Grave Lesson

A cemetery similar to the one I used to go to.
A cemetery similar to the one I used to go to.

A Grief Remembered

When my dad died of cancer, I was nine. Although many years have passed since this event, I have periodically tried to find anything that would give me insight into how other people coped with a similar event, how it impacted others. Are there other kids like me who experienced some of the things I experienced, felt as I felt? I don't know, but recorded is just one memory I have of this time, written as true to my mentality as it was then. And morbidity aside, I have found the event recorded to be quite humorous.

Bouncing on top of the springy, wet grass, I looked a few rows down from where I stood to see a fresh new plot, the dirt from the just-buried casket still fresh. Someone had just died. Again. In my mind, I remember the way the cemetery once looked, without the rows being steadily filled in across from where my dad now remained. Annoying, really. I didn’t like that so many people could die so fast. The world should stop for a moment, acknowledge that my dad was the one who died. Not these other people. My mom’s weeping catches my ears and I turn, wondering if she’ll ever stop crying. Ever since my dad was diagnosed with cancer many months ago, she hasn’t stopped. Maybe she never will. But I don’t cry much and sometimes I feel guilty about this. Maybe I didn’t really love my dad.

Jumping up and down some more, I walk away from where my mom stands, trying to communicate with the husband who will never answer back. Once, I used to wonder if my mom ever did cry. Now, I know. On a whim, I decide to run, leaving her behind with her tears. The tombstones rush past me and the chill lessons. Dressing myself doesn’t make sense most days. On cold days, I accidentally dress for warm weather. Like this day. But at least I haven’t mixed up two different shoes or worn a piece of clothing inside out or put on pants with holes in them. Clothing is such a burden and not one I notice until some classmate points out my faux pas or a friend laughs at my mistake.

Many flowers lie scattered across the grass. On a whim, I think that I’ll gather flowers for my dad. Pleased with this idea, I skip across the grass, picking up flowers that had been tossed out of other gravestones by the chilly winter wind. Had he really only died more than a year ago? I tried to remember him alive, the color of his eyes, the way it felt to sit on his lap at church, the sound of his rich laughter. A journal – one of several – flashes into my mind. I know I should start writing down everything I can remember. I should write down every moment to prepare for the time when memory fades and I am left fatherless. The burden overwhelms me for a moment. I still have a mountain of homework to do and not much focus for that.

The bright assortment of flowers fills my hand now. When I look down, a keen sense of uncertainty fills me. Is it wrong to take the flowers that were once in other tombstones, intended for other loved ones? The thought makes me pause and I think, trying to figure out the right answer. It wasn’t like taking flowers left on the ground was wrong. They weren’t in their place anymore. Still, I’m not sure. No one ever talks about the right and wrong etiquette of cemeteries when you’re just a kid. Most kids hold their breath when going past cemeteries. Cemeteries for me was where I could look at old, elaborate tombstones, run up beneath the trees, or just sit and try to talk to my dad. At least he can’t yell at me anymore for not doing my homework.

The loveliness of the assortment wins out and I decide that I will make my dad proud of me by adding to the flowers he already has. Used to be that I would make him all kinds of drawings. He would take those drawings into work and hang them up somewhere, I imagine. He would be proud of me during those times, I think. But I couldn’t make him drawings. Not anymore. No place exists for him to hang them. But I can make him proud of me by giving him flowers.

Racing back, I announce to my mom my new findings. Brilliant flowers. For dad. Aren’t they pretty? This comes out in an excited rush. Still just daddy’s girl, even if he is gone.

She hesitates, clearly uncertain. But weary from her own grief, she relents, and I add the dubious flowers to his little vase of flowers by his tombstone. If only I could shake off the unsettling feeling I felt! Didn’t this feeling of wrong know I wanted to make my dad happy? Didn’t it know that the flowers weren’t a part of anything?

