Talking with Stones

Talk about pressure! Choosing a marker to represent the life of someone you love brings a whole new set of challenges in the grieving process. What symbols do I use? What verse from scripture would be best? Do I include Ron’s titles? How else do people know what his passion was? So many choices. I am paralyzed with uncertainty.

After all, these words ARE written in stone. The inscriptions encapsulate a lifetime of stories, experiences, and memories. A person’s headstone leaves a more or less permanent record that someone you still long for was here – lived and breathed, laughed and cried, found love and knew pain, but most importantly, is remembered. The challenge is to choose wisely.

What if I get it wrong?

I know many say they avoid the dilemma by choosing cremation and having their ashes scattered. Good for them. Not for me, thanks. Actually, Ron was okay with that approach – with burial for both of our cremains in one plot with a marker if desired. But we couldn’t agree, so we made a pact that the one left got to choose. And I’m the one still here. So he is buried in one space near my mother, and I will someday lie between them. The thought selfishly brings me comfort. Intellectually, I know it doesn’t matter, but humanly, I have a preference. And I live in a time when that preference is still possible. That burial decision is already made. I had a time limit on that one, so I got it done.

Now I have to choose a headstone. Why am I dragging my feet? I think I procrastinate because it’s so final. After this decision, what else will Ron need me to do? And so I keep exploring the options, rethinking the possibilities. And that’s okay. For awhile.

Maybe for some who lose a partner the struggle comes over getting rid of clothing or repurposing a room. Those were not so difficult for me somehow. However, this decision over headstones I’m agonizing over. “We each grieve in our own way,” folks are fond of saying. I guess, then, this choice is my opportunity to have a little dramatic hissy fit over having to do this alone. Ron was always my sounding board, my option explorer, my whetstone for sharpening my focus. And he’s not here. And I miss his wise counsel. And that pisses me off. Strange how we devolve to toddler-level temper tantrums when we grieve.

The reason I didn’t have his help with this decision was because we agreed to disagree and left the decision for the widow or widower to make. After all, the final arrangements exist to comfort the bereaved. The departed one is on to new adventures. Besides, Ron wanted the stupid flat stones that he thought would be easy to mow over – even though I pointed out to him that grieving family members still stuck urns with flowers or other mementoes at the graveside that made it impossible to mow over with the lawn tractor. And how could you find the spot without something to see from a distance? And besides, I’d argue, the grass has to be dug out or it grows over the stone and covers up the name. Ron saw no disadvantage in that, figuring once there was no one to tend the memory any longer, it didn’t matter if the grass took over. He was so logical. Gee, I miss that.

But I’m a passionate romantic. And I believe he misses that. Or maybe he is made perfect now and has achieved pure balance. Perhaps, then, I can look forward to that equanimity of spirit that was so frustratingly his. Sweet speculations. Whatever will be will be. And it will be good. Just as our life together was good even though we were not perfect.

So how do I resolve my struggle? How do I get off dead center and move forward? The way Ron and God have taught me to resolve every other inner conflict I have ever discussed with them – you choose, Anna. Even if you decide later it was wrong. Just do your best because, you see, nothing is really written in stone. Everything comes to pass. The only unchangeable force in the universe is God, yet God’s mercy is new every morning. So fear not. Choose.

It’ll be fine, Anna.

Maybe that is what I should put on the tombstone!