I stare at the lilies in a vase on the kitchen table. They are wilted and bending at an odd angle. When I bought them, they were lovely: vibrant white buds, unopened and sitting atop stiff green stems.
They made me think of him. I had intended to take them to him, but I never made it there.
I hate going there. I hate visiting his grave.
It is neither the place he lived nor the place he died. It is simply the place where his body lies. A body that happens to be unrecognizable, falsifying the way that he lived.
He was a young boy with an ever present smile. Just being around him made others smile. He was busy and curious and happy and never alone.
On that hill, even in the sunlight, he lies alone in death. And he was never alone in life.
I think that is why I hate going there. So I let the lilies wilt. The flowers—picked because they reminded me of him—wilted because I didn’t have the heart to visit a place that is so unlike him at all.
At dinner, my eight-year-old son points to the wilted lilies on the table. “I thought we were going to take those to Joey.”
“We were,” I answer sadly, “but I never made it there.”
“I miss Joey,” my son says.
“I do, too,” and I wrap him in a hug.
“I wish that Joey didn’t die,” chimes the six-year-old who barely even knew Joey. “I wish he didn’t die and he was here with us so he could see how I ride my bike.”
Suddenly Joey’s ten-year-old twin brother, who had been silent up to this point, breaks in, “Joey is NOT gone. He will ALWAYS be with us in our hearts!” Everyone falls silent and looks at him. “He will always be with us,” he says, more quietly this time.
And I know that he is right. I know I hate visiting Joey’s grave because he is not there. He is here, in our house, in our hearts, and in our memories.
He can see the lilies and knows how well his brother rides his bike. He can feel our hugs and hear our laughter.
It doesn’t matter that we will be moving from this house soon. We will take him with us. We will take his pictures and his favorite stuffed cat and the memories of him that will stay with us forever.
His brother saw what I have trouble seeing sometimes. Joey is not gone. He is always with us, right in our hearts.