I was trying to place a plastic pot beside my son’s grave. Angela, his wife warned me that she had been cautioned not to place anything at the graveside that could be broken or stolen. Petty vandalism is often, unfortunately, part of the cemetery culture. But she liked the idea of spring flowers.
So I hauled myself into the garden center of the nearest big-box home-supply store, found a plastic pot that didn’t look too cheap, drilled a hole in the bottom of it, found a sturdy metal rod, plunged it through the hole, the idea being that I would use a hand mallet and secure all by pounding the rod through the pot and deep into the soil. With the rod wobbling with instability, I nevertheless filled one-third of the container with broken shards of clay pots, emptied a bag of potting soil up to the rim, planted pansies and budding narcissus, hauled all into the car and drove it a mile over to the West Chicago community cemetery.
Angela has chosen a beautiful black granite bench engraved with Jeremy’s name and life dates as a grave marker. Three little handprints in the stone with the names of their three children explain more than any paragraphs could: Eliana, Nehemiah, Anelise.
Because I don’t have full use of my right arm after last year’s surgery to repair the rotator cuff I tore after falling and dislocating my shoulder, I couldn’t lift the mallet high enough to pound the rod deeply enough in the ground to ensure that the pot could not be easily stolen. In fact, while lifting the hand mallet off the hook in the pegboard, it fell to the metal work table beneath. My lifting strength is certainly not what it used to be.
I proceeded, a little dirty from all the planting effort, onto the office as planned, finished some projects, then drove with David to pick up the larger plastic pot; one beside and behind the bench and one at the front corner of the bench would give good visual balance. After spring, we could fill them with summer flowers, fall branches, greens for winter. It felt like it would work.
David drove with me back to the cemetery to pound in the rod more securely and felt that it was striking against something under the ground, but I couldn’t explain to him not to lift the pot off the rod to move it because we wouldn’t be able to find the hole again beneath the pansies, beneath the filling soil, beneath the shards of broken clay. Words to explain escaped me. Somehow, he caught the meaning beneath my inarticulateness, and we slid the pot up the rod, not off it, dislodged the rod from the ground, moved it to the other side of the grave, and my husband pounded the mallet, and the rod grabbed deeply into the earth.
Suddenly, quite suddenly, the grief I’ve known has been lodged itself beneath my breastbone, ready to sear the absolute center of my psychological self, began to gush. Little things—a stupid rod in a pot, minor frustrations, fatigue from going day and night weakened my defenses. I realized with blazing, glaring clarity that we were pounding a rod through a pot full of soil and pansies into the grave soil of my dearest, most beloved, deeply cherished, beautiful and delightful child.
I heaved with sobs, the Good Friday sobs that had been pushing up in the Great Vigil services three days before. The Good Grief sobs that could fill a woman’s world with sorrow. The anguish that is like every suffering mother’s anguish.
Today, I will try to plant the larger pot. I will drill a hole in its bottom, yank another metal rod from the roadside garden, insert it, fill the bottom with broken clay shards, empty the two bags of potting soil I bought for this purpose, plant the top with pansies and miniature budding narcissi, load it somehow into our Mazda Protégé hatchback, drive the mile to the cemetery, set it, ask David to come and pound the rod into the graveside earth with the hand mallet when he has a moment.
This time I will make a little space for the grief. It doesn’t really ask us for permission. I’ll sit on the black granite bench marked with my little grandchildren’s names and handprints watch for the Vandal. I’ll think about broken things in cemeteries, about grave robbers and destruction, about loss. A grieving mother who will never really get over it. White-haired; 72 years of age; watching with curiosity the encroachment of my own physical diminishments. A hole in my soul.
So let it be. So let it be.
Award-winning author Karen Mains has long had an interest in spiritual formation and the obedient Christian walk. She has written about the God Hunt in her book by the same name, The God Hunt: The Delightful Chase and the Wonder of Being Found. A hardback copy can be ordered from Mainstay Ministries for $10.00 plus $4.95 shipping and handling. Contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will be happy to autograph a copy for you.
Karen continues to write content for her Christian blog, “Thoughts-by-Karen-Mains.” In so doing, she desires to touch the lives of Christian women and men and help them find ways to walk closer with the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition, through silent retreats, spiritual teaching, women’s retreats, Christian vacation opportunities, and other ministry activities, Karen helps each Christian woman and man receive vital spiritual food.
Through her Hungry Souls ministry, Karen serves as a spiritual coach to many Christian women and men, and teaches a mentor-writing class. And, through the Global Bag Project, she is working to develop a network of African women who sew exquisite cloth reusable shopping bags, Africa bags. This micro-finance women opportunity helps provide a much-needed sustainable income for struggling African families. For more information on this critically important project, please click here.
For decades, Karen and her husband, David, have served God through religious communications—radio, television, and print publication. They are the co-authors of the Kingdom Tales Trilogy: Tales of the Kingdom, Tales of the Resistance, and Tales of the Restoration. To find many valuable resources for pastors and congregations at the Mainstay Ministries main website, please click here.
Likewise, pastors will find special resources to help them prepare effective, life-transforming Sunday sermons by visiting David Mains’ website by clicking here.