When we were making arrangements, we made the decision to have him cremated. Well, I made the decision. I think everyone was still in too much shock to contradict me. Somehow, putting his body in the ground seemed to cryptic to me…too lonely. I didn’t want him to be forgotten somewhere 6 feet under while total strangers walked all over him as they hunted for their own loved ones. I recalled my half brother who passed 7 years ago at the age of 23. My husband and I would go often to “visit him” and put flowers on his graveside. I looked at people that had died years before and remember thinking how sad it was that they were forgotten. The once shiny headstones were covered with dirt or over grown grass. Time and weather had eroded their engraved lives away. For whatever reason, family and friends had either moved away, moved on or there simply was no one left to honor them. I vowed that I would not forget to visit my half brother, but life started getting in the way. Our visits stated falling by the wayside. Excuse after excuse would creep up. I had good intentions but ultimately I had failed him. I feared others would fail my son as well.
A few weeks had gone by and we had not heard from the funeral home. I was actually OK with not knowing where we were with the process. I felt that the longer it took, the easier it would be to pretend this had never happened.
I was sitting in the living room with my daughter when I heard my husband come home. He walked over to us, gave us a kiss and went back outside. We would hear the back door open and close a couple more times, but I figured he was giving Alix and myself some alone time. After about 30 minutes, Alix said she wanted to go to her dads. I think she worried more about him than me. She had never seen her dad cry and fall apart. A strong veteran officer of the law who has seen the worse of the worse, had become feeble and broken. Her tough as nails hero, a man that once was untouched by any tragedy had suddenly become a fragile and shattered stranger.
As we got up from the couch, we looked over to the kitchen. There on the table were 4 boxes. I stared a them for a few moments trying to wrap my brain around was right in front of me. I felt this overwhelming fear come over me. A knot formed in my stomach and I thought I was going to be ill. My daughter wasn’t sure what to make of these boxes yet. I walked to the table slowly and pulled out the chair to sit down. I gently opened the first box my husband handed me. He said “That one is Joe’s”. It was a beautiful cherry oak box with my son’s name and his date of birth and the date of his passing. The next one was Sarini’s. A heart shaped velvet box with a small onyx urn inside. He then slid over the 3rd box. “I ordered this one for you” he said with tears in his eyes. I opened the box and it was a beautiful stone carved angel sitting on a rock. It was engraved, “Your Little Angel.” Joey always signed his cards or letters to me, ‘I love you mom, Your little angel, Joey.’ I pulled all of the boxes, including the one with the ashes we are going to scatter, into my arms, close to my heart. The sadness was overwhelming. My body was wrenching in pain. I was crying so hard I couldn’t breath. My handsome, amazing, strong son was now in these small boxes on my table. This was all that I had left of him. My heart died all over again that evening.
My daughter wanted to take her dad’s box to him. She would have Sarini meet her there as well. It was fine with me. I don’t know if I would have been able to let him go. After she left, I opened a large envelope that was next to the boxes. I pulled out the papers inside. Did you know that a birth certificate and a certificate of death are almost identical? I quickly glanced at it quickly and once I realized what was staring me straight in the face, I immediately shoved it back into the envelope. I hurried to our bedroom and collapsed onto the bed, feeling broken and devastated. This was it….it was over. The final step had come to fruition. My son was gone. He was really gone. By some miracle, he would not be walking in through my door, cracking up in that contagious laugh of his as he told me it was all a mistake! He would explain that he really wasn’t dead, he was just lost but had made it back home to me. My husband crawled up next to me and held me as I sobbed into my pillow. I kept asking why…why my son…why my baby. My cries were loud, almost deafening. I couldn’t muffle my screams or contain them. I thought I was going mad…I was finally losing my mind to despair.
All of a sudden, something over powered my cries. I stopped crying and looked over at my husband. The sound coming from outside was so loud I thought maybe I was imagining it. He looked at me with a puzzled look. He heard it too! Almost simultaneously, we asked each other where that sound was coming from. We walked over to the windows and then out to the balcony. There, all over the trees in our back yard, were birds! Blue birds, black birds and especially humming birds! They were everywhere! In the pine tress, the palm trees, the rose bushes! Then, I saw it…I saw the one humming bird. He was stopped in mid air right in front of me. It was if he was staring right at me..into my heart. He would flutter away for a few seconds and then come right back to me. This lasted for about 15 minutes. I laughed because I remembered Joey’s favorite comeback line to me. Whenever I would asked him what he was going to do, he would always get this huge grin on his face and quote his favorite line from Forest Gump… “I’m going to fly far, far away, like a little bird.”
My son had come home. He wasn’t in the ashes. He was everywhere. He was free.