On the sunny sort of day that teased out promise of spring, I put a period at the end of a really long sentence last month.
In Milton-Freewater’s cemetery, my kids and I watched a concrete-and-stone record of my late husband’s life get carefully nestled into place above the spot where his ashes were returned to the earth.
We were, in turn, solemn and satisfied, glad to see a life remembered so permanently. No one even brought up the five-year time span in which I dithered and stalled, unable to take these few last steps.
The actual burial process began nearly two years ago, if that tells you anything about the glacial pace I was employing. The day after I became Mrs. Camo Man, I laid my dear brother Dwight, gone since 2007, and my first true boyfriend, David, to rest. One wedding, two funerals.
It made sense. Most everyone was on hand to help us celebrate a new marriage and life, thus we made a healthy showing that June morning as we entered the cemetery. I had scheduled this ahead of time, swerving from cake tastings and addressing invitations to arrange for a more somber moment. We arrived in funeral fashion — in a car procession, nice clothes, carrying two white boxes. The cemetery workers watched us with wide eyes, but stayed back. Oh, nice, I thought, they’re showing their respect.
Not quite. After no one interacted with us for several minutes, the fact that the ground at the family grave was untouched began to sink in. No pun intended.
Something wasn’t right here.
Camo Man and I headed toward the office, where the cemetery supervisor stood watching our approach. As we drew close, his eyes lost the look of polite puzzlement and widened until one could nearly identify the second he recalled my phone conversation of many weeks before. He had failed to note this occasion on the calendar, he ruefully told us.
But I live in a small town where we do what we can to make things right. Workers were sent scrambling to set up chairs and dig holes. For such rapid response I will always be grateful, but more so that we couldn’t help but laugh at the situation. The delay was short, the rain held off and we had an intimate ceremony with heartfelt sentiments shared about Dwight and David.
We trooped home to devour wedding leftovers with appetites from a job well done. Little did I know I would dillydally about a marker for David — Dwight’s was in place long before now — for 18 months.
It’s not as easy as you think. One is charged with doing one’s best work to be forever viewed by others.
I’m used to being judged on writing skill, but only until the next story. When they say “written in stone,” this is what they mean.
The day came for my son and me to go monument shopping, where choices are limited mostly by budget. We looked and looked, willing ourselves to like something midpriced. The muted pink or gray granite so familiar to us.
Then we saw it. IT. Iridescent blue flecks of sky speckled throughout the sparkle of black diamond. Labeled “Emerald Pearl” granite, the name paled to reality. The sample square glowed like a living organism, oozing dazzle.
“It’s like something in Star Wars,” I told my son in awe. “Dad would have loved this.”
It mattered not the cost, there was no way to resist what we could clearly see as the perfect choice.
The dam broke open and we spilled all we could about David’s life to the monument man. Employing a mix of artisan and reporter, he drew out visual stories from our memories. In less than an hour, we understood which emblems would tell the world about this man who bore honoring.
A chef’s hat for his chosen career, a telescope for his love affair with astronomy. A old-timey movie reel speaks of an addiction to cinema and an El Camino to forever race toward a finish line. All wins, no speeding tickets.
That was October. The stone would have to be ordered, engraved, then set into concrete only when days were warmer. I had all winter to agonize over wording.
What to say in perpetuity? A poll among my children proved fruitless. While their lives will always have Daddy in those first chapters, time had clearly marched on. As it is meant to do. As David would wish.
Considering that, I knew. “He fully lived, freely loved,” I typed in an email to the monument man.
David did, and now the world will always know. It’s written in stone.
Sheila Hagar can be reached at 509-526-8322 or firstname.lastname@example.org.