Yesterday afternoon, a man I grew up with was killed in a farming accident. If you’re familiar with small, southern towns, you’ll know that there are always a few families that are a part of everything. This is that family. He & his wife are incredibly kind people. Really bad things just shouldn’t happen to kind people.
I keep imagining his wife, a lovely little lady who was so, so caring to my Mama. She was married for 39 yrs. Yesterday morning began like any other day. Her husband went out to bale hay. And then there was a horrible accident & nothing will ever be the same. My heart hurts for her… I remember so clearly those days surrounding the funeral. The blur, the muffled chaos, the unbearable pain waiting to pounce with every move. And I KNEW Mama was sick. I HAD a chance to say goodbye. She didn’t. It must seem like the most horrible nightmare she’s ever had.
And the horror of his death… In our death-shy culture, there’s all the polite murmurings of your loved one “going gently into that good night.” But what if it’s not gentle? What if there’s nothing good about it? What if your loved one gets sucked up, battered, & mutilated by a hay baler? How does that fit into anything? During Mama’s last moments, I took comfort that she wasn’t there during the violent & bloody seizures. As hard as it was for my sisters & I to cradle our mother’s bloody face in our arms, we knew that her spirit had already left, & her body was following. But regardless of whether Mama was there or not, I had nightmares for months. I had another one last night. Try as you might to find the glimmers of comfort, of good, there’s no way to put a pretty, appealing mask on death. It’s just ugly. It just is.
I dread Monday. The dread is gagging, overwhelming. I try not to think about it, but then I remember & it comes rushing back. On Monday, I’ll attend his funeral along with my sister & father. Most of the people will be the same ones who attended my mother’s funeral. It will be the first time I’ve seen most of them since Mama died. And then we’ll bury him in the same cemetery as Mama. I can count on my fingers the number of times I’ve been to the cemetery in the last almost-three years.
I hate the cemetery. I hate knowing that other people, the people who were standing in that same cemetery just 3 years ago, are now looking at my mother’s neglected grave & wondering why her daughters don’t care enough to tend to it. I hate seeing her name etched into the marble stone. I hate seeing those dates… “May 1, 1957 — September 17, 2007.” I hate knowing that her body, the only Mama I’ve ever known, is down below my feet in a beautiful mahogany box. I find myself picturing what her body looks like now, & even as I try to shut it out of my mind, I gag. And cry. I’ve cried so much in the last 24 hours. I’ve cried because that sweet man got crushed by a piece of farming equipment & now his sweet wife is a widow. I’ve cried because it’s almost September & the 3-year anniversary of Mama’s death. And because I have to see those kind, sad people again at another funeral. And because I’m going to be standing in that cemetery with my mother’s grave, with my mother’s body.
And there’s nothing I can do except cry.
On Monday, I will have to go to the cemetery, along with many, many other people. I wonder if I should go tomorrow, to just face it alone. I don’t want to come completely unglued on Monday, knowing that Mama’s body is just a few rows away. I don’t want the first time I’ve seen Mama’s grave in months to be while I’m with other people, people who are suffering their own fresh grief.
Sometimes I feel like I’m stumbling through this — this whole mess — blind.