I used to be one of those cemetery visitor types. It never really made me all that sad, for some reason. I found great comfort in being where my people were, and I liked having a special place to go to where I could quietly say whatever happened to be in my heart, even if it was just a quick hello when I was just passing by. In fact, one of the hardest things about my miscarriages was that there was no place to go. No grave to visit. It devastated me.
But when Thomas died, all that cemetery goodwill changed. And with it came a boat-load of guilt - the complex kind that you think is one thing but turns out to be something else altogether.
The thing is, I have a terrible time visiting his grave. I read the blogs of other mothers in mourning who visit regularly, taking seasonal decorations and remembrances to the spots where their children lie, and I'm consumed with guilt because I don't. Hardly ever.
I went the day before Thomas' first birthday back in March (I can't even remember what I brought with me), and I didn't go again until this past Friday when I took his Christmas wreath to him. I let nine months pass between visits because the idea of going upsets me so much - and because I always get so upset when I'm there.
And I figured out why not long after I stood by his grave as the cold wind whipped through my hair and chilled me to the bone.
I talk to Thomas all the time, but when I'm at his grave it's different. I start out telling him how much I love him and miss him, but I always end up apologizing. I find myself saying "I'm so sorry" over and over and over again, and feeling the agony of a guilt I can't seem purge myself of - and don't always feel except when I'm standing by his tiny granite plaque.
I couldn't save him. My body failed him and he died. I am the reason he is dead.
I didn't do it on purpose of course, and I know there were other factors at play (including a fucked up medical system), but the bottom line is my body couldn't do what it was supposed to and my child paid the ultimate price for its failure.
And I never feel that guilt as acutely as I do when I'm standing in the cemetery staring at his name etched in stone.
I guess there's something about being right where he is - so near and yet so impossibly far away - that brings that awful guilt to the surface.
I didn't realize it until Friday. I had to pull the car over in the middle of the cemetery because I was sobbing so hard as I was trying to leave. I thought at first it was just being there, in that place, but it slowly dawned on me that it's the guilt that's robbing me of peaceful cemetery visits with my boy.
I'm not sure where that leaves me. I guess it's good that I have somehow subconsciously managed to contain the guilt - allowing it to surface only when I'm where he is - because it means my days away from the cemetery can continue to get better and better as time passes. But I also now know that ugly guilt thing, more powerful and frightening than I ever imagined, is lurking in the cemetery.
I talk to Thomas all the time, and I feel him with me - especially, and magically, when I need him to be. I keep his memory alive and honour him in small ways that make me happy and bring me peace. We have a nice little relationship, Thomas and I.
I know he doesn't blame me. I know no one blames me. But that's not really the point. The point is I blame me, and I'm not really sure how one gets over something that, from where I'm standing, seems absolutely impossible to resolve.