Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

More Road Trip: Visiting Mom's Grave

My eyes were still swollen due to my woeful departure from Jackie when, despite bumper to bumper L.A.-style traffic in Blackfoot (I know!  What's up with that?  Blackfoot?? Was there like, a cheese curds sale at the Krogger or something?) we finally pulled into Rexburg on the heals of a summer storm.  We gathered up my Aunt June who led the way to the tiny town of Tetonia, 45 minutes to the North.  I had not been here in ten years, not since my mother's burial.

When Mom got her diagnosis of terminal lung cancer, she decided that she wanted to be buried in the itty bitty rural cemetery in the shadow of The Grand Tetons where her grandfather was buried.  
It was only 3 weeks until she got her wish.  

As we drove toward Tetonia, a rainbow appeared on the horizon just above the road, and stayed there the entire way to the cemetery.  I pulled onto a little gravel road and drove up the hill until I felt that I might be near her grave.  As we got out of the car, the wind whipped and the cold, grey day betrayed mid-summer, and was surprisingly like the cold November day when we had left her there.  The first headstone that I laid eyes on was that of a Nielsen, my mother's family.  And there, beside it, was my mother's.  I surprised myself as I burst into tears at the sight of her name there on the ground, and stranger still, my father's name beside hers, his birth date with no death date. 

"Well, I guess I won't see her grave again till you plant me up there beside her." 
Dad had said before I left.  "Take a posy up there for me."

I sent the kids off to gather wildflowers on the hillside while I chatted with Mom.  I told her I missed her and that she had left way too soon.  I need my mom, I told her.  Her grand kids need her, too.  But it is what it is, I sighed, knowing of course, that her spirit was not there.   

Then I realized that though her spirit was gone, there was more there than just a stone with her name on it.  That though her spirit was far away, her body was right there.  The body that had birthed me, and loved me, and tended to me, the one that I remember hugging in all it's plushness, the one that made bread for me and wrote me letters every week on my mission, and held the phone that called me nearly every day.
Right there...sort of.

And then I heaved in a great breath and sobbed.  I was sad to leave her there again on another blustery, grey day.  I was sad she had left before we had a chance to say some things.  I was just... sad.  Guy came up and wrapped his arms around me.  The kids gathered with their flowers and we made a posy with them.  The mood shifted as my men-folk cleared out the weeds and trimmed up the grass around Mom's headstone with Ethan's pocket knives (yes, knives.  It's a boy thing).  The kids got squirrel-y and a little naughty (have you ever seen a pink satin ghost in a graveyard?).  I thought I would feel Mom there, but I didn't.

Guy put his arm across my shoulders and began to dance a jig on mom's grave.  
I joined him.  Mom would have loved that, and in my heart I could hear her laughing.

The Pink Ghost of Tetonia

More Idaho? How'd ya know?!


julean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
julean said...

I've sat here catching up on all the posts I've missed and have really enjoyed your road trip adventures.

But this post...well, I'll just say that I'm glad I didn't put on my make-up yet today. I wept through it all and then went up to my room for some more tears in private. It was nice to see pictures of her grave and the area. I've only been up there once and it was a few years before she died.

I miss her too. There are so many times I think that I would love to call her up. Or just to have her near. To feel her soft skin and be enveloped in her always-giving arms.

I love the image I have of you and Guy dancing on your mother's grave. Knowing Guy, I'm not at all surprised by this. It made me chuckle. (That and the pink ghost flitting around the cemetary.) It sounds to me like a fitting finale to your visit.

I can't wait to read more about this epic trip. Thanks for sharing the wonderful memories you made. I love you sis.

Jackie said...

Very sweet post. I think we could all use your mom around here a little longer. I loved her too even with just the little I knew her.

I really love the picture of (is it tessa) running in the skirt and her silky? Just a perfect picture for the moment.