Custom Search

Saturday, January 03, 2009

First Visit

Today, December 31, 2008, the last day of the last year of her life, I visited the cemetery. Technically not the first time, but the first time since our trip up for her burial.

Grandview Memory Gardens as seen from Dickson plotGrandview Memory Gardens is a beautiful cemetery located in Bluefield, Virginia. This is where her mother is buried. We have been visiting together almost every year since her mother's death. Next to her mother are her grandmother's and grandfather's remains. I suppose for these generations, Grandview has replaced the family cemetery.

In the fall, the gently sloping hills of Grandview do reveal a grand view of beautifully colored trees and the mountains just over the hilltop. As I said earlier, it is a beautiful cemetery.

Donna Dickson's body laid to rest at the Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane monumentDonna is buried just below the "Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane" monument, slightly to the left. Next to her is a spot reserved for me. I had wondered if I would feel unusual seeing my name on a grave marker, but it wasn't awkward at all.

One of the reasons that I had delayed coming back was the marker. I thought I had understood that the marker would be in place 6-8 weeks after the burial. However, the reality it was 6-8 weeks after the final payment. So, instead of coming at Thanksgiving, I was visiting at year's end.

I wasn't even sure the marker was in place, but I had some vacation time that I needed to take, and I just felt like I needed to visit. It has been almost 3 months since we were here.

Well, it was chilly, very windy day - it felt cold with snow flurries and a little accumulation. In fact, I stopped by Wal-Mart on the way to purchase a pair of gloves and an insulated, pull-over cap which proved to be a very good choice. In just a few minutes I was at the cemetery. After parking the car, I left Abby in the car to first check it all out.

Richard & Donna Dickson's marker placed at Donna's resting placeAs I approached our plot, I noticed what looked like the same flower arrangement we had left on the day after her burial. Then I noticed that the new marker was in place. For a marker it looked good, just like I had ordered.

After checking out our plot and Donna's grave, I went over to check on her mother's spot. There I pulled out the old flowers and headed to the garbage to throw them away. Then I went back to the car to get the flowers that I had brought to place on both of the graves.

Grave marker for Mary Finger, Donna's motherI had originally thought both arrangements were the same, but as I carried them, I realized that one had roses and the other carnations. You can guess which one Donna got - obviously the roses. After placing the flowers in her vase, I went and placed the flowers for her mother.

Then it was back to the car to get the camera. We have over the years made a habit of recording each visit with pictures of the flowers. It was different, of course, this year since Donna had not made the arrangements. And, although I am so very grateful to the florist who prepared them and gave me a good price on two, I noted that they just were not Donna's arrangments.

Next, it was back to the car to get Abby so she could visit.

Now, I realize that the person who was and is Donna is not buried in that cold hillside. What is there is only the physical shell that she inhabited while living on this earth. This was made so obvious at the Bluefield funeral home, when Abby was allowed to visit inside and I held her over her "mommy." There was no recognition at all. Even without scriptural theology and biblical knowledge, this small creature knew the truth that so many of us would deny: Donna was not present in that casket.

But, I also realized that in this place is the only physical representation that I have of the one that I loved and cared for (who also cared for me) for over 25 years.

So, Abby's visit was true to form. She was far more interested in exploring this territory and finding interesting things to put into her mouth than in "visiting." So, it wasn't long before we headed back to the car.

However, I was finding it very difficult to leave. So, I went back a final time. I was getting a lot of exercise - these ARE hills.

Each time, I went to the grave, I talked to "her." I wasn't sure I would be able to do this, as I am pretty certain that she is shielded from the hurts and pains of this life - that her attention is focused on the One who gave His life for her, and I am very, very OK with that. But, especially on this final trip to the grave, I did talk. I figured that God was listening - He is One who is responsible for my care - and that He would share anything that He figured was important with her. So, I talked and as I talked the tears came...again.

Finally, I knew that I would have to leave. So, I bid my adieu. With words that I can only be sure God heard, I told her that I loved her and that I missed her.

Even, as I type this (in a word processor since I don't have internet access at this moment), my eyes are moist. I don't know how long it will be before I can make it back to Bluefield to visit her gravesite. I am so grateful to her cousins, Jim and Susan, who are hosting me on this trip. Together, we will celebrate the New Year tomorrow. But, Donna is not here with me. She would have enjoyed the snow and the visit with family, but she can't.

I miss her!

I wasn't sure of the feelings I would have, but it was what I wanted and needed to do. It was not difficult, but it was not easy.

But, I made my first visit!