The Final Chapter

Chapter 15 = Heritage in a Graveyard

This is the last chapter in the book by Jerry Sittser “A Grace Disguised”. As I reflect on this chapter I am reminded of the amount of Grace that God has extended me these past 4 years since Brittany’s death. And it is in those moments of Grace that I have been able to keep going and to realize that although I have endured a great loss and lived with many losses, I live today knowing I am a survivor.

In this final chapter Sittser writes about taking his children to the cemetery for a stroll to see the burial-place of his mom and wife, their mother and grandmother and their sibling who parished in the auto accident. For those of you close to me you know I’m not a fan of cemeteries.

Over the past 20+ years, I can recall going to my mother’s maybe 3-4 times. I find it very difficult to go there. Actually in all honesty I find it unbearable to go there. I can recall two times, other than the day of her burial, that I went to see her burial site and to take flowers. Once it was with Brittany, perhaps she was somewhere around 10-12 years old. I didnt’ want to get out of the car. I pointed out in the direction and told her to go and I’d wait in the car. So off she went and then I felt bad for doing that so I got out of the car and went over to her.

She was just staring at her headstone, as if she didn’t know what to do. Then I got down on my knees and wept – I missed my mom so badly and I think it was then that Brittany understood what loss looked like and how much the relationship between mother and daughter meant. I got back up and dusted myself off, as I always do when I’m in pain, took her by the hand and left. I didn’t return again until a few years ago with my niece Devon.

Devon and I went to the cemetery one day and I got out of the car and found it to be much easier this time. Perhaps the sorrow that fills my heart today from Brittany’s death has made things like walking up to my mother’s grave easier. We cleaned off the headstone, which is still a sore spot with my family, it bares the name of her short-lived marriage and not our last name. Devon and I placed flowers there and spent a few moments in quiet. Then left. I never want to go back.

For me it is a place of sadness and a place that reminds me all too well of how much I have lost in my life. This feeling is why Brittany is not buried. Her father and I chose to cremate her and she is with me today. For me it’s just better. I don’t have to go to a burial site to see her – which has always been a hard thing for me to do. It would seem less painful.

1-1/2 ago my aunt passed away and for the first time I returned to a cemetery where some of my family is buried. As I stood over my great-grandfather and great-grandmother’s graves, I was reminded of good times, but such sadness overwhelmed me that I had to turn away and walk towards the car. My uncle in fast pursuit as he knows, probably better than most, that death is devastating to me no matter how long it has passed.

Going to a cemetery is a painful reminder for what has passed no matter whose buried there or not. It’s a symbol of loss, pain and devastating grief and so I choose not to go again. I have enough reminders as I look around the room at my daughter’s pictures – I don’t need more. I honor my families memories in my own mind and in my picture albums. That is how I best respect that life. It works for me.

Sittser reflects about his thoughts on his own heritage and his role and for me he nails it here in this passage:

“Heritage has always been important to me, but never more than in the last three years. Much of who I am is a product of the heritage given me at my birth. My story is part of a much larger story that I did not choose. I was assigned a role for which I did not audition. Yet I have the power to choose how I will live out that story and play that role. I want to live my story well and play my role with as much integrity and joy as I can.” – Jerry Sittser

I couldn’t have said it better myself. That my friends is why I continue to grow in my faith, accept God’s grace to move on and continue my story. But know I will always have that pain, that sorrow, that hole in the space where Brittany lived. And some days will always be harder than others. So as Mother’s Day approaches, please pray for grace because this holiday is one of the toughest I live through each and every year.

Until next time