My sister Jane had been saying for some weeks that she wanted to visit Zach at my house before we all took his ashes away. I called her yesterday morning to remind her that time was getting short and she was able to stop by later in the day.
Earlier, I had offered up several options for her visit, thinking that she would want private time but in the event she and I just talked. We didn’t talk a lot about Zach per se, as one might at a wake, but more about our reactions to his death and the arc of our griefs. She cried a little but I was strangely calm. I was able to talk about how I had cried so much in the early days and then as time passed I cried less but then I felt that not crying was to somehow invalidate the grief. I’ve learned that grief has no time line nor is there any formula for it. When I’ve cried recently it has been triggered by some random thing not directly related to Zach. I told her about the Bereavement Support Group I have been going to and said that it was open to her as well if she wanted.
We talked about souls and what they might be really. What is the difference between a living person and his earthly remains, be it a body or a box full of ashes or a headstone somewhere? My contention is that the things that Zach touched and were part of his life – his clothes, his books, his computer, his phone, etc. – are just as much Zach as his ashes. His ‘soul’ is his memory within those who are still living and all of those things contribute to his memory.
Jane saw a picture I had of our beloved Uncle Bob who died in 1999. She commented that there really were very few family members who had died in her adult lifetime and she didn’t know how to react. We’ve had Aunts & Uncles die in the last 10 years ago but they were in other states and we weren’t close. None of us kids went to the funerals. Our grandparents have been dead for more than 20 years and they all lived far away. I remember thinking something similar years ago: that I’ve lived a charmed life and no one really close to me has died. It’s not really true; I’ve lost colleagues, some to age, some to suicide, some to AIDS, but no one I was really close to personally. I’ve been to some funerals now.
Here’s the picture of Uncle Bob with Teresa: