The Last Thing

The Last Thing by Manoucheri from the LP The Blind Leading the Blind

I posted several months ago about the very last thing I’ve avoided since my wife passed.  It is a source of consistent consternation for my wife’s parents and I’m sure disappointing for the cemetery, but it’s the finalization of the gravestone for Andrea.

You’d think this would be easy, I guess.  I’ts just a stone, a piece of granite, after all.  The thing is . . . there’s a reason they use  the line “written in stone.”  I know, deep down, that a stone is for us, for everyone that goes to visit the site more than it is for her, she’s not really here any more after all.  I know this, but I can’t bring myself to believe it.

It’s just so . . . final.  I mean, I’ve done it.  I’ve spoken again with the monument company and looked at designs.  I’ve decided what it needs to say and I’ve looked at what I want to do.  I have done all this and now I’m still not sure what I want to do.  I was waiting for the refund check from the IRS to come in, which it did, and then I’d do the final stuff.  Now, it’s here and I am having a really hard time facing it.  There are countless options for this, in case you hadn’t realized it.  I have no idea what Andrea would have wanted, we never talked about it.  She never asked for an epitaph.  We never even talked about it.

I know that once that stone is in place there’s nothing more.  It’s over.  It’s completely finished, all the pieces of our marriage, parenting, all of it are gone.  I would love to say that I am OK with that but as I tried to look at the designs last night and even as I spoke to the rep on the phone yesterday I found myself choking up and trying so hard to avoid the rush of emotion rising from my belly up to my eyes.  It’s so hard to look at what other people have done and then realize that you’re putting a price on the final resting place.

When we looked for a place to put Andrea, something you have to decide just a day or so after you lose your loved one, it’s a crazy, emotional and blurred mess.  You should, as I did, take someone you love and trust with you.  My Dad was that person.  I don’t think my Mom would have been able to handle it and my Dad was having a hard time, I could tell.  He was the reasonable one there.  It’s so easy to go either direction – to spend the world on everything because you don’t want to skimp . . . and to spend nothing because you’re seeing the dollar signs grow.  When they said Andrea needed a different coffin due to circumstances I won’t spell out the cost went up.  When they talked about whether I’d want to eventually be buried with her the costs would go up.

You sit there, at age 40, staring at this and suddenly you have to face the rest of your life.  Are you certain you’ll never love again?  Are you certain that you’ll be in California at the end?  Are you sure that you’re supposed to spend eternity with this person?  You look at the ring on your finger and realize that the vow is now broken.  “‘Til death do us part” has actually come to pass.  You are no longer married and that starts to hit you next.  I ultimately, not knowing the future, gave Andrea her own grave, her own spot, and figured that as long as I could I’d visit.

So now I stare at designs and try to force my eyes to stop watering and read other people’s sentiments and realize that they’re too cheesy or too religious or too sad.  I asked about one that had a tall, black gravestone and realized that it might work.  When I asked, though, the cost was over three thousand dollars.  I simultaneously felt guilty and scared that I didn’t want to spend that much but then started to wonder “doesn’t she deserve this?”  It’s like her birthday all over again and while you might think I’m taking this lightly it’s weighed on me for over a year.  I’ve sat and wondered how I’m going to deal with it and how I’m going to deal with this.

Putting this stone in place shuts the last door to that world.  I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s literally sealing the vow forever.  It’s saying, for good, this is her in eternal rest.  I said yesterday it’s like the day of the funeral when I tried to leave the cemetery and my legs buckled.  I still feel that way.  There are days I get mad because I feel like she didn’t fight hard enough to stay with us.  Then there are days I wonder if I was too awful to her or not attentive enough and she didn’t feel like she could stay.  I get mad she did this to our kids and then defend her to those same children because she fought so hard for them for so many years.

I am angry that I’m limiting what I’m spending because I want to say she deserves better but cannot justify paying that much when her daughter wants to travel to New York and her sons want to have new bikes and her middle daughter wants to start guitar lessons again.  I pay the tuition and deposit for the kids’ school and realize that three thousand dollars saps our funds dry and that doesn’t include installation fees.

I’m making an appointment to finalize the color of granite and the type of stone.  My kids don’t want to be part of the decision, which I understand.  Part of me wishes he had someone to share the burden but part wants to do this one last, very personal thing for myself as much for her.

In the end I’m going to keep it very simple.  On the front:

Andrea Andrews Manoucheri
Born October 30, 1970  –  Passed March 26th 2011
Beloved wife, mother, and friend

It’s hard to walk among mortals when you’ve learned to fly with the angels.

On the back, if money and space permits:

She made me think of the rough times I’ve had
and changed them with one smile
Like the morning sun, or a blessing from above
She helped me learn to fly up with the angels
Fly on, my sweet angel
I love the way you spread your wings

That was her nickname from me, the song I wrote for her.  I signed every card that way: I love you, my sweet angel.  So when the stone comes I’ll put it in place.  I’ve come to terms with the fact that I cannot just spend everything on her any more.  I realized this evening that it’s not the size of the stone or the color of the granite, it’s the sentiment and the love that pushed my choices.

So I find it fitting that her epitaph is something that I’ve always believed.  She was here a short time, just enough to get the five of us on track and then she had to leave.  Why?

It’s hard to walk among mortals when you’ve learned to fly with the angels.

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