I’m totally out of line today. I broke all the rules. I wrote for 10 minutes. I corrected a few typos so you wouldn’t get hung up on nonsense words. But I never went back and edited or proofread. And I’m adding in a few pictures. Not that that’s against the rules. And not like the rules aren’t meant to be broken.
This is just a from-the-heart piece about my experience visiting my grandmother’s grave today for the first time since she passed away almost 30 years ago.
My grandma passed away in 1982. I was only 11 years old and yet I remember her with the sweetness that every grandmother seems to project. She didn’t have a perfect life. She had a checkered past. But I didn’t know her as that woman. I knew her as my grandma.
As odd as it sounds, I didn’t attend her funeral in 1982. I don’t remember how the conversation exactly went but I think I basically said I didn’t want to go. I’ve never felt comfortable talking about or dealing with death and it may have all started at this age.
I loved my grandma more than words can say but I didn’t go to her funeral. And I had never visited her gravesite until today. It’s not that I didn’t care. It’s that my mother taught us to believe that once you’re spirit is gone, your body is simply the shell left behind. She never saw the sense in visiting her gravesite because she’s no longer there.
On a trip back from Maryland a few months ago, we took a back way home to avoid some traffic. We drove past a cemetery and I immediately swerved the car towards the gates. My husband had no idea what was going on.
“I think this is where my grandma is buried.”
I was sure of it and I was sure that I wanted to see her grave. Not because she is there but because it is one tangible place that I can go and remember her. The cemetery is only open until 5pm and we had missed the time but made plans to try to stop there again on a future trip.
We tried on the way up for Thanksgiving but we left our house in Raleigh too late. And then today, as we set off on the journey home from our Thanksgiving visit with family, we saw that traffic was going to be heavy. I asked my husband if we could go the back way and he knew immediately what I had in mind.
Since I had never visited a grave, I had no idea what to do, I wanted flowers but couldn’t find a florist and before I knew it, we were there. It was a veterans’ cemetery and luckily they had a way to look up the burial plot, otherwise I would have no clue where she was.
I got the map. I got the location and set off to see her marker, not sure of how I would feel.
It’s been almost 30 years.
Wow. 30 years since my grandma left. I still miss her and I still have the most wonderful memories of her. But the sadness is gone. I found her marker and didn’t feel sadness. I had no tears, as I thought I might. Instead, I felt this sort of bittersweet happiness. The feeling that I was able to connect with her again in some way.
I wanted her to know I was there. And I wanted someone else to know that after 30 years, someone cared for the woman known on the stone only as “Ethel M.”
Since I had no flowers, I did the best I could to make sure the grass was trimmed around the edges and the leaves were away from the stone. I took a piece of paper from my son’s sketch book and made a rubbing with one of his crayons. A purple crayon. My favorite color and one I thought my grandma would like.
I thought for a moment and decided I wanted someone to know she was loved. I took a purple crayon and drew a heart next to her name.
I briefly thought that I might get in trouble for defacing a grave but figured I could talk my way out of that. I know the weather will quickly fade the heart. But I know it was there. And I know she does too.
I’m glad you wrote for ten minutes. This was really touching.
Really touching post, Fadra! I love the little purple heart you drew! My grandfather passed away when I was 11years old as well and I didnt attend his funeral eithern and have never been to his grave site. I think I just might have to go and visit when i am back home. I still think of him often and remember him as if he was here yesterday!
I love the purple heart. It was a very sweet gesture and more hearfelt than just leaving flowers. I never visit my grandmother’s grave either, but I think about her every day and I miss her constantly.
Such a great post. Both my mom’s parents lived until I was in my thirties and I am thankful every single day that I had that time with them. They were so special to me. My paternal grandmother died suddenly in a car accident when I was 10. I did attend the funeral but don’t remember a bit about it, because I was so, so sad. First of all, because it was such an unexpected death, and secondly because I was so young and didn’t understand. I think you made a wise decision at 11 not to attend.
My girls are 10 and 12 and I have not let them attend a funeral yet. I just personally don’t think they are places for children. I’m glad you have such fond memories of your grandmother.
