38 years ago, at 10:30 in the morning and after 3 days of mostly hard labor, my only child was born. Her deep, dark, red hair announced her proud Scottish heritage from my grandmother. Her name, Jerome, dated back generations, to the first arrival by my father's family on the Anne in 1623. I had throughout my nine months with her, known she was a boy. My husband fully supported our still naming her Jerome when she surprised us. We just pronounced it "Jher-oh-may".
38 years ago, today, my precious Jerome lost her intense battle to live. I buried her on my dearest brother's grave in our family cemetary. I knew he wouldn't mind. He had died in the military, but had expressed his deep desire not to have his rank put on his headstone because he had so wanted to be career, and he died at the start of it. Even with the help of our state Senators (my great-Aunt's husband had also been a congressman - still remembered by all in D.C.), we could not prevent the military from installing his tombstone with rank. I just couldn't bear to attend his full military burial. I remember the guns firing in salute, after hearing the bugle, just across the road at my great-Aunt's house in the woods.
I couldn't afford to replace his headstone when I buried Jerome. In fact, all I could afford for her was a tiny 3x5" marker, inscribed with only 5-22-1972.
My Dad thought that was such a wonderful idea, that he asked that I do the same for him when the time came. He had only wanted his ashes spread on my brother, initally. But, after seeing what I had done for my Jerome, he changed his mind. That way he'd be with his most beloved son and next to his own dear brother and mother. I had seen huge parts within him die when those I knew had passed.
When his time came, I did exactly that, down to the date of his death on a tiny marker, just above Jerome's. He, too, had left me in May, just days before Jerome's date. However, I had some money, then. I ordered a huge, black, sparkling marble monument for them. This was far more in line with the other family monuments, some that dated back to the early 1800s. It took 6 months for our local monument maker (a very old gentleman with unbelieveable artristy, the type of skills that certainly died with him) to complete it.
When the day came, the tiny military headstone came out and was given to me. The beautiful, black marble was gently lowered into place. On the front, in larger letters and symbols, in exact detail as what it replaced, was my brother's monument. WITHOUT
his rank. On the back, Jerome's and Dad's monument. It includes cherubs for Jerome and symbols of my Dad's lifelong passion and career, rocks and creating super-highways from them. His first was to transport troops on our state's coastline during WW II. It also includes a poem I wrote for all of them.
The last time I saw them, it was clear the cemetary (5th generation, I think) caretaker was still removing the inevitable moss from the monuments in damp, western Oregon. I felt so much love just by touching it, knowing that I will join them in time. I was furious to see, almost 20 years later, that my Dad's little marker was gone, I knew exactly who had done it! When I got back to the car, where my 92-year old mother waited, she said the only charitable words I heard her utter. This was not
her family's cemetary and if it were not for my brother, she would never have set foot there when she still could. I'd taken her with me when I buried my Dad. To my stunned shock, she actually stomped and jumped up and down on his grave. I laugh, today, but I sure didn't then. I literally wanted to strangle her, throw her in the trunk, and drop her off with the rest of her family down the road!
So, my darling Jerome, although I'll never to be able to make the journey to you again while I'm alive, I take comfort in knowing those who comfort you and watch over you each day. I'm sure you've heard all the stories from them about the happiness and laughter I've had there, in spite of the somber days. I'm sure you know all of my, um, adventures from their days with me on Earth, from birth to a little younger than you are today. I know you've held hands together and shuddered or beamed with pride over the rest of my adventures up to now. I hope you see more until I'm with you.
Not a day goes by that I don't think of you, my daughter, or those wonderful family members that surround you. I always think of you as a unit, of the power of your love that gets me through the good and the bad. How you have all been the united force that has shaped me into who I've become.
With all my Love,
Your Mother, Your Daughter, Your Sister
And Thank You, Neurotalk, for having a tiny little corner, here, where we may leave our words. While mine probably seem to wander everywhere to others, it all makes perfect sense to me.