There is one final task, one last thing that I’ve put off and stalled far more than the average widow or widower likely ever would. I wish I could say there’s some massive, glorious artistic reason, a bent that drives me to wait until perfection is reached but I’d absolutely be lying to you if I said that.
Andrea died and there were so many things I had to choose, so many things I had to decide that were life changing or even permanent options that we should have made together. I never thought about where we would spend eternity. I had to walk through the cemetery with a map of open plots that showed where there were openings and determine where I should put Andrea forever. I was about to choose one of the first places we found, a simple little spot under a big tree when my Dad told me to wait and look around. That I might find somewhere that might fit a little better. I can’t lie, there was part of me that was so tired, so exhausted and depressed that I just wanted it to be over. Andrea was normally that voice of reason. She was the one who would look at me and say “Dave, just look around. I like this one.” I didn’t have her to help me make the decision so I was lost, literally wandering around a cemetery trying to figure out what would be the best place.
This came after having had to decide on the flowers. Decide on the casket, but since we had been through so many things and her body was in the shape it was in we only could choose from two different caskets, the costs rising exponentially through the decision making process. It’s really strange, the things you have to decide upon. That first day, just about an hour after my wife passed away, the hospital forced upon me a list of decisions I had to make. A list, not a simple handful, but pages of information, things I had to determine. A long line of items that just kept piling up and staring back at me, telling me, “yes, Dave, you’ve lost the person you loved more than anyone else in this world, but figure it out, kid, you have to get home and tell your kids the worst thing they’ve ever heard.”
The funniest thing is, in that entire list, between a mortuary, the casket, what kind of service, reception, rosary or not, the thing that kept jumping out at me, the craziest and most inane of things, was the item that said “find clothes for your loved one in the casket.” I kept staring at that list and only could see that she needed clothes and I didn’t know what to dress her in. I didn’t know what to do. There were so many massive, horrific decisions I needed to make and I couldn’t stop thinking about how I was going to have to find something that Andrea would have approved of wearing forever. It’s funny, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I obsessed over it, to the point that I must have worried everyone, my daughter, Andrea’s best friend too because the two of them took over the duty and went out, together, and Andrea’s best friend bought her an outfit and jewelry to wear for eternity.
Had I not had all these amazing people, from my father, mother and kids to Andrea’s best friend and sister, I would have failed, fallen, and collapsed on my knees with no idea where to turn. I would have never made it. It was an amazing testament to the people who loved Andrea and love me, but also an indication to me just how ill prepared I was for everything.
The last decision I have to make is proof that I just cannot face all the difficulties sometimes. You see, Andrea sits there, in the ground, in a spot that I finally chose after spending that extra time my father prodded me to take. I’m glad he did. Sitting there in a spot forever she lies under the shade of one of her favorite trees, a crepe myrtle, another crepe just behind her. Both trees smaller now, but looking to age well and both shade her from the intense heat of the sun and shower her with flowering beauty forever. The funny thing is as much as I’d like to say Andrea’s in a great spot and would love where she is, I picked it knowing more that we’d think of her, that the trees would remind us of her choices and her life. I picked the spot so we’d be happy to come visit her.
Still, as perfect as her spot is, I have up to this point refused to decide on her gravestone. That’s the final choice I haven’t been able to let myself make. Over the summer, Hannah found some old stones in the cemetery surveys my mother did for the Nebraska Historical Society that had ideas she and her siblings wanted to put on the stone. Andrea was my angel, and I told her that. She was “My Sweet Angel” and I even wrote her a song with that as its title. I wanted her to have an angel, but something that stood out. I wanted to have the winged letter “A” that Hannah found on a stone in O’Neill.
I want it to be a stone that’s not a run of the mill choice.
But I still can’t bring myself to buy it and put it on the ground. It’s not just the cost. I knew it wouldn’t be cheap, I even researched the places that will cut the grave marker for me.
It’s just . . . final. It makes it real, finally and permanently real. That’s the best I can come up with, though it’s not all of it. I don’t want to do it. Every time I think about it, every time I look at the stones or talk to the granite company I just start to fall apart. I don’t want to do it, but I know it’s just so disrespectful not to.
It’s the final sign, the last bastion and hold on the former reality that I have. Once I place that it’s like it means it’s really happened, that she’s really down there. I have to see it, written in stone, that she is gone, she left me and I have to carry on without her. I hear all the time, people say that we’ll be together again. Is that really fair? If she’s in paradise, I’m left here without her. Seeing the amazing wonder that is my children growing, but living in the hell between sleep and waking. I am left here for years without her and it really bothers me.
Andrea deserves better, I know it, but I can’t let go. I keep looking and keep holding back. I know I have to make a decision soon, but I just cannot bring myself to do it.
It’s the final sign. The last letters on the page that lead to the new story. It’s like not wanting to really know how the story ends and make the book last longer than it has. Except this time I’m the writer and I really do know how it ends.