While I was down there, I visited with my sister. She went from providing 24/7 healthcare to my Mom to having an empty four bedroom house. She and my brother-in-law are retired and have been for a while. They find themselves with time on their hands and have a little bit of a problem getting used to not having the monumental task of taking care of another human being at hand. I talked with my sister about this and she seems to be chugging along, but I know besides the usual and expected grief we get when someone close in a family passes away, the void that was created is hard to accept and harder still to fill.
That's where family comes in. My short visit was a pleasant diversion from waking up with nothing to do. And to visit family shortly after a traumatic event was "Good" for me as well. We talked and laughed. Told some old stories and discussed some plans for future visits with other members of the family, like the tentative Mother's Day 2010 trip we talked about. It's right around my birthday, but I'll share my special day with the Mothers out there.
What prompted our idea was a visit to the cemetery where my Mother was interred. Her plot is right next to my Father's place. Dad left us in 1983, a long time ago. Now, my Mother takes the space right next to him. I gotta tell you, the place looked like it was in bad condition. The brownish green grass and wilted flowers first of all, then the turned up ground from the freshly dug grave. No landscaping had been done. It's just too early in the season and the crews haven't finished with their winter clean up yet. Also, no head stone marker had been purchased and placed for my Mother. My Dad's headstone was of the variety that is given out to Veterans by the VA and pretty nondescript.
My sister had the idea of stopping at one of the monument retailers in the area and purchasing headstones for our parents' grave sites. We did just that. She had some idea of what she wanted them to say. I was in total agreement with her wishes. What I found to be strange was the restrictions the cemetery administration has put on certain sections of the place. For instance, where my Mother and Father's plots are, there are only flat markers. The lawn mowing equipment can ride right over them and the work of lawn maintenance is made easier for the landscaping crews. Each plot must have its own stone. Even though Mom and Dad are buried side by side, they must have two separate headstones. We had wondered about a "family" grave marker since they were side by side. No vases can be placed. Even the kind that pick up and turn over and can be stored flush with the ground are not allowed.
Then you look at the cemetery complex in total, there are sections where huge monuments sit alongside small markers, some above ground, some flush with the earth. In the monument salesroom, the gaudiness of the stones was evident. A lot of money to be made by the salesman's suggesting that you loved one would be pleased to have such a beautiful marker with the designated religious symbols and statues aboard. The poor guy can't even sell you a massive stone for thirty grand if your loved ones are in the section with the flat stones. So much for Capitalism at a Catholic cemetery. They make sure that they are the ones that are making all the money.
Anyway, the "Good" that emanated from the whole experience is that for years, I felt we had lost our culture and heritage. When the family immigrated from Italy long ago, the fabric of our way of life in the old country was lost. We kept some of the food things alive in recipes and when served in the ethnic celebrations. Working in America on the railroad was much different than working in the small villages of Europe. Our family landed in the big city of Chicago. Opportunities allowed the sons and daughters to move away from the apartment flat above or the house next door. The family broke up, so to speak, and the American way of life took over. For many people, the way of life that was traditional was lost.
Going to the Catholic cemetery and seeing the graves of so many of my family; aunts, uncles, Grandparents from both my own parents, first, second and third cousins, made me realize that the culture is still there and the burying was a part of it. This is where it all comes together once again. We were born, lived and drifted apart, then reassembled here in these plots and the names preserved by granite markers. It is part of who we are as a people, and in a tradition handed over by our Catholic religion. This is who we are. This is a part of our culture.
When we make the trek to Chicago for Mother's Day weekend, it will be to view the new headstones, one for Dad, the other for our recently lost family member. We'll place flowers on the grave of our Mother. The Children, Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren will see the site and learn a little about our culture and heritage. And whether or not I participate in this rite in my own future is irrelevant. It is who we are, a statement, a standard, a sign. I'll show it to my Grandchildren and they will have the knowledge of what most of the people of our family do. That is, gather us and return us back together, side by side, in the ground.
Morbid for an Only the Good Friday post? Maybe, if you want to take it that way, but to me it is a sign that all might still be okay as the family comes together and honors loved ones and has a certain place to do this. That's "Good" enough for me. I accept who I am and who my family is and how we do it, and that's a "Good" thing.
Only the Good Friday is a meme creation of Shelly over at This Eclectic Life. Go pay her a visit, she's "Good".