Christmas will forever be associated with Johnny and the news that he would not make it full term. He did of course make it and then some. For some reason I got this idea that I wanted something really meaningful to do on Easter and seeing his marker in place for the first time became the meaningful event I was looking for.
I got off the phone and changed course to head to the cemetery. I had to see it, and immediately started thinking of when I could go there with Lea, but thought I should see it first, in case something wasn't right. What if the name or date is wrong? Hopefully it would be okay.
It was a beautiful afternoon, warm and sunny, no clouds. A beautiful spring day. A drove into the cemetery and headed to where Johnny is. There were a lot of people around, I guess because it was Good Friday. I pulled off and parked the car and could see the stone in place, without making out any of the details because of the angle of the surface flat with the ground and how far away I was. But it was definitely there. I got out and walked over.
I've been to Johnny's grave many times since last August, but seeing his marker in the ground, for the first time, immediately brought back a flood of memories and emotions that I was not ready for. For a moment, it nearly knocked me down. It's difficult to put into words what it means to see your child's grave marker for the first time. We live with the reality of his death every day, but for me I think the permanence and finality of seeing that marker for the first time added another dimension to the whole experience. Another dose of reality that this really is part of our lives.
I stood there in the sunshine, gazing down at the marker for a long time. It was wet, they must have poured some water on and around the marker after disturbing the grass. I watched the stone change from dark to light as the moisture evaporated quickly off the granite in the sun. The retreating water left a film of sandy haze on the polished granite border so I went to the car and got an old towel out of the trunk and returned to the marker to wipe and polish the border to a shiny appearance. I picked some sticks and leaves out of the grass in front of the marker, where Johnny is. If you know where to look, you can still see the faint outline of the edges where they cut the sod for his burial.
Good Friday, and there I was, looking at the grave marker of my son, for the first time. I thought of God, seeing the tomb of Jesus, His Son. Both laid to rest, One long ago, one recently, now both in heaven. Johnny with Jesus. We know Johnny is in a better place, but we miss him... It challenges our faith daily....
We were going to go to a special church service with some friends that night. I went home and told Lea we needed to take advantage of the baby sitter we had arranged for Juliana to go somewhere just the two of us. She later told me that she immediately knew where I wanted to take her and that the marker must have been installed.
Lea and I spent some time there together that evening. It was good. The kind of good that's difficult but good, that we know all too well these days. Tomorrow is his birthday. We will be together. Difficult but good.