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Chris died on Thursday evening as the family gathered around her, including David and I, took turns reading aloud from the Tao Te Ching.  We got home Friday afternoon, just before the long-planned arrival of Carol, my friend who lost her beloved life companion to cancer last winter.  As she came in to the kitchen Carol asked, “Are sure you’re ready for company?” and I said, “I’m ready for you,” because I knew we could both dive right in to talking about death and dying and grief and how do we move on in the face of sorrow and the absence of someone we love dearly.

Our friend Deb arrived the next day and we kept talking and cooking and crying and eating and coloring in my Crazy Paisley coloring book.  Yesterday morning we went for a walk out to the rock where I’ve been building cairns as a memorial for Eric since he died.  I told Carol and Deb the story, which I’ve told here on this blog, about the cairns accidentally being knocked over while the woods around the rock were being logged last summer, and how badly my neighbor who owns the land felt about that.  He erected a stone cross as a way to continue my ritual of using the rock as a memorial site, and also because he’d begun to use the rock as a place to remember and honor his father.

As we walked Carol told me she was looking for large, flat rocks to use in the memorial garden she’s creating for Steve in her yard in Delaware.  She’d shown us pictures earlier of the mosaic sculpture that sits among plantings of perennials and shrubs.  I started looking down as we walked, hoping to find stones she could use.

When we reached the rock with the cross and the beginnings of cairns being rebuilt by me, I stepped up on the top to put a couple more layers on the cairns.  From that vantage I could see that many of the rocks from the previous cairns had fallen in to a cleft in the middle of the rock, piled in a jumble waiting to be reassembled into towers.  There were a half-dozen that were large and flat, some speckled with tiny flakes of mica.

I asked Carol if she wanted any of the flat rocks for her memorial garden and she loved them all. So Deb, David, Carol and I walked back out of the woods carrying rocks, heavy but manageable.

Now Carol has taken rocks from Eric’s memorial cairns back to Delaware to become part of Steve’s memorial garden, and I’m carrying memories of Chris as I help make the arrangements for her memorial service.

It was a sad and glorious weekend, with striking blue skies and sharp air, gusty wind and sunshine glinting on the leaves of the trees, beginning to rattle with autumn dryness.  We looked at photos of Steve and Carol and me and my sisters and talked, talked, talked.

Getting ready to build again.  I’m going to start a cairn on the rock for Chris.


About Grace Mattern

Grace Mattern is a poet, writer, mother, grandmother, partner, friend, family member, gardener, triathlete, hiker and for 30 years was the Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She resigned her position at the Coalition on June 15, 2011 in order to concentrate on her writing, while continuing to engage in the movement to end violence against women as a consultant and advisor. Her chapbook Fever of Unknown Origin was published in 2001 and her full-length poetry book The Truth About Death was published in 2012.
This entry was posted in Family, Friends, Grief, Moving On, Outdoors. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Memorials

  1. Gretchen Grappone says:

    Very sorry for your loss, Grace.

  2. carlwooton says:

    Loving and positive thoughts for you and your family, Grace.

  3. Poetry and pain. Life and loss. So sad for your loss. Healing, blessings and growth for you and your wonderful family. I will keep you in my quiet thoughts. Andrea

  4. Grace Mattern says:

    Thanks, Andrea. I love the idea of your quiet thoughts.

  5. Leslie van Berkum says:

    Could you use some perennials for part of your memorial, Grace?

  6. Grace Mattern says:

    My cairn memorial is in the woods, so need no for perennials there. But thanks so much for asking.

  7. Carol Post says:

    Beautiful Grace. Thanks so much for being there and providing wonderful space to share our love and loss.

    • Grace Mattern says:

      I was out there again yesterday, getting another cairn started. For me it connects to the Jewish custom of leaving a rock on the headstone of a loved one when you visit the cemetery. More permanent than flowers, solid, stable. And it’s so important to have a memory space I can walk to, outdoors. Now it’s time to pick apples. 🙂

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