In the Jewish tradition, within the first year after losing a loved one, there is typically a ceremony where the headstone is placed called an unveiling. Now, I am not a religious person. However, the I have always loved celebrating my culture and customs.
On Maddox’s 3 month birthday, Steve and I went to visit him. His headstone wasn’t supposed to arrive for another week so it was a nice(?) surprise to show up and see his spot finally complete. Visiting him and seeing the bare patch of ground that had so recently been dug up for him…it was just too much for me. I needed him to have a real spot that is only his. A home.
My mom had mentioned wanting to do an unveiling once his headstone arrived. I was worried we wouldn’t be able to do it before my brother left for school, but everything worked out and, two weeks ago, we had a very small, non-religious unveiling for Maddox.
Another Jewish tradition is bringing a rock to leave on the headstone. You’re supposed to set the rock down with your left hand (not sure why the left – I’m actually pretty terrible about knowing most of these customs) to let your loved one know you were there. My mom brought extra rocks so that everyone who came to be with us on this day could leave one.
If I believed in any sort of life after death, I know that Maddox would be feeling so much love. I truly believe that there has never been a human alive more loved than that kid. And even though I don’t truly believe he can feel the love that continues to surround him (I wish I believed in that so badly, but that is a topic for another time), Steve and I feel it. And right now, we need it so, so badly.
There’s no way to sugar coat it: this was a hard day. I felt a particularly sharp, unconsolable type of broken, worse than how I remember feeling when Maddox first passed. I couldn’t figure out why until Steve mentioned that this whole chapter is now kind of…finished. Everything is finalized. The rest of the world keeps moving. But my world still feels stopped, as if my car broke down in the middle of the freeway and everyone continues to zoom by around me, unable to see that I’m stuck there, broken.
But! It was also an incredible day. In the moments of the deepest sadness, I am continuously reminded of the love surround Maddox, Steve and me. How insanely lucky to have so many people who will drop everything to be there to do something no one really wants to do. Nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks I want to go to the cemetery today! But still, the people I love have faced the fear and darkness that comes with this process and shown unconditional love and support.
I am overwhelmed by feelings on both ends of the spectrum of what did I do to deserve this? To deserve losing my son, to deserve such an incredible support system. I don’t know. I feel humbled by the incredible outpouring of kindness my family has received, while simultaneously stunned by how truly unfair life can be.
Since this day, I’ve taken a couple more of my closest friends to visit Maddox. Having the people I love want to continue to be a part of his life even though he’s gone is a feeling I will never be able to describe. Seeing people truly love your baby instinctively strengthens you love for them. Seeing people love your baby who is no longer with you…there are no words for that type of love and gratitude.