Our house and our hearts were filled on Saturday. It has been so long since I have felt as calm and peaceful as I did after we returned from the ceremony at the park.
Inside our apartment was madness, though. I was whipping up press pots of coffee as my aunt shoved food into the oven and people wove in and out of the rooms and between bodies pressed close together. A bag caught on fire. I dropped a pie while rearranging the refrigerator. The cats scampered in fear as our cousins and nephew chased them around. Conversations and chatter filled the rooms and the yard, and it was right.
Music played through the stereo as the Mets fans in the family piled up on the couches, watching the game. Pizzas were ordered, food was brought out and furniture and tables were rearranged on the fly, everyone chipping into do whatever was needed at that moment. We had a plan, but it was loose and success depended on everyone adding their little piece.
It was the same out at the park, when we planted Silas' tree. The three shovels were passed many times and at the end, everyone laid a rock on the fresh mulch under the tiny branches filled with small, vibrant leaves.
We intended to have a marker or plaque, but we just never got around to having it made, and by the time we were mentally prepared to do that it was too late. Instead we figured we would maybe wait a year, until the tree got a little bigger, and have it created and placed then.
Our friends were one step ahead of us. They had Silas Orion engraved on a large, amazing stone, and brought it with them on Saturday. It was exactly what we wanted.
Even the weather was right. A bright sunny day would have been too gorgeous and stark for such a sad event. The low, menacing clouds matched the tenor of my emotions. All day I was calm but unsettled. I felt sad, apprehensive, and that low-grade burble of terror softly churned in my belly. It's like feeling butterflies, but with razor-winged dragonflys instead.
As 2pm approached only a few people had arrived. And then suddenly everyone was there. The house went from empty to overflowing in a matter of about 15 minutes. It was great to see so many friends and family, but it was terrible as well. That twisting, complex emotion made me feel disconnected and a little disoriented. There was a feeling of celebration, having everyone together, but it was also desolate and sharp. "Yay it's everyone we love!" mixed brutally with "No no no no no not everyone. That is why they are here."
But we did it together, and that made all the difference. We walked to the park in small groups. I locked up the house and waited for stragglers and then brought up the rear with some of my oldest friends and one of my brothers. Across the expanse of the park I could see the colorful gathering of our friends and family. The center of their loose arc was immensely small compared to the thick, old trees standing tall all around.
At the park, next to the sapling, I shoved my spade into the earth forcefully, and then asked everyone to come closer and circle around. My father welcomed everyone and then recited Hard Times Come Again No More. I said the Hopi Prayer, and then Lu stepped forward to tell everyone why we picked an Acer Rubrum “Red Sunset” Maple tree to memorialize Silas. "The colors will be brilliant in the fall, when Silas was born. And he was born here, in this town so we wanted the tree to be here, too," she told them, and then she asked for everyone's participation to help us finish planting it.
Before they took up the shovels, though, I stepped forward one more time, because there was something else Lu and I wanted to say to everyone. I was barely able to speak at this point, but it was something we felt needed to be said.
"We do not believe that everything happens for a reason. We do not believe that we are being punished or tested by God. But we do believe that the only way we can can get through this is with all of your love and support. And we are so thankful that you are here with us today to help us, and that you will continue to be there for us, because we need it. We need it so much."
Family stepped forward first to shovel on some dirt and fertilizer, and then suddenly it was done, I was no longer the focus. As each person took hold of the shovel their total attention was on the tree and the task. This was their moment to physically connect with the ceremony, and in turn, our missing son. The action of their arms and hands on the handle, the scoop of dirt, the arc of pebbles and soil in the air as they each helped fill the hole around that tiny tree made the ceremony visceral, complete.
I loved seeing that look on their faces. I needed their sadness and attention to this everyday fact of my impossible life.
It's almost a little sadistic, I'm afraid. I wanted everyone to hurt yesterday. I needed them to feel the bottomless ache I live with every day. It gave me a sense of peace I have not felt for a long time. I didn't have to bear this alone because everywhere I looked on Saturday, I could see pain and sadness and understanding in everyone I loved. My load was lightened because of their hugs holding me up and their tears joining mine.
It turned out that I did not need to demolish the park as part of the ceremony on Saturday. I want that tiny tree to have good role models all around it. I want it to grow up tall and wide and strong. I want it to grow so tall and so wide, that I cannot get my arms around it when I'm out there some day down the line, holding onto it for dear life, because I still can't get my arms around my beautiful, missing son.
Did you perform a ceremony to remember and honor your child? What was your favorite part of that terrible day? What prayer or poem or song lyrics did you use in the ceremony? What changed for you before & after that day, if anything?