I wish there had been a funeral or a memorial service. Something. Something ceremonial or commemorative. I feel like maybe that was the plan at one point, but the way that everything unfolded was too unpredictable and bizarre. I don’t think anyone knew how to handle it, or wanted to handle it, or wanted to really face what happened and how much was left unknown.
I think that there is something to be said for communal grieving. Funerals are not something that anyone looks forward to or wants to attend, but there is something about the gathering of loved ones to help usher and acknowledge the end of ones life. I remember my grandfather’s and grandmother’s and uncle’s and cousin’s husband’s and friend’s brother’s funeral all vividly. I don’t remember what I had for breakfast two days ago, but I can remember those days like they were yesterday. They are significant and something I know now to never take for granted.
The thing about my ex boyfriend is that he had been missing for two months. You can’t have a funeral or service when you don’t know if someone is dead or alive. You have to hope and pray and wait. And then when his body was found, it was so badly decomposed that it was shipped from coroner to coroner throughout the state, each one trying to determine the cause of death. I don’t think any of us expected it to take so long and everyone was hoping to find out why he died. To know for sure. Maybe that would offer some closure. But alas, it came back unknown. Almost 8 months after he was found and 10 months from when he died, his remains were finally released. Perhaps there should have been a funeral then, but there wasn’t. And it wasn’t my place to push.
My most vivid memory is the day after his body was found. I took the day off work and went to his mother’s house. I sat with her as she made calls to friends and family and as she spoke with the local coroner about next steps. We drank tea. We went for a walk and sat on a bench under the elm trees in a nearby park. We shared stories with his grandfather, and we also sat in silence. So much silence. Later in the evening, his aunt, uncle and cousin came by the house with dinner. We all sat out on the patio, trying to make sense of everything and watched the sun slowly slip below the horizon. Spoke logically about next steps and reminisced on when he was a boy and all the things we’d wished for him. I didn’t cry much that day. Perhaps the hours of crying the day before or the countless hours to come kept them at bay that day. Or perhaps it was too real. I left feeling exhausted, but at peace. It was nice to have the warm embrace of those that loved him and to share our sadness and confusion.
But that was the only time we gathered in his name. Nothing formal was ever planned. When his remains were released, they were divided among his family and his sister graciously offered me some as well. So now I have this small packet of ashes to spread. And I don’t know what to do with him. Selfishly, I want that damn ceremony with his friends and loved ones where we can laugh and cry and share stories until the wee hours of the morning. But we don’t always get what we want. And I suppose it’s fitting, since I never knew what to do with him when he was alive. Makes sense I wouldn’t know what to do with him now. Keep him close or let him go, free to dance on the wind and the waves.
I will never again take for granted the opportunity to grieve together. To know what happened. To have a large group of people that want to celebrate and mourn you and mark the end of your brilliant chapter on Earth.
And I don’t mean to sounds angry or resentful that he didn’t get a life celebration or memorial or funeral, I just mean to highlight how beneficial it is in the grieving process. It helps to look it in the face, feel it in your bones and share the experience with others. There is a reason you find these ceremonies in most cultures and civilizations across the globe and throughout the centuries. Major life events deserve to be acknowledged. This was just too bizarre and too painful and unfolded in a way that made it easier to put off, and off, and off. And so the grieving has been long, and drawn out, and long.
I normally tie my writing off with a nice little bow and “here is the takeaway”, but there really isn’t a nice bow on this. It’s still not closed. I still have his ashes on my shelf in a box that says Love, waiting to meet their final destination. Now where-oh-where do I take him? Where-oh-where do I lay him to rest? Where-oh-where do I choose to take my tiny piece of him and say goodbye, in my own to-be-determined ceremony of my own?
This is life.
Beautiful. Messy. Real.
Miss Erin Terese