That’s so sweet. I’m glad you were able to visit her grave. I find it comforting with my family members who have passed away, even though I know they aren’t there. Thanks for sharing!
The purple heart is a beautiful idea. How lovely you got the chance to connect with her, be about her again. My Grandad passed last November and it seems like yesterday – with loss, time has no meaning. A touching post.
((hugs)) There’s no protocol for what to do when you visit a grave. I personally love what you did and I’m sure your grandmother does as well. My mom died when I was 8 and when I got to her grave I leave a rock. It was the way my family would let each other know if we visited and they weren’t home and I carry it on to the grave. My grandmother passed on almost 2 years ago and I do they same for her.
My daughter wanted to start doing something for my mom. She picked out a rock that hides a key and will put something in it each time she comes with me. It’s so sweet.
***I’m going to stop rambling now in your blog….
Fadra, I love your post today. Grandma’s are so special, and mine was too. Your post got me to thinking that I have never been to my grandmother’s gave. I don’t know where it is, and I was 15 when she died, I should know because I was there. Somewhere in Detroit. There’s no one left who can tell me. I think drawing that purple heart was such a loving thing. Good for you for going. Don’t feel bad about flowers. Some cemeteries are strict about that per season. Now, this reminds me I haven’t been to my parents’ grave in a very long time. I will go. Thank you for sharing this.
That is so beautiful! I think it doesn’t matter how much time has passed, that your grandma doesn’t give a darn about time and she knows you stopped by. I’m very happy for you that you got to do that, and love the purple crayon heart.
The heart seems absolutely appropriate. Both of my grandmothers passed in the last 5 years, and I haven’t been to either grave because I wasn’t really sure what to do or…anything. This post certainly helps. Thank you.
Loved this post. I don’t think I’ve ever gone back to visit gravesites/markers after the funerals. My grandparents were both cremated but all my memories are in my heart & mind. I do have a favorite photo of my grandmother that I framed & keep in my office. I’m so glad you followed your gut & found her.
What a lovely post – I think the heart was a great personal touch 🙂
This is a truly beautiful post. Thank you for breaking the rules.
I think the post was worth the rule-breaking. My gramma (my mom’s gramma but adopted/raised her) died when I was 12…I was really close to her…when I was 20 I was back in town to visit my grandparents (dad’s parents) and I went to her grave by myself. I just sat there and talked to her and cried. I’ve only gone back once or twice since then (even more rare now that I’m on the west coast) and it was more peaceful than that first time by myself. My other grandparents have since passed and I miss them all so much – especially this time of the year – but I know they are with me always.
My love for cemeteries and graves is legendary. I LOVED reading your post. When my daughter was stillborn it completely changed how I view death. It made me more healthy. I went to my first funeral at 27. I didn’t go to the viewing because I thought “He isn’t in that body” yet now, viewing is ultra important to me… as is visiting and remembering people. I want to be cremated AND I want to have a spot people may go visit, too. It is important… thank you for breaking your rules and posting your story here.
Today, I cried like a baby reading your post. So raw and real. The purple heart is icing on the cake. Thank you so much for sharing.
I love my grandma with all my heart, and she is still alive, so this post gives me chills a little bit. I can’t imagine the day that we’ll have to bury her. I love the idea of writing to her in crayon. I’m sure she’s grateful for the purple heart. What a sweet post. 🙂
The purple heart is beautiful. Thanks for sharing this and for writing for 10 minutes, because it’s perfect the way it is.
I visited my dad in the cemetary and I felt similar to the way your mom did fadra and yet part of me wants to believe his woul is hovering around there and he’d appreciate flowers..he loved flowers or a drawing of some sort I think this was a beautiful post and if not a way for your grandma to connect with u then for u to connect with her.
I’m glad you went. It matters.
We finally picked out a memorial stone for my dad this week when all the kids were home (he passed in April). I haven’t been able to go and visit yet, but I am planning to take Noah at some point. My dad passed when Noah was 2 weeks old, and they never got to meet.
Thank you! This is beautiful and I love that purplr heart 🙂