Today, New Year’s Eve day, is the second anniversary of my mother’s death. Last spring I drove again to the distant cemetery that she’d chosen as her final resting place.
In my journal I wrote:
Today I went to visit my mom’s grave at the Sacramento Valley Veterans’ Cemetery near Dixon. At her burial, I could only stand and watch from the road as a machine lowered her coffin into the ground on a dirt slope that hadn’t yet been covered with sod. It was a dismal, darkly overcast day with rain predicted, and the terrain seemed utterly flat and monotonous, with its uniform ranks of identical white headstones stretching in every direction. It struck me at the time as a desolate place, and I wished that my mom hadn’t been so pragmatic and had chosen, instead, to be buried with her family at the cemetery in Concord.
Then yesterday I got word that her marble headstone was finally in place. And this time the weatherman on the news had forecast sunshine.
Though it’s the middle of May, the hills were still partially green—lovely! I thought—in the miles before I reached my destination. When I got out of the car and walked away from the parking lot, I noticed a gully not far off, where I heard red-winged blackbirds calling and I smelled a flowery fragrance—jasmine?—in the air. From the other side of the administration building, I could hear the splash of a fountain and see a row of hills—or mountains—along the valley perimeter. And my impression of the place was completely different than the first time.
For her funeral I’d ordered a “deluxe” bouquet from the local florist in the colors my mom loved—dark and light amethyst roses, chrysanthemums, and daisies, among other blooms. So I’d been dismayed by what I saw in the staging area behind her coffin—a scraggly bunch of flora with white lilies. I’d deliberately avoided lilies because of their overpowering scent. Today I found hedge clippers attached to a trash receptacle and trimmed the ends of my two lush amethyst bouquets, fitting them into a green plastic cone with a prong at the bottom to secure it in the ground.
And what I experienced as I stood contemplating my mom’s headstone, among a welling of complex feelings, was a sense of release—because, I realized, I was finally free to speak my whole truth.