***Apologies for the disarray of the photos -- the website is acting up so I can't choose how/where they are displayed on the post.***
Brian's headstone is now complete, with a fantastic picture of him shown on the front. I went to see it and to spend some time at the cemetery on Monday afternoon. For the first time since January, I actually felt better and at peace after my visit. Every other time I've gone there, I have screamed, sobbed, and generally felt like my heart was being pulled slowly out of my chest.
This isn't to say there weren't any tears this time; there were. This time, though, the crying was a quiet, controlled, "normal" crying and not wild, snot-bubbled, gasping for air, screaming, kicking and punching crying. Yes, it took me eight months to get there. Boy, it felt good to not go through all that yet again!
I made sure that I would be at the cemetery very soon after the photo was installed, and that I could make my visit before Brian's parents would be off work, so I could have some privacy and alone time to talk to Brian. I didn't tell my family about the trip ahead of time, unsure how I would feel or what I would need/want (or not want) to do after the experience, though I did have an overnight bag packed so I'd be prepared to visit my family if that felt right. I just didn't want to have any time constraints or expectations at all, not having any idea how the visit would go. Keep in mind that this was my first time seeing the stone at all (at least, in person) and I had such a hard time with the headstone concept, selection, and process.
I left Waukee around 1:15 Monday afternoon and arrived at the cemetery around 4:00. It was overcast, but not raining, and warm. There was no living person in sight, which was a big relief to me. I felt some apprehension as I drove to Brian's neck of the woods, but that actually disappeared as soon as I spotted his stone. I parked and was actually anxious to go over and see it. It didn't disappoint -- it is beautiful, as you can see from the pictures.
I was so glad to see Brian's smiling face looking back at me. It is a bigger, clearer, and better picture than the one that had been on the temporary marker. After looking at his picture for a while, I inspected the rest of the headstone. It is perfect -- just what we wanted. I think he would have liked it too. We always had the same taste in decor, so I truly believe what I picked was exactly what he would have if given the chance. You have no idea how good it felt to see it completed and perfect and to be proud of how it came out!
After looking at the headstone and the things that others have left on Brian's grave, I sat down to talk to Brian. This is the first time I've really been able to do this -- previously, in addition to just feeling too much dread/anger/rage/emptiness to enjoy this kind of moment, the weather has always prevented that. It's always been snowy, cold, rainy, muddy, windy, etc. This time, the weather was perfect, the grass was green and soft, and the ground was firm enough that I wouldn't sink or get muddy if I sat or kneeled.
I spent a good chunk of time just talking to Brian, sometimes sitting down and sometimes actually lying down, imagining how we used to lie in bed and talk. I was finally able to say some things to him that I needed to say, thanking him for being the person he was, shaping me into who I am (and who I will be), and for the love he showed me and the good times we shared. It felt so good to be able to tell him those things.
I'm sure part of why I was able to do this is weather-related, part is the headstone being complete, part is that time has lessened the shock and bitterness, and I also think part is the fact that my dream of him last week brought me a great deal of peace. In any event, I felt really good when I left the cemetery. I never thought I'd say that, but I did. I am sure I'll continue to cry on my visits, but I also know now that it can be a positive experience.
After my visit, I still wasn't ready to open up about it or to really be around anyone, so I decided to drive back to Waukee so I'd have the trip home to sort of decompress and think by myself. So, yes, I drove 2 1/2 hours, visited Brian at the cemetery, and then drove 2 1/2 hours home. I know that might sound crazy, but it was exactly what I needed. I think it was a major milestone for me in my healing, and it went as well as it possibly could have. It was a good way to start out the week, and the rest of my journey.