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.