As my mother and I were making our way back to the car on Wednesday, after visiting with Frankie and Nonno and Nonna, I motioned to the marble walls and the memorial benches and wondered aloud.
"If this place we're in now is just supposed to be a stepping stone, a bridge to another, better world, why do we build these grand bins for what's supposed to be just a shell?" Our heels click-clacked on the cobblestone paths, and I kept talking, because we needed a recovery from the silence. "If the dead are the lucky ones, why build walls that harbour our own sadness?"
And she dismissed the question, and said that we do it for the living, because what else are the living going to do, after all?
Which is, I suppose, the only thing to say. But then I thought of what I'd seen a few minutes before, when I'd watched my mother attach a birthday card to the front of my brother's crypt.
My heart broke as I watched her face crumple, and the worst part of all, I watched the hope die from her eyes yet again. Hope, I've come to realize, is just as precious as air and water; it is what gives you a reason to get up in the morning, and to go to bed hoping you'll do it again the next day. My parents - and my heart hurts more and more when I think of it - have lost so much of their hope. Where they used to have a warehouse, a football field, a whole world full of hope, they now have bucket, a teacup, a thimble.
Every year, there will be a new birthday card that Frankie doesn't read but that my mother will still write, and deliver, and cry over. It's amazing how, 19 months later, I'm still learning what the word 'forever' means.
So, maybe she’s right. What else are the living supposed to do with the tears over their dead, except to let them fall into the grass above their head, or rub them into the marble walls that separate the breathing from the sleeping? But that birthday card won’t move until we take it down; putting it up made us sad and removing it will make us sadder, and through it all, I’m wondering why we need to do it and if it’s only making it worse.
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