A week or two passed before we returned. Running again to my dad, this time more warmly dressed, I notice the flower display at once, stripped of all flowers save the ones mom gave to him. Certain uncertainty fills me. Dad didn’t like the flowers. Maybe he wanted different kinds of flowers?

This time, I was more selective in choosing the kinds of flowers. Again, I was disappointed upon my return that the flowers I picked out for him had vanished. Finally, I stopped picking out the flowers left on the ground, convinced that he was trying to teach me about respect yet again. But then, that was my dad, always looking out for me, trying to teach me his brand of morality.

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Comments 11 comments

acaetnna profile image

acaetnna 6 years ago from Guildford

Golly this was so poignant, what a heart felt piece of writing. To lose a close member of the family is so devastating I don't think that anyone gets completely over it, just learns to live with the memories. Great hub.

Elefanza profile image

Elefanza 6 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain Author

True story. In a forum looking at others' responses, this seemed to be the common theme. Still, I feel a lot more fortunate in some aspects of how this impacted my life. I just wanted to record one moment from that time. Glad you enjoyed the writing!

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

If I could reply to acaetnna, or whatever-then I'd say, "read all of her stuff-it's all great writing."

There are LOTS of times that I practically want to beat my Dad down in a fistfight-but even my atheist friends say things like, "yeah, do that, Todd-you'll soon find out if there's a God."

I think that they MUST believe in a God for saying something like that, and I know that it would be a horrible thing to punch my Father. I can't imagine the loss of either one of my parents. I think I'd rather die before either one of them so as to avoid such a thing.

I know a man my age that I grew up with(but am no longer friends with) who'd father died in a plane crash when he was five-I can't imagine how horrible that was for him(and his younger sisters).

My Mother's father died a few years ago, and I was in jail. . .and couldn't be at the funeral. I'm still pleased that he was so ill that he didn't know about me being in such trouble. I know that my Mother is still very sad, or still misses him like it was yesterday.

My Dad, who's parents have both been gone for a while. . . .seems impenetrable. . . .except that he's always so pissed off at me.

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

Gosh. . . .the flower obsession. I admit it-I'm an idiot when it comes to that stuff. At least I know a rose when I see one.

The moral thinking of a little girl considering taking flowers for her Father. . . .that's a tough subject, and a tough image there. You could hurt someone with that one.

What's tougher? The cemetery filling up too fast for others to realize, or think about the last most recent grave, and the feelings of those people who lost out.

I hope someone was there to give that little girl in question the hugs she needed.

Elefanza profile image

Elefanza 6 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain Author

Ha. Have you read Brothers Karmazov? In that book, beating the dad almost makes sense. Besides, dads always seemed to be more of the jerk by default.

As for the flower quandary, I remember part wanting to please my dad, part not getting the unspoken cemetery rules, and part just plain boredom. In terms of hurting someone....I don't know. The flowers were all blown about on the ground. They should belong somewhere. So logically, it made sense that my dad should have them.

But I suppose my mental process back then wasn't as functional as it could have been, which was part the purpose of my writing. Thanks for the comments!

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

No, see-what I meant was that the image of the little girl gathering the flowers, and then wondering about the morality of taking them from other graves-that's a tough image! I only meant that it could hurt someone in that I thought it was such a sad image-a "tear jerker," if you will.

Elefanza profile image

Elefanza 6 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain Author

Ha. Sorry for the misunderstanding. It must be one of those questions that still triggers my conscience. Thankfully, I don't have to pay for its work. :) The experience itself actually is one of the more humorous ones for me. Why exactly did the borrowed flowers keep disappearing? It's a bleak kind of humor, but still makes me smile.

3 Finger Reader 6 years ago

What a sweet, sad, and poignant story.

Elefanza profile image

Elefanza 6 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain Author


kookoo88 profile image

kookoo88 6 years ago from Cripple Creek

This was really nice. I like the way you presented a new viewpoint. :)

Elefanza profile image

Elefanza 6 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain Author

Thanks! I've always thought that situation was rather interesting and am glad I could finally do it some justice.

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