If you’ve been following my series on Prairie Journeys,
you first read Prairie Petals, where I revealed the weeds of my youth.
Then, you followed me down Prairie Path,
where I retraced life in my hometown.
Today, I am traveling with tears,
as I write about Prairie Pain.
There are always memories we like
to bring back to our hearts and minds.
Like a great cup of coffee or
an amazing hand-dipped chocolate,
we savor them,
Other memories are too painful to recall.
We like to push them aside,
denying them entrance back into our hearts.
But, with facing pain comes growth,
acceptance, and then, finally
When memories involve death,
there seems to be a
bittersweet rage and range of emotions.
We cherish the memories,
but struggle to go on with life.
Today I travel to a place I haven’t wanted to go for a long,
It was an unplanned journey for Janet and me.
As a local photographer,
she was asked to take pictures of her church’s cemetery.
Since I was visiting, I tagged along.
I say unplanned,
but nothing in life is ever a coincidence,
It was the cemetery where her mother and sister
were buried a few short months after we graduated from high school
and I had been a bridesmaid in Janet’s wedding.
My Dad had called me with the horrifying news of the accident,
and I couldn’t begin to fathom or understand the pain or the loss.
I had nothing to say,
nothing to offer.
I cried in confusion
as much as anguish.
I wanted the pain to just go away.
It was too ugly,
too unbelievable to really be happening/
It was the first unexpected death I had faced
of people who were young and healthy.
I just didn’t understand.
I was 19.
I was facing my own new college life.
I was in Wyoming on a trip.
It was a long ways from ND.
I didn’t think it would really matter if I were there or not.
I had a lot of excuses, but no real reasons,
for not attending the funeral.
I was wrong.
Really, really, really wrong.
Through the years,
living with that decision has grieved me
as much as living with their loss.
This was the first time I had seen the grave,
although it was with much regret in my heart.
Months after the funeral,
Janet loved me enough to be honest about her feelings.
“You weren’t there when I needed you.”
Then, I understood.
I should have made it about her, not me.
Because of her loving honesty,
I have never missed another funeral for a friend or relative,
if I had the ability to be there.
We have talked about their deaths
many times through the years,
and her openess has touched me and taught me.
Now, I really understand.
At the cemetery,
I wanted to lay on the ground and weep.
Tom and Janet raised two kids without Gramma and Aunty.
Their two kids got married and
each have one child so far.
The funeral was only the beginning of a lifetime
of “without yous.”
Because I knew if I didn’t laugh,
I would never stop crying,
I snapped this picture.
I had to find some way to ease my
next read Prairie Pedicure