Although I'm tired of being sad about things, I can't help thinking about my aunt on this first anniversary of her death. Unlike the day she died, today was gray, cloudy, and chilly. I went by the cemetery for a few minutes after church and stood letting the wind whip past me, but it was actually too miserable to stay for long. One of my cousins is religious about visiting the cemetery. I think she goes practically every week and neatens up the area around the headstone. On the anniversary of my uncle's death in June, she told me she took a bag of Frito's and a Diet Coke (one of his favorite snacks) and sat on the ground eating them, talking to him in her head.
I'm not one to do that. I stop by their graves fairly often because I happen to drive by the cemetery on my way to and from most every place I go. Their grave sites are visible from the road, and even if I don't stop, I do a little invisible nod of recognition, say "I miss you" in my head.
It isn't that I don't think about them. I do, practically every day. And I have a favorite picture of them on my piano - they're standing in my living room, flanking my son who is all dressed up in a suit and tie (it was his high school graduation day). Their smiles are natural and happy, and they perfectly fit the image that I keep in my minds eye.
That photograph has helped me erase the images of them growing ill and infirm, the images that have been stuck in my head for the past half a dozen years. On that day, they were proud to be part of our celebration, proud of my son who clearly held a very special place in their hearts. On that day they were still active and healthy, and hadn't yet begun the deterioration of mind and body that would eventually take them away from us.
And that's the way I want to remember them.