Sunday, April 11, 2010

Visiting the cemetery

I wanted to go Bay Pines National Cemetery where Leif is inurned yesterday on the second anniversary of the day we found his body. Peter W. Doesn't really want to go for himself because he says Leif is not there, but he is loving and supportive and goes because he wants to be with me.

I don't believe my Leif is there in that little box, either, but the trip is symbolic, a kind of pilgrimage to the place where all that is left of his physical remains are honored.

Like Peter, I don't need to go to the cemetery to remember Leif. I remember him every day, talk about him, write about him, love him, but there is still something compelling about going to what is euphemistically called his "resting place," though I also don't think "resting" has anything to do with it.

It's a kind of ritual that means something to me in a way I can't adequately explain. Peter finds it painful to see me cry and say I want him back, I think, but it is the right place to say it.

Although people are often sad in cemeteries, grieving, I don't see them as just sad places. I see them as beautiful monuments to the remembrance of loved ones, places where, unlike in the world at large, grief and remembrance is not out of place.

It was touching to see all the bouquets people had brought for Easter, and more touching still to see how many new graves there were since we were last there, most of them World War II vets. One of the most touching things we saw was this -

I will now always wonder what the story is behind that little fluffy pink-and-white teddy bear. Did some child bring it?

I brought a wallet-sized photo of Leif, my favorite one, and had Peter hold it against his cover stone. I wish there were a way to place a photo on ceramic and have Irvin the stone, as I first saw on some tombstones in Austria many years ago. It seemed so much more personal to see what the person had looked like in life. But that is not the custom here, and military cemeteries have uniform rules as well, so this is the closest we will ever come to that.

We have come a long way in two years. I cried at Leif's niche and felt the sadness and grief, but I was able to dry my tears and drive away, find a place on the beach to go out to dinner with Peter W., hold hands and be thankful for him and his love, and for Leif.

And to drink a beer (albeit a nonalcoholic one) in honor of Leif and the St. Pete's Beach he loved. And enjoy it.

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