Lessons in Grief, Part 2

A Place to Visit

Up until my mother, Shirley Chester, died and was buried in the Boston area, I never really understood visiting graves.  I wasn’t compelled in any way to go look at headstones with names and dates that would just end up making me sad.  Maybe it’s because I know that’s just a physical place where their body resides but their spirit is beyond that rectangle of earth.  Since I believe that they’re still around, in a mysterious form somewhere beyond the mortal consciousness, I preferred to “pay my respects” by just talking to them and telling them how much I miss them.

Late last year, while writing the first few chapters of a book that deals with a cemetery, I did a small tour of local cemeteries in Southern California as research.  Compared to graveyards in Massachusetts, with meandering, hilly paths and crumbling yet impressive old stones, these are mostly flat affairs on a grid with the majority of headstones flush with the ground. 

My favorite of the local cemeteries, Loma Vista Memorial Park in Fullerton, has 37 quiet acres with beautiful, old trees and a peaceful mausoleum. 

Established in 1914, there are some older areas with grand monuments and quite a variety of modern tributes and simple, flush stones. 

I like to walk there, watching the dozens of squirrels chase each other while I read the markers in the outside crypts and then take a few minutes in the cool of the mausoleum or sit in the little garden with the war memorials.

A few weeks ago, for some inexplicable reason that I’m still trying to make sense of, I felt a need to have a place to go to connect with The Mom.  So, I took a walk around Loma Vista, looking for a random headstone with the name SHIRLEY.  I finally found one:

I didn’t expect it to be the family name but I felt like, because the name is so prominent, that it was a sign that I was guided to this stone.

The next week, I brought a small bunch of carnations.  The Mom would be mad if I spent a lot of money on flowers 😊  I placed them on the stone and talked to her for a bit.  I also thanked Dr. John and Martha for letting me use them as a conduit and I hoped they’d enjoy the flowers as well.  Then a given name on a stone a row above them caught my eye. 


If I needed another sign that I’m supposed to be connecting with my mother this way, that was certainly it! 

I still don’t really understand this need to have a “place” but I do feel like I’ve discovered a comforting nexus between us when I’m there and I’ll continue to show up with inexpensive bouquets whenever I feel the need to “visit” with her.

But I can’t be the only one who believes in signs and woo woo.  Tell me your stories!

2 thoughts on “Lessons in Grief, Part 2

  1. Love this! It’s how I grieve and pay respect.
    When I was having a grief attack after my dad died, I had a clear and healing sign that he was with me. I was in my car at a state park where I had spent time with him. I was breaking down. A blue heron flew over. There was dad’s spirit to comfort me.


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