Saturday, June 23, 2012


I was thinking about Susan's entry regarding burial and her cemetery and that made me think about Toby's grave.

There was never any real question where he would be buried. We knew that he would be buried next to my grandmother in Meniffee County. Although it's  1 1/2 hours from us, the location was more important than the inconvenience. Nana is buried on the ridge where Mom and her brothers and sisters grew up. I've bee visiting that cemetery all my life. Every Memorial Day, from as far back as I could remember, the family would all get together and make our pilgrimage. We would gather there and decorate the grave, talk, laugh, and visit with one another. Sometimes, there would be as many as 30 of us. Afterwards, we would drive to Ezel to the Frosty Freeze and have peanut butter milkshakes.

The cemetery is very rural. There are no businesses around it. It's peaceful and quiet and offers gorgeous views of the rolling hills and valleys. Toby is buried ext to my Nana and my grandpa, Sam. On the other side of Nana and Sam is my Uncle Junior's stillborn baby, Rusty. Although none of us ever met him, we decorate his grave, too. There are lots of Patricks in that cemetery. And some non-Patricks. My Uncle Lindon was buried there a few weeks ago.

Although we might be the only ones to make the special trip to visit Toby, his grave is not ignored. My dad went up there last year and planted grass. He also decorated it for Memorial Day this year when I couldn't go. (The whole brain surgery thing got in the way.) My Uncle Ray put flowers on it when he went for Uncle Lindon's funeral. Sometimes, we find flowers on it and we don't know who left them.

It might be a family thing, or it might be an Appalachian thing, but honoring the graves is something we take seriously. Although there are fewer of us now, we still make the pilgrimage to the cemetery and visit everyone. We still visit the Frosty Freeze, too.

Pete and I will be buried next to Toby when our time comes.

I know that he's not really there, but he is in a way. I have a lot of childhood memories tied to that cemetery and they're all good ones. There is an energy there, and a kind of magic, that can only be found in the Appalachian Mountains and I am happy that it has extended into our little burial site. I think Toby adds to that energy.

I have thought more than once of driving to his grave in the middle of the night and lying down on it, trying to feel him somehow. I know he's not really there. But it's the only "place" I have for him. Sometimes, though, it makes me feel safe to think of Nana being there beside him, waiting for him when he was being buried. In some religions, they believe that the soul doesn't leave the earth for 3 days. He might have waited until that moment to leave and, if he did, then I think he would have been pleased to see where his final resting place was.

One day, we hope to own some acreage up there on the ridge so that we can be a little closer. That area is about the only place anymore I find any real peace. I lived there during my childhood and I am comforted by the fact that he is somewhere that I know.

Sam taking flowers to his brother's grave
I should end this by mentioning something else...we have placed lots of flowers, ceramic angels, trains, and candles on Toby's grave: nothing has EVER been bothered. A tornado went through the road and not a single flower or truck was blown over. The flowers don't fade, the ceramic doesn't break, and the cars don't move. It's actually a little creepy, but we take it as a sign.

decorating for Halloween

this was last year's trip-that's Nana's grave with Toby's to the right

Toby's is at the bottom, Nana's in the middle, and Rusty's at the top-we really decorate a lot

putting sparklers on Toby's grave for his first birthday (Dad accidentally set the grass on fire.)

Toby's first birthday 

Nana's grave (that's my dad there)

Sam and Pete

the first visit after the funeral 

Sam picked those himself-they're our state flower


Anonymous said...

Wow....that is so beautiful. I love how much you decorate. It really does look like a very special spot. I just wish your precious Toby didn't have to be there. I'm so sorry for you all.

Rebecca said...

I thought I had a picture on this computer that showed the surrounding countryside but I didn't...

We decorate a lot. His grave is so colorful that you can see it from the road before you even get all the way up to the cemetery. :-) We kind of overdo it.

Thank you for your comment. I wish he didn't have to be there, either.

Susan said...

Love that you over-do it.

This is really amazing - I love the fact that it made it obvious what to do when Toby died - we have that now - if anything happened to one of us, we have our grave. Yet, we don't have that sense of love within the family that oozes from your story. This must be a comfort - am so sad to hear about Iris' fits and your ill health - gee - you need all the love you can get - am glad your grave is not a source of further grief xx

Rebecca said...

You know, the whole burial/funeral thing is the only part of his death that wasn't complicated or a sore spot. The funeral director was amazing. They only charged us their overhead costs. (We have a connection to them, but they'd never done a child's funeral, either, so we were all on new territory.) There was never any question over where he would be buried. And we never quibbled over the headstone design. Our coroner and the paramedics and hospital staff were fantastic to us, too, and I've heard horror stories about how bad some parents were treated. So really, his burial and his transport to the hospital are really the only two things I don't have to complain about.

That feels odd.

Jayden's Mommy said...

I still have not been to the grave, since the day we buried him. That was the most horrible moment to me; besides walking away from the hospital room. I never gone to a cementery before that except once when my brother died and I was 10 years old. I need to go and we need to decided on a stone. Many friends go and put flowers and I feel horrible maybe im just not there yet. I love all the flowers for Toby and your family, so much color it makes me feel less empty. Im sorry Toby has to be there and not with you. Kira

Jayden's Mommy said...

Rebecca I have not been to the grave since the date; it was the most horrible day of my life- besides walking away from the hospital room without my baby.
I love all the flowers and color around the graves. It makes it feel not so alone. I wish Toby was not there but with you. Kira

Rebecca said...

I think visiting the cemetery is a personal choice. We don't go as often as we did in the begining. It's a long car ride for the kids and on days that we have off, we try to do something fun with them. Going to the cemetery is kind of an all day thing for us because it's so far away. At first, I felt guilty about it. But then I figured that at some point we had to make sure that our living children were getting the best of us, too. I think Toby would understand.

I cut off a friendship (a long one) not long after Toby died because the woman was making me feel bad. She told me that keeping bereavement cards and visiting his grave was "stupid." I resisted the urge to tell her what I thought of her and, instead, cut off contact. I believe you should do what feels right to you.