It has been really hard being in Iowa and so far from all of the festivities involved with honoring you in our small town. I have had my feelings hurt, felt left out, and I have been jealous of those who get to visit your grave. I have wanted to visit you, talk with you and feel your presence there too. Your sister says that visiting you is peaceful and healing for so many people.
I arrived in Colorado yesterday morning and drove straight down to your grave. It took me awhile to find you, and I felt almost panicked as I walked up and down the rows looking for your stone, as if you were a small child lost in the shopping mall. But you could no longer be lost. I was desperate to feel close to you again, and have the experiences that others were describing, and there you were. I sat down and prayed, spoke to you, prayed, spoke to you… I struggled to connect. There were some old flowers in a vase by your tombstone and I felt awful! What kind of mother doesn’t bring flowers? I got back in the car and drove around, finally finding a place where I bought the brightest most colorful flowers for my artist. I returned to the cemetery, replaced the flowers, gave them more water and sat down. And there I sat. I prayed, tried to feel you, prayed… but there I sat. Where is my boy? Eventually, I realized that there is nothing natural about this for me. I am sitting on top of a box containing your body. I looked at your tombstone with the name I gave you 22 years ago right above the date when I gave birth to you. I felt nothing but grief. You’re supposed to be sitting here. I’m supposed to be in the box. I was supposed to go first! This is all wrong! This is all that’s left in this world of my sweet son who brought me years of joy?
I tried so hard to connect and thought, “Why can’t I feel you here, Jake? Why isn’t this healing for me? I miss you so much. I want to be the one in the box, not you!” I begged to trade places and realize how impossible that request was, so I prayed. I prayed that you are happy and cared for. I prayed that you are being taught incredible things, and I prayed that I might find a special place where I can feel you too. It isn’t here. Not today.
I feel so guilty because I’m not sure I can keep coming to Colorado. My life here was to keep you and Hannah close to your dad, but Hannah is grown and independent and without you, Thornton is unbearable. This town is filled with memories, both good and bad and I need to move on. I feel so much remorse for leaving and trying to build a new life in Iowa, because I feel as though I am leaving you. Your memorials and your grave are here. You loved this town and this state and never wanted to leave. If you could only give me permission I could do what is best for me, but I feel so much guilt. Maybe I don’t yet care about what is best for me. I do know this; I can’t bear to be in Colorado and I can’t bear to be in Iowa. Is there any place that I could bear to be right now? Probably not.
I prepare to walk away from your grave feeling so defeated and in my mind I hear you say, “It’s alright, mom. It’s okay, mom”. When you were alive, you would so often tell me these words that I can hear your actual voice in my mind. Thank you for coming to my mind, Jake. As I drove home from the cemetery something miraculous (or crazy) happened. I’m not sure, but I am grateful. I kept feeling a sense that you were sitting next to me in the car. I kept looking over because the feeling was so strong. I even felt like you were wearing your tan pants, blue shirt and a tie just like you would have worn to church on Sunday, and it was Sunday. Why were you with me in the car, yet I couldn’t feel you at the cemetery? Was this your way of telling me that you are not in one place? That I don’t need to go to the cemetery to feel you?
I think you will always stay with me no matter where I go. What a great blessing to finally know this. You are not in one place, but with all of us no matter where we are!