[[~…life is just a highway, then the soul is just a car…~]]
If you’ve read this far, then I thank you, from the very top of my heart. I never understood why folks say ‘from the bottom of my heart’. To me it makes no sense. The bottom is where you bury things, where you hide the memories you don’t want to recall. The top… the top is where your thoughts and emotions truly lie.
And if you’ve come this far, take one step further with me. There’s one more order of business that needs to be taken care of.
[[~October 29th, 2011~]]
The afternoon was blustery with the wind blowing in. It had rained the night before, but by the time we made it out to the cemetery, the sun was up high and the day had warmed just a little, but not enough to keep the chill off the skin.
Chad was already there in his old Nissan pick-up. We pulled up on the same lane, got out of the car and looked around. It had been a few years since we had visited–too many, to be honest with you.
We had a bag with six tiny pumpkins in them. Catherine had two Ziplocs with a pumpkin in each. Those two had been carved out and a little light had been placed in each one. One of those lights was for Chris. The other one was for a little girl who died shortly after Catherine and I got married and before the conversation Chad and I had that led to this story.
“His grave is on a corner, near a tree,” Catherine said.
The cemetery is huge and finding someone’s grave in there without knowing exactly where it’s at is near impossible. The three of us walked in the wrong direction, looking at the markers in the ground. Somewhere along the line, Catherine turned back and went the other way. Turns out Chris’s grave was less than a hundred feet from where we parked, but in the opposite direction of the way we had originally walked.
Remember what I said about the memory being an interesting thing? Catherine thought his grave was one place and she was mostly right. It was on the corner and there was a tree just a couple feet from it.
[[Sidebar: When I was a teenager, there was a guy who resembled me. Or maybe I resembled him, since he was near two years older. We went to the same school and every once in a while I would get called to the office (and I assume he did as well) for something I had or had not done and/or something he had or had not done. I’m just going to call him J.W. for the sake of this story.
I found out that not too long ago J.W. passed away. I can’t remember how, but I want to say a car accident. I say not too long ago, but as of today, it’s been six years since his death.
While searching for Chris’s grave and before Catherine let me know she found it, I came across J.W.’s marker. It was kind of surreal. There I stood, in a cemetery looking for one person, but finding another–one that could have been my twin if twins were separated by years instead of minutes.
I stood there for a while, not really thinking, just staring down at his name, at the dates of birth and death. Then I moved on, the search continuing for the person I originally came to find, however J.W. wasn’t far from my mind the rest of the time there. End Sidebar.]]
We stood around Chris’s grave. Someone had put flowers on it. His Aunt Barbara, who had cared for him before he died, was buried beside him, her death coming nearly fifteen years after his. For a few minutes we said little, just stood there.
“So, how are we going to do this?” Chad asked.
Honestly, I didn’t know.
“With the candy,” Catherine said. I pulled out a Three Musketeers, gave Chad a bag of M&M’s and handed Catherine her Butter Finger. We opened our candy. Not that it matters, but Catherine dropped half of hers to the ground.
“To Chris,” I said, lifted my Three Musketeers in the air. We touched them together like you would wine glasses and then ate our candy. Chris was fond of the Halloween treats, so what better way to honor him, than by toasting him with our favorites?
For the next few minutes we talked about the events, what happened to Chris. I told them about the goodbye–THE GOODBYE–Chris had given the last time I saw him. I told them my theory on how things went down. Catherine made a good statement, in that it could have been a drug deal gone bad, that Christopher could have been the supplier and Chris the buyer and that Chris may have owed him money. We all know how dealers don’t like not getting paid for their goods.
Yes, that could be the way it happened.
But, that doesn’t explain the goodbye, the way he sounded, the handshake, the lack of a shrug of his shoulders. It doesn’t explain my gut feelings and it doesn’t change my mind.
We talked about suicide, the way I think things unfolded… things became impassioned. That’s a good thing.
Chad left a few minutes later and Catherine and I stood there a moment longer. We placed one of the lighted pumpkins on Chris’s grave, turned the light on. On his Aunt Barbara’s grave we placed one of the six tiny pumpkins.
For the next half hour or so we searched for the little girl who had died after our marriage. We never found her. Or any of the other folks interred there that we hoped to find. So, we did what we always do when visiting the deceased: we left pumpkins on the graves of others, of folks we didn’t know.
Why did we do that? I like to think that for those who had no flowers on their graves, that by leaving some or, in this case, leaving a small pumpkin, they would feel loved, that they would know they were thought of, even if just for a minute.
[[Sidebar: Before we left, I went to one more grave, this time it was J.W.’s. I placed my last pumpkin above his name, gave a nod, then made my way back to the car. Not, that this has anything to do with Chris’s story, but it was like saying hello to an old friend. Then saying goodbye within the same breath. End Sidebar.]]
Our respects paid to Chris and his aunt–a woman who I was told never got over Chris’s death–my wife and I left the cemetery and headed home. The day was still moderately young and there were things to do. That is the way of life, isn’t it? Someone dies, you greave for a while, then the wound begins to heal. Occasionally, you have to go back and pick at the scabs in order to make them heal better. So often after someone dies we go to the funerals and then move on with our lives. It’s the nature of the human being. If we didn’t move on we would be in an eternal state of depression and that’s not living, folks. After a while, you have to move on. There are things to be done, a life to live…
As for Meatloaf and that song, objects in the rearview mirror are always closer than they appear, even if those objects belong in the past. Again, that’s just the way life is. The trick is to not dwell on that past, to not let it get you down and hurt your heart to the point of drowning.
Now, it’s time to let that deep breath out. Let it go. Let it go.
Goodbye holds such finality to it.
So, to you, the reader, I say farewell until we meet again.
To Chris, we all miss you greatly.
Goodbye, my friend…