I know where you are

Image from Morguefile

One day about a week ago, we were driving in the car when I yelled, "Oh shoot!"

Hubby pressed his imaginary passenger side brake and looked frantically from side to side expecting an oncoming disaster. "What is it?!"

"We forgot to go to the cemetery on Memorial Day," I said forlornly.

"Oh," he said, with a mixture of relief and sadness.

It's been seven years since we lost our sweet Joey to the cancer beast. Seven years of missing him and wishing he were here. Seven years that his brother has made his way through the halls of school without his twin. Seven years that his brothers have had one less big brother to look up to.

For seven years we have ceremoniously honored and marked each important day in his short life - his diagnosis day, his birthday, and his crapiversary. Masses in his name, visits to the cemetery, meals of his favorite foods, and the wearing of his favorite color.

For seven years I have been writing and posting on Facebook, each year trying to find more eloquent words to honor and grieve this amazing child.

Until this year.

This year, I realized a little too late that I didn't have masses set up on his days. I found out that those days weren't available, so I had to take different days.

This year, we were swimming at our new pool with our cousins on Memorial Day instead of visiting his grave.

This year, no one went to his crapiversary mass except me. And Grandma and Papa, but somehow we didn't even see each other there.

And this year, on June 10th, we spent the entire day on the couch because three out of the six of us were sick with a tummy bug, instead of eating Cheetos and hot dogs and pink lemonade.

And we still didn't go to the cemetery.

What is the expiration date on grief? Is it somewhere between 7 years and 70 years? What is the time limit on thinking about someone 24/7/365?

And when did we stop thinking about him constantly?

One of the crappy things about grief is the guilt that comes with it. The guilt that you're not missing your loved one enough. You're not doing enough to honor him. You're not missing him ENOUGH.

But one of the things that you learn from grieving is that life must go on. Your life is going on. And you have to let it.

You have to allow your life to continue. Without being mired by grief, without being slowed by sadness, without being delayed by guilt.

I make no secret about the fact that I don't enjoy going to the cemetery. To me, the cemetery epitomizes what cancer left us - a fat, rotting shell that had no resemblance to the charming boy it encased.

When I feel that guilt about not visiting Joey's grave creep up on me and close its cold, bony fingers around my throat and slip a hot knife into my heart, Joey reminds me of something: he's not there.

Our sweet boy does not lie in the cemetery - he walks with us every day.

He's in the smooth, flat, shiny Joey rocks that Edgie and I find. Like diamonds in the rough, they catch our eye, and we have to pick them up.

He's at the baseball field - where we find many of our Joey rocks - cheering his brothers on in a sport he loved.

He's in his brother, Slim, who has become an amazing helper and babysitter.

He's in the pennies and the dozens of other interesting things his grandma finds on her walks with his Papa.

He's in the rainbows we see, the Stripey Kittens we spot so often, and the gorgeous sunsets we watch over the fire pit in our backyard.

I know where he is. He's in all of our moments, never far from our hearts and our minds.

He's right where he's supposed to be.

Over time, we've started thinking less and living more; and I'm pretty sure that that is how grief is supposed to go.

We don't need symbols or ceremony or obligatory visits.

We just need to live our lives and know that he is in each sad, lonely, wonderful, happy moment right there with us.

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