick’s death, I mentioned to my children that it was that time of year again. We could visit their Dad’s memorial and ashes. They shook their heads. I sensed they didn’t want to amplify the date and our loss by visiting the cemetery. Instead we gathered with some of Mick’s and our closest friends for a light hearted afternoon beach picnic. An outdoor gathering full of love and fun where nothing more needed to be said.
In July it was Mick’s birthday. He would have been 46. I asked both my son and daughter if they would like to visit the cemetery. Perhaps we could tie the visit in with a bike ride or a beach walk like we had in the past? Ice creams too? My daughter felt obligated. She was sad and uncomfortable but she said she would go because we should. My son showed no inclination preferring to keep reading his book rather than respond. I felt that again, the timing and the mood wasn’t right. We had just been on a fun school holiday break away. With only a few days of the school holidays left they wanted to stay in a relaxed happy holiday mode rather than an excursion laden with gravitas. We stayed at home.
Yet grief still surfaces regularly for both my children as we continue to live and love the life the we have. I wonder when we will next visit the cemetery.
Each week there are instances that highlight what my children have lost and what life could have been like if their father was here. They also deeply feel the nonsensical traumatic loss of my father to alzheimers two years ago. So much to reconcile and grapple with at such a young age.
My daughter displays and expresses her emotions the most. To support her, I witness her anger, confusion, sadness and pain. I listen. We hug. We meditate. She journals. We look at photos of Mick. She plays creatively. She dances. Sometimes we engage professional support. We seek joy everyday. She jumps on the tramp.
On Father’s Day eve, I knew in my heart that it was time to return the cemetery. To visit Mick’s physical resting place. We had a few hours to spare and could make the trip. My son was up for the excursion. So I calmly looked my daughter in the eye and summonsed her out of the trampoline into my arms. We hugged and I said, “It is time. It will be sad but we can do this together. I am here for you.” She crumpled into my arms and acquiesced. She also knew that she had to lean into the pain and the reality.
It had been more than two years since our previous visit. When we arrived the majestic setting wrapped us in a familiar comforting embrace. We held hands and strolled towards Mick’s memorial absorbing the history, the expanse of sky and ocean, the cheeriness of the spring freesias in every patch of grass. We talked about our previous visits and I shared an individual story with each of my children to demonstrate how much Mick loved them. He was present for them .
The memorial is small but beautiful. We read the inscription and took in the scene. I showed them the shells that I had left just two weeks before on what would have been my fifteenth wedding anniversary. We tidied up some spent flowers that my in-laws had left six weeks before on Mick’s birthday.
My son and I stepped away so that my daughter could have a moment by herself.
After a few minutes she was ready to leave. We collected some freesias and placed them at the memorial. Even though it was mid morning it was time for a variant of one of Mick’s favourite foods, caramel ice cream and a quick play in the nearby park! As we left I pointed out a lawn bowls club in the distance where Mick celebrated his 30th birthday with a lot of our friends. I told the kids of how Mick used to run and up and down the roads of the cemetery for fitness. He loved this part of the coast. We could feel Mick’s energy.
Our play was short. We had a busy afternoon ahead! Plus some fun activities to look forward to on Father’s Day itself. Rehearsals for a musical for my daughter. Dinner with my brother and his young family. Sailing for my son. Some meditative laps swimming for me while the kids patiently read books.
A life to love and be grateful for. A lot to live for and cherish.
Related posts from previous years: