Mom’s Grave

Mom, in her fifties or sixties?  (I'm not a good judge of age.)

Mom, possibly in her fifties.

I am very much against war, and resist holidays that celebrate the Military.  The Fourth of July isn’t quite about the military, thank God, though it borders on it and could be turned into one at a moment’s notice.

They would co-opt all the holidays for the military if they could.

For instance, we have always celebrated Memorial Day by decorating family graves.  Neither my husband nor I realized until recently that it is intended to honor dead vets.

We didn’t make it to Iowa City this year till after Memorial Day.  The day we  finally saw Mom’s new gravestone, which was installed a few months ago, I thought furiously,  Mom, where are you?

I have cried, I have mourned, I have suddenly cried out, “Oh, Mommy” (though she hasn’t been Mommy since I was nine ), and most recently I am irritated by her absence.

There is utter, utter silence from beyond the grave.

My heart was wrenched by the gravestone.  It is flat, and mown brown grass was scattered on top of it. Behind the stone was a big dirt clump with long unmown grass.

All around her are neat graves with flowers.

“Oh my God, oh my God.  Why isn’t that mown?  Is there some maintenance fee the family’s not paying?”  I swept the grass off the stone, picked up the candy bar wrapper, and looked at all the memorials on sticks in the cemetery.

At  the Hy-Vee garden center, we bought a stick with plastic flowers on it.  (This is called a “memorial.”)  The flowers were blue, not her favorite, orange.  Well, they would have to do.

I planted it on the north side of the grave.  Why north?  I don’t know.  Although I longed to use the f— word, because the memorial was so paltry, I couldn’t say it there.  I should have bought several memorials and stuck them around the grave.

Then I felt her there, wanting me to cut the grass around the stone with scissors.  Yes, she once had me do that in her yard.  Scissors!

None of us lives in Iowa City anymore.

Her friends are here.  Her best friend is dying of cancer.

One dies, they all die.

“The next time you see me, I’ll be in my grave,” her friend said at the funeral.

Her husband rudely said to me, “Glad you could make it to the funeral, Kat.”

That was mean.  We couldn’t find the church, even with Google map  (a tornado destroyed the old church and the new one was on the edge of town), but we still got there five minutes early.   I didn’t react to or care about his words.  I had other things on my mind.

My mother had strong feelings about church, family, and cemeteries.  She made a point of visiting her parents’ grave often until she became too old to do so.  It was always decorated with flowers.

I was frantic.  I needed to buy a memorial for my grandparents’ graves, too.  They are next to hers.

Next time, next time.

Nobody visits these graves.

If only I never left Iowa City.  I could have been a spinster, you know.  Then I could have taken care of the graves.

Well, work, love, and the late 20th century took us away.

4 thoughts on “Mom’s Grave

  1. And that’s one of the reasons we’ll be cremated as my parents were. We have no children so there will never be anyone to visit graves.

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  2. At the end of the day the grave is not what you’ll remember your mother by. The memories are in your heart and that’s a much better way of remembering her. My beloved grandmother was cremated and there’s a small square stone with her name on it in the town where I grew up. It’s meaningless now, and what I have inside of me is much stronger.

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  3. I last visited my parents’ graves five years ago. It’s too far to drive and I have given up on planes, so I’ll probably not be able to go there again. It made me sad to reflect that their remains were in the ground, so I try to remember what Kaggsy says: they live to the extent they live in me.

    My children are not sentimental about visiting graves, and I have left instructions to be cremated. Why continue to claim the earth? I want to go back into nature as quickly as possible.

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  4. Yes, I agree with all of you about cremation. My mother was very traditional, though, and the lot was bought God knows how many years ago by my grandparents. I was very surprised to have such a strong reaction. I think it’s because it was so, well, messy, and that is not the point at all.

    But, yes, I’ve done just fine without seeing the grave! Only I know what she would want…

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