A place I return to……

I pulled through the narrow opening of the rusty swing gate. I steered the car carefully down the gravel path making the sharp left turn. I stopped and backed up going off-road, inwardly cringing I could be driving over a grave. I apologized in my head and straightened the car to face back the direction I came. The rusty white gate lay ahead in the distance. I briefly wondered if I could navigate the beast back through without a scratch…then pushed the thought aside.

I was stalling.

This is the hardest part for me. Getting out of the car and walking to the grave.

Most times I like to go alone because, with him, my emotions are raw. Too raw for me to share easily. Plus, I like talk to him. I tell him everything. Oh I know he is not there, not physically, but in my heart, I know he hears me. I know this is what I need.

I exit the car and briefly wonder if I should take my camera, then I think….no, I have my phone. The slam of the car door seems too loud in the small, quiet graveyard. I softly crunch through the yellow grass as I head towards the black stone. I glance at the other stones, and I smile sadly.

This place. Where so many cried, and yearned, and missed someone deeply. It’s not just their loved ones here, but part of them too. The part that died with them.

I approach his grave expecting the brick to hit my chest, and the burning tears to fly as my throat chokes. I wait and I smile my sad smile in remembrance of such a wonderful father and I realize………

I’m not as sad as years past.

In fact, I almost didn’t come this year. So many things to do, at home, and with the kids. Physical ailments – hives, hormones, and the stress of work on top of work.

I needed to get so many things done. I did not have time to drive six hours to Oklahoma and back to visit a grave. A stone. A stone in the ground and that is it.

Yet, here I am………because I couldn’t NOT come.

It was on a Sunday then too…..FOUR years ago……I hugged his neck for the last time.

I didn’t know it would be the last time. How could I? He was fine. He was my rock. He was always going to be there…..at least for many more years.

But in an instant. A blocked artery. A fateful night. He was gone. So suddenly.

So I come. I come on the Sunday I saw him last. I come to remember, and to thank him for all his years.

I bend down. Surprised by the peace I feel. Surprised that the years passing really do make it easier. My hand rests on the hot stone.

We talk.

And it ends as it always ends. My heart emptying out my thankfulness for his goodness, for his love, and for his shining example of strength. His handicap taught me so much about always pushing forward with your head up – no matter what.

My God, if a crippled man could do life so well. I could too. I could learn from my mistakes. I could love myself in spite of my failures….in spite of my anxieties…..in spite of my overwhelming stress of doing too much, seeking too hard, and falling over my dreams in a rush.

I feel his pride in my soul. My strength. The reason I keep my head up.

Maybe he is gone. Maybe he isn’t.

The tears drop as I turn away. In a blur, the dry dirt swallows them.

I turn to see his view and I think…how perfect.

A beautiful setting for a beautiful soul.

I whisper as I walk away….I’ll see you again…..real soon. And I smile.