Talking with the Dead

When my mother was dying of cancer it became clear that my parents were over their heads in preparing for her death. It fell to me to determine where she should be buried. They had moved a few times and their current location wasn’t their hometown. After consulting with my Dad, we determined that she should be buried in their hometown an hour and a half away. One Friday, I visited several cemeteries and talked to caretakers. I took pictures and shared them with my Dad. We finally decided on a location.

It has been seven years since my mother passed away and I am not sure we made the right decision. I don’t think we realized how much he would visit her gravesite. Or maybe it was more that I didn’t consider this. But, how could any of us know at the time how we would handle our grief? My plan was that I wouldn’t be talking to her after she died. I would remember her and try to feel connected to her in many different ways, but talking to her was not going to be the way I handled the situation.

My Dad probably didn’t know how he was going to handle his grief either. To be honest, there was a lot of denial in the situation which was why there was an urgency to finding a cemetery in the first place. But, how do you prepare for the death of someone you have been married to for almost 50 years? I don’t blame him and he has learned to deal with his grief. And one of the ways he deals with it is by visiting my mother’s gravesite as much as he can.

Yesterday, when I called him, he sounded so happy. He had been down to visit her and he was telling me all the things he told her; my nephew unexpectedly eloped, all about the pandemic, and how all of us kids and grandkids are doing. I’m happy that he has a place where he feels close to my Mom. I think he also finds comfort in knowing that when he dies he will be next to her. I just wish it was closer for him, so he could talk to her more often.

All of this is a reminder for me that I have some spiritual work to do before I have to start dealing with more grief in my life. At this point though, my mode of operation is to try and talk with people who are alive and to keep those who have left us alive in other ways. But grief brings everyone to their knees and who knows to what extent I will go when the person I have been together with for over 30 years leaves me here, alone.

3 thoughts on “Talking with the Dead

  1. I lost my mom a little over two years ago and it feels like yesterday. We picked a beautiful resting place for her but it is over an hour of travel to get to so I do not go that often. I have taken to speaking to my mom in my head and sometimes out loud. Grief is a funny little f’er because everyone handles it so differently and when you lose someone like your mom, I am not sure the grief ever really goes away, you just learn to coexist with it. Thanks for your story!

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  2. Your last paragraph will stick with me for a while. “Grief brings everyone to their knees.” That is likely why so many wait and delay and procrastinate dealing with things like burial plots. Thank you for sharing this tender moment, and I am glad your father is able to share with you and your mother still.

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  3. What a lovely reflection. This moment, “how could any of us know at the time how we would handle our grief? My plan was that I wouldn’t be talking to her after she died,” really caught my attention. My brother-in-law died unexpectedly 12 years ago. None of us knew how we would handle our grief. Each person has their own process, though, as you say, “grief brings everyone to their knees.” I am glad your father gets to talk to your mom, even if it is not as often as it might be. Thank you for sharing this.

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