Sunday's Ceremony

It was as heartbreaking and painful as I thought it would be.  I am grateful that Rabbi Marx came to guide us through.  I always call Rabbi Marx "my rabbi/our rabbi", even though I don't belong to his congregation.  I don't belong to a synagogue at all as a matter of fact.  If I did, I would belong to his.  But, it is really too far away for us.  Rabbi Marx was a teacher of mine in graduate school who I just really liked.  He is just someone who I have always found funny and wise and respected so it feels natural to call upon him for lifecycle stuff.  We used to meet for lunch occasionally too just to catch up before Max passed.  Rabbi Marx signed our US marriage certificate before we left for our Costa Rica wedding.  It was like a secret marriage in his office.  The I think the witnesses were the synagogue receptionist and the Director of the Religious School.  Rabbi Marx was with us when Max passed and led his funeral service.  Ted asked him to be there Sunday and he generously volunteered his time to be with us once again.  He gave structure and meaning to the day.

Ted organized everything for Sunday - he designed and ordered the headstone, called the cemetery to arrange our ceremony time, organized family to come, and picked up the food.  I am grateful for that as well.  Everytime we get through one of these dates, I love him more.  As I told him, I hate walking this road but I am lucky to be doing it with him.

When we first got there, all I could think is "This is too soon".  This should happen after five years - the amount of time I am told it takes at a minimum to integrate a loss like this.  I told Rabbi Marx and he said he understood. During the ceremony, however, he said that one of the reasons we do this at a year is because it still feels so fresh, it feels like it just happened, we may feel no different than we did in our early grief, and yet ...almost a whole year has gone by.  A whole year has gone by and we are still here.  It really is amazing.  In many ways it feels like I lost Maxie yesterday but somehow I have lived a whole year.  It has been a year of seclusion and terror and unrelenting sorrow...but I am still here.  We read Ecclesiastes - A time for every purpose under heaven....a time to be born and a time to die.  Holy Lord - how can it be that Maxie's times were so close?  That whole psalm has been turned on its head for me as I do not believe it was Maxie's time.  I do not approve, even if I must accept.  He told us that we can rest peacefully knowing that all souls go somewhere together after we die and that we will be together.  After the ceremony, I asked him if he really believed that...because Rabbi Marx is no conventional rabbi.  He is a blatant defender of the old/new philosophies of reform Judaism in which Judaism actually reformed and became more secular.  I don't even think I have ever seen him wear a kippah.  I am pretty sure that the synagogue's kitchen isn't even kosher (and I love his explanation why).  I was actually afraid to ask him about his thoughts on life and death because I was sure he would tell me that the soul lives on by our carrying them in our hearts.  He may still tell me that when I call him later this week to ask him some BIG questions about life, but for now, I choose to believe that he chooses to believe that we go somewhere and get to be with each other again.  A hundred people have told me that they believe our souls continue but somehow when it comes from certain people, it has more impact for me.

What really made the day bearable and even brought a little light back into my heart was this baby girl - my three and a half month old niece Camille.  Who would have thought it?  I am afraid of babies....or am I?

She is so super sweet and cute.  She is a mellow baby like Maxie.  I kissed her and hugged her and made her smile and she smells good and reminded me what it is like to love a baby.  She got me thinking about the fact that I will have my own baby in just a few short weeks to love.  They will be such good friends (I hope).  Maxie would have loved her.  Probably almost as much as the other one who brought joy to my day (Mandy) loved him.

My nieces: Mandy, Sadie and now Camille, are pretty much the only children I have been around in a year and I just love them.  Sometimes my heart breaks that Maxie won't ever get to play with these three beautiful girls who are all so full of spirit but, I know I still have the capacity to love them...and that is so important....especially with Baby M on the way.  It's a weird broken love though because my love for them (and everyone) seems to always highlight for me what's missing.  He will always be missing.  And by the way, this past weekend, Sadie (4) and Mandy (6) both had their birthday parties on Saturday, the day before we memorialized Maxie.  It is somehow stunning to me that they will keep getting older and he will always be nine and a half months old.  This is life now.

The unveiling didn't really bring me closure but I hated the little temporary marker on Maxie's grave.  It felt so cold and procedure-like.  His permanent stone feels more personal and it was designed by his daddy with so much love.  I feel like Maxie deserved the day.  But, it is beyond painful because my baby boy deserves everything in the whole world and instead he gets a headstone.  And, I wanted to lie down on his grave to be close to him, like I did in the early days of grief...but I am too pregnant to lie down on the grass.  I can't get close enough anyway.  Sometimes I wish I could claw my way into the ground and get in there with him.  I don't mean to sound morbid, I just long for his physical body and nothing else will do.

Now that it is over, my thoughts turn to what comes next.  We have Maxie's Yahrzeit (the anniversary of his death) and the birth of Baby M.  I am praying that they will not fall together, but I know I have no control (of anything at all).  And after this year is over, then what?  Will my pain be any less?  Will my happiness return?  Will everything go back to the way it was?  No.  Sadly, the answer is no.  Everything will be different and I know that in all of the love I am giving Baby M, someone will be missing.  I will be missing him forever.  My monkey, my Maxie - he's forever holding a piece of my heart.  I will just keep killing time, loving everyone else in as unbroken of a way that I can, until I can be with him again and put the pieces back together.  I yearn to be with Max again.  I long to make sense of this pain.

6 comments said...

Abby I'm glad to hear you had someone close and that you feel comfortable to guide you guys there. Your nieces are beautiful. I feel the same way in all the love that I give my girls, there are smiles sometimes but there is always an emptiness, a shadow PAIN that it doesn't seem to ever go away and how can it go away? if we are missing our boys.

Lindsay said...

I hated going to the cemetery when we only had the temporary markers but since the unveiling, we have found it much more of a peaceful place. I also felt the same as you, as much as our worlds have stopped, it is unbelievable when the 1 year mark comes. We have walked around the cemetery to see their "neighbors" and we talk about them as if we knew them. We take pride in the area and make sure everyone's headstones are clean, flowers are straightened and we have even put flowers and rocks on headstones that don't seem to ever have any visitors. When I sit there, on the ground, on top of the 2 most important people in my life, I have felt the desperation of wanting to grab a shovel on many occasions. I have to believe that we will all be together again, or else this life would be too unbearable.

The "firsts" are the hardest and there are certain occasions that always hurt, but I hope that you begin to feel less pain as time passes.

Lesley said...

Abby, Rabbi Marx married me and helped us bury my mother. He is wonderful and I am grateful from afar that you have him with you on this journey. The headstone is beautiful. Ted did a remarkeable job. My thoughts continue to be with you and your family daily, especially as Baby M's arrival comes closer.

lauraemiller said...

Abby, Just wanted to let you know that I'm reading and thinking of you every day and that I'm always sending love to you, Ted, Maxie, and Baby M.

rebecca Patrick-Howard said...

I personally felt so much better when we got the headstone up. That temporary marker felt bad to me, like we weren't doing enough for him. I didn't feel any closure with the headstone, but I did feel relief.

I thought about you on Sunday. I thought about you last night while I was watching THE BACHELORETTE. You're on my mind a lot.

Kate said...

Sweet friend I love you. Thank you for sharing this incredibly difficult journey day in and day out. I'm here, still listening, still reading--still here. I'd like to visit Maxie's headstone soon--are we allowed to leave real pinwheels still? Or is there any other symbolic gesture of comfort I could leave there? Let me know, here or in email. xoxo