My aunt's funeral was today. It wasn't a traumatic event for me or the kids; she'd been quite sick for a while so it wasn't a surprise; I hadn't seen her in years besides. She and my uncle, my dad's brother, lived 4-5 hours away--it wasn't any family issues, just modern life and distance.
Distance, and not just geographical, creates a different dynamic for the events at hand. As my daily life is going to be rather unchanged, my mind goes other places. Metaphorical distance allows for more introspection, more generalities. I think of other funerals, other cemeteries, other memorials.
I think of my father and siblings who some years, like this one, don't have grave blankets. Yes, I had a new baby, and we didn't have a car that would transport the whole family until he was over a month old, but we still could have traveled in two--it's not that far. It's 19 years that my dad's been gone, 44 for Mark, and 36 for Heidi. It's so very difficult for me to go to the cemetery. It's a mess of guilt that I have these six healthy children and others don't, it's the memory of guilt of not going more frequently. Denial is pretty strong--"It won't happen to me!"
It's also the very clear memory of the pain of loss. Among the shiny mylar balloons still lofting with the helium, the headstones with toys unfaded by the sun, are other headstones without. I'm sure there are some where nobody has trimmed with clippers or knelt to say a prayer in decades. The child was laid to rest and shortly afterward, a job transfer took the family out of state. Who knows if that child had siblings, or if their parents are still alive? Is there anyone to remember these little ones?
Then there are those who don't have headstones at all. I recall Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy and JFK Jr. were cremated and their ashes scattered at sea. Where does his sister go to mourn? Equally everywhere translates to my mind as nowhere, and that thought fills me with more horror than I can articulate. I can understand the practical sentiments toward dead celebrities, I suppose; how long to keep the flowers? What to do with all of them that fans bring? That is temporary, though. You can cite the visitors to Elvis' or Marilyn Monroe's gravesites, but I don't think Oscar Wilde's is as overrun as it may once have been.
So tomorrow I'll wake up and take the troops for the little guy's four-month well-child checkup. I'll give the spelling tests that should have happened today, they'll catch up on their math. Laundry and dishes and vacuuming and diapers. I think I'll dedicate tomorrow's work to those who have nobody who remembers them. Maybe one of them will become a saint. At least one person whose real name isn't recorded is; that's a whole 'nother post.