When it comes to picking out a gravestone, some cemeteries only allow for markers so as not to disturb the natural appearance of the landscape. A marker is a flat headstone, compared to upright headstones which are called monuments. The price of our 20×12 baby sized marker was more than the funeral and came complete with a granite base, name, date, a five word epitaph and three emblems.
I’m twenty-three years old, I should not have to know this. But I do.
Last week we finally went to pick out a marker for Landon’s grave. For eight months his little plot of earth has been marked by a plastic slip of paper with his name and the occasional flower or stuffed bear.
We don’t visit his grave very often. My memories of Landon aren’t found at the cemetery. I know that while his tiny body lays under the dirt and grass, he is not there. And yet, a marker was important to me – a step in the grieving process that needed to be completed. It’s a sign that my little one was here and that in his very brief existence, he made a lasting impact. While he never took a breath of air, he still lived.
The funeral home is not my favourite place (understatement of the year, right there). During these appointments, time seems to stand still as forms are filled with painstaking precision and endless waiting. Seated around a wooden table, urns and markers lining the wall, a wave of memories comes flooding back. I remember the last time we sat here. Discharged from my hospital room, we drove directly to the cemetery to make burial arrangements. We sat at an identical table, a ball of wadded tissues in hand, and picked out a coffin.
This visit holds less tears; the pain is less acute. But still, this cemetery will always be associated with a dull ache in my chest. I miss my baby.
After picking out a bronze marker, we drove by Landon’s grave. A steady drizzle of water droplets fell against our windshield. This weather was perfect for a cemetery visit – the rain hides tears. To my delight, we discovered that the little tree beside Landon’s grave was in full bloom. Petals sprinkled out over blades of green grass and delicate, red and yellow tulips waved softly in the breeze. Here was a beautiful and unexpected reminder of God’s faithfulness, a promise of new life.
On the ride home, Andreas tells me that our funeral assistant was named Bob Barker. No joke. I laughed as I remembered that Bob had handed me a calculator so I could double check the quote.
Yes Bob, the Price is Right.
We giggled all the way back to the house.
This is one of the many things that I love about my relationship with Andreas: our ability to laugh. Through this all, even in our grief, there have been many lighthearted occasions for laughter. We need these brief seconds of comic relief to help us through the tough days. Even now, I smile when I think of a five year old excitedly proclaiming, “This is so much fun!” in the middle of a funeral. Or the struggle to contain silent laughter as a rain soaked tent suddenly dumps a gallon of water directly onto the head of a poor funeral assistant. And then there’s the time when Bob Barker helps you pick out a funeral marker.
Shortly after Landon’s death, I thought that I could never be happy again; that my heart would never feel as light as it once did. I felt guilty for my laughter, fearing that it meant I was moving on – forgetting. But joy does not mean that you have forgotten, just as it does not mean that the pain is gone. Laughter is a beautiful gift from above. We do not have to cling desperately to our sackcloth, feeling convicted of happiness. We have been given a hope eternal – a promise of life beyond the grave. We have been given the reason to feel joy amidst the pain.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
Psalm 30:11-12 (ESV)