I suppose it was a sign: as I reached for a screwdriver from my desk drawer, out fell a small strip of ribbon with two hearts imprinted on it. I had found this ribbon while I was finishing cleaning out the house so Allison and family could move in; now she and Ronni were signaling their presence and support.
I had been thinking to go to the cemetery. After a happy, peaceful week in Atlanta with Deb, where we visited family on both sides and where I restarted walking for exercise and weight-loss, circumstance made me go back to 15 Wicks alone. There are many memories here, both good and bad, but when I am alone sometimes the bad ones overwhelm me. I need to give in and have a good cry.
Last night I had too much to do, and by the time I might have gone to their graves it was too dark. I went to sleep thinking I would rise early and visit them. But this morning I had too much sleep to catch up on and got a late start.
Debra understands my periods of sadness more than anyone. After talking with her I took her advice and went to the cemetery this evening instead of waiting till tomorrow morning.
For years I have been aware of what I call a "saw-tooth curve" in my emotions about Ronni and Allison. After some time being able to function quite normally and comfortably, a deep sadness rises in me that I eventually cannot set aside. The only cure I have found is to allow myself to grieve deeply, to cry long and deep. Afterwards I can return to life in the present tense. When Ronni died, and again when Allison died, the period of the curve was measured in hours or days. During 2009 and 2011 it lengthened, and having been laid off in 2011 I had time to go through my grieving as often and as long as necessary. In 2012 I started working again, and met Deb, and got married -- and the sadness returned only intermittently. But here I was, alone at 15 Wicks, nearing the peak of that saw-tooth curve.
So tonight after testing my bicycle (passed) and my legs (failed) with a ride to Sheila and Al, I drove to Mt. Golda Cemetery, placed a couple of stones on their monuments, and sat between the two markers. And I cried. I cried more deeply than I have cried for many months, in waves and in sobs. And yet, I felt little relief, so I stayed and thought some more, and cried a little more.
And the third wave of sobbing brought new thoughts: for years I have been crying for myself, for what I have lost. This time I cried for what Allison had lost, and what Ronni had lost. I have been privileged to attend the weddings of my two sons and my nephew, and my niece's Bat Mitzvah. I have seen two more grandchildren come into the world, and a third is on its way. All of this (except Jason's wedding which Allison attended) and so much more was missed by both Ronni and Allison because their lives were cut short. I wept bitterly for them, for the joy they did not get to experience. And I wept thinking about how different Zachary might have been, how different we all might have been, had the Big C not taken them.
I recognized that my grief had changed character -- it was somehow less about my loss than about theirs and that of everyone around me. The world is poorer for their absence.
As I pondered all of this I remembered when Allison and Ronni came with me to the hospital when my mother had just died, near the end of April in 2004. We came back to 15 Wicks and I sat on the couch in the living room and completely lost it. I had been holding it in, I suppose, for months while my mother was becoming weaker and approaching death, and now the finality of it hit me. It was time to grieve, and I asked out loud, "I guess it's OK to cry now, right?" and burst into sobs. What I remembered today was how Allison and Ronni sat alongside me on that couch and hugged me until I had finished crying. As I sat between their two monuments, I felt those hugs again. I wept once more and finally felt some relief.
This is not the last time I will cry over them. But my sadness has that new element of recognition, that the loss was theirs and ours as much as mine, if not more so.
As I looked up from my tears I was facing north. A storm is coming in from the south, and the sun was setting behind the clouds, but in front of me there was enough open sky that the sun lit the bottom of the clouds in a soft rose hue. I took it as another sign, another hug. And I drove home determined to capture these moments for myself and for everyone who loved Allison and Ronni as I did.