Yesterday, the third anniversary of Leif's death, we went to Bay Pines National Cemetery to visit Leif's niche. It still seems odd to me to say "niche" instead of grave, but it isn't a grave. Why is it that it is important to me to go there on this anniversary, on his birthday, on Veteran's Day, to touch the stone and cry my heart out? I think it's because there is something still acceptable in mourning him openly on those days and in that place. I try to avoid that in other times and places, to live as normally as I can, to be happy when I can, but there is a time for allowing those feelings to have free rein and admit they are still strong.
There is something both infinitely sad and somehow comforting to lean against the stone, my hands on the words, his name, on the marble face of his niche, and allow the tears to flow, something about acknowledging how deeply his death has etched its sadness on our lives, something about being near to the only early remains of our son.
And it is also important after being there, to be able to dry my tears and drive away into the life we live and find life goes on, even if it's harder without him.
I remarked to Peter W. yesterday that if we visited Bay Pines without Leif there, it would be a beautiful place of peace, where we would feel respect for all the veterans buried and inurned there, a sadness for their sacrifice and their families, but we would not experience the heart-wrenching grief that we do now.
About this time on April 10th three years ago, we were at Leif's apartment. We had drive there with dread and hope, more dread and fear, but still a tiny spark of hope, after no one could get any contact with him in over 24 hours. It was three years ago today that we found his lifeless body, and the nightmare of grief began. We have come a long way since then, climbed back up the well of dark sadness into a happier place, and for that I am grateful, as I am grateful for Leif. Life will never be the same, but it can be good . . . not as good as if he were still with us, but never-the-less, good, and we will respect our grief when the feelings come, and go on and smile when it passes.