"I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life;
to put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived." ~Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Garrett's Monument

In the nine years of living in our town before Garrett died, I drove past this cemetery hundreds of times.  I never thought twice about it, and I never could have imagined that my own child would be buried there one day.  I remember driving through the gate for the first time about a week after Garrett died, going to meet with the cemetery people to look at plots and start the process.  It was a horrible and surreal experience, one that I hope to never repeat until it's my husband or parents or parents-in-law...and not until they have all lived to a ripe old age.  I don't think I will survive doing this again for another child, or for my husband if he dies young.

We were advised by the cemetery people to not rush into getting a headstone right away.  They said many people feel the need to get it done fast so they can "move on". When in reality, they move too quickly and regret the choice they made for the monument.  We met with the monument company a little before Thanksgiving for our first sit down meeting, to talk about logistics and get a tentative design drafted.  Cody had been tinkering with designs, sketching things on napkins and scraps of paper; it was cathartic for him.  I could barely look at his sketches when he showed them to me because my heart would bleed.  It was Cody's project and it was good for him. But it was bad for me, so I left him to it.

It took 120 days for the granite to be excavated from the quarry and sent to the factory.  Then it took a few more weeks to actually make the monument.  We purchased four plots at the cemetery (which was the minimum we had to buy in order to do an upright monument, as opposed to a flat in ground monument). It was very important to us to do a big upright if at all possible.  Now we know where the next three immediate family members will be buried, God help us when we are forced to deal with that in the future.  We also decided in a granite foundation to go across all four plots; because it made sense financially, and it would make Garrett's monument settle better.

As I said, this project was Cody's baby and he oversaw the whole thing.  He made frequent trips to the factory to see the progress, but I only went twice because it was too hard for me.  I remember the day I went and saw Garrett's name etched across the front and I about fainted.

We decided to put Lightening McQueen and James the Engine on it, which were hand carved by the monument maker.  The quality of it is astonishingly good.  Both Devin and Garrett shared a love of all things Cars and Thomas the Tank Engine, but Garrett especially loved James ("the number five engine") for some reason.  Garrett was by far the most stubborn of our children when it came to potty training, and most things for that matter.  It was a mix of stubbornness and fear that kept him from fully embracing the potty, and I tried just about everything to bribe him into doing it full time.  One day we were at the store and he saw a bright red talking James toy and he lit up.  He wanted the train so badly, but I decided to use it as leverage for the potty.

For a few weeks before he died, I would gently coax him about doing his business full time in the potty and he would say excitedly "And then I get my James!!"

But he never got his James.  I never gave in to his wish, even though I had a nagging voice in my head that told me to just let him get it.  I planned on getting it for him while we were in Texas.  After he died I was at the store and I deliberately walked to the train aisle and stood in front of the Thomas displays and right there staring back at me was James. The exact same James he wanted so badly.  I took the train from the rack and held it against my chest as the sobs violently erupted from me.

I'm sorry, Baby.  I'm sorry I got so frustrated with you and wouldn't let you get the train.  You never asked for much.  You were usually so happy to play with the toys we already had, and you were just...a happy boy.  And that one thing you wanted, the one thing that made your eyes light up at the mere thought, I denied you because I wanted to show YOU who was in charge.  I'm sorry.  I'm so sorry.  But here is your James, forever etched into a piece of granite for you.  James, the number five engine...is finally yours.

The monument was finally installed on April 27th and we absolutely love it, in spite of the horrible circumstances.

Garrett's nicknames.  Each one has a significant meaning and a story of how it was acquired.  "No Empty Seats" is a family motto we began shortly after y brother's death six years ago.  It means that when we are all reunited at Heaven's table, we don't want anyone missing.  We don't want any empty seats.

Our family embraced the Jewish tradition of leaving a stone at a loved one's grave, to let people know someone visited them.  We do this at my grandparents' and brother's graves, and my sweet cousin gave me a bag of beautiful stones to use at Garrett's grave when we finally had the monument installed.  So if you are ever there visiting, please take a stone from the jar and place it on the headstone.  It helps is to know people go visit him.  I love this tradition.


Jen said...

I love this! As much as one can, right? Even as I type I think that's ludicrous! But as a mom who also had a child die, I feel it's ok to share. My son Blake died 2 1/2 years ago at age 14. My heart aches that our boys are gone. Just wanted to send some love and share you are loved and never alone. My Blake loved Thomas that Train as a toddler. That made me smile.-- Sharing Garrett's love for James. You were and are a good mom! ((Hugs from Cali!)

Veronica said...

Beautiful monument, I love the no empty seats ....it's hard losing a child please know you are not alone many of us walk this path with you in spirit...I lost my son 2yrs ago now it's hard to keep going but knowing we will be together again helps, always keeping your family in my prayers (love from Nevada)