Picking out a headstone for David was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I am not sure I had ever even thought about a headstone or any part of the process for that matter. We had to decide on the size and shape, flat, slanted, or straight up. What color and what kind of stone. The hardest part was deciding what to say on the headstone. We went back and forth on so many different renditions. Do you put a picture? If so of what, do we put a scripture if so which one. It was over whelming. It took us several weeks to decide. I think what we ended up with was just what we wanted, however, how do you really know until you see it in place. I kept thinking, there wasn’t a headstone big enough to put all the things I wanted to say on it. During the process I just couldn’t believe we were buying a headstone for our baby boy. Every time we talked about it I just hurt and to be truthful, I didn’t want to deal with it. It was just all so much. If it wasn’t for Trish we might not have one to this day. I would have just avoided it and not dealt with it.
We placed the order for the headstone with a company on the Internet from Ohio. The price was better even though we knew it would take longer to have delivered. The prices at the cemetery were 40%-50% more and for some reason that really irritated me. Maybe it was because of my experience earlier with them and some of their insensitivity. These were the same people that pulled me out of the middle of our baby boys viewing to ask if I would finish paying my bill. I had paid for half when we picked out the coffin and plot but still owed the last half. Maybe they thought I was going to skip out or something, who knows. Even if we didn’t buy the headstone from them we would have to pay $800 for them to set the headstone and another $375 for the lifetime cleaning of the headstone. By the time it was all said and done we didn’t get ordered until just before Christmas. At the cemetery was a simple 6×10 plastic plaque that lay on the grass to identify that David was buried there. It was cold and I hated it and hated to go and see it. I enjoyed visiting David’s grave and still do, but for some reason I longed for that headstone. We had decided to put a picture of David on the headstone. I told Trish that when I visited him, I wanted to see a picture of him; I wanted to see my boy. So we decided on a nice picture and we waited for the headstone to be delivered. One month turned into two, which turned into five months. We decided to put an engraving of the Las Vegas LDS Temple on one side, his picture in the middle and a colored engraving of the Denver Bronco’s logo on the other side. David and I were die-hard Bronco’s fans and we loved to cheer our team on together. I contacted the makers in Ohio and they informed us that since the Bronco’s had won the Super Bowl (another tender mercy), they were being very picky who they let use their logo. The company had to jump through some hoops to get it approved and that was holding the process up. I finally received an email stating that his headstone had been shipped and when it arrived the cemetery would notify us. It arrived and we were notified that the maintenance crew would have it installed within a week. I drove by each day to see if it had been set and each time for some reason I had such horrible anxiety. I had wanted it to arrive so badly, but now that I knew it was here my anxiety just shot through the roof. It didn’t seem to make since to me. Where we had David buried was in a spot that we could park right on the road in the cemetery and see his grave. Each time before I would pull up and knew right away that his headstone had not been placed yet, because I could see it from my truck. One evening on my way home from work I stopped by to see if it had been placed. As I pulled my truck up and parked, I looked and I could see it was there. My heart jumped into my throat. I had a flood of emotion come over me I wasn’t expecting. I just sat there and cried and cried. It was out of my control and I just sat there and wept. I got out of the truck and started walking to his grave. As I got closer my emotions were so tender and just over flowed. I had not expected to have these kinds of emotions, I wasn’t prepared for this and I was alone. As I stood in front of the headstone my eyes were blurry from my tears. I looked at the engravings, I read the dates, the scripture we had engraved and then saw his face. The next thing I knew I was on my knees hugging the headstone with both my arms around it. I wept and cried out loud. All of my feelings from those first days after his death came rushing into my soul. I was hurting and there was nothing I could do about it. I just knelt there and hugged and stroked that headstone as if I were holding my son. I am not sure how long I was on my knees and I don’t know if anyone else was in the cemetery. Truth is I didn’t care, I was having a moment with my son that was unlike any I have had. I got up and stood in front of the stone and just stared. I tried to make sense of what I was feeling and why I had so many intense and painful emotions. I am sure there are a lot of reasons and some professionals can help me work through that. However, the thoughts that came to me as I was standing there, was that this headstone represented finality. It was the last thing we had to do for David as it pertained to his burial. Now we would settle into the long road of enduring the rest of our lives until we will see him again and be reunited with our sweet boy. Waiting on the headstone gave me something to look forward to, it kept my mind busy, and it was a sort of distraction. Now, now it was final, it was over and that hurt. It actually scared me to tell you the truth. Now I would have to start the long process of living, living without our sweet boy and that scared me.
I often looked around at all the others that had been buried close to David. I would say to myself, every one of these people has families that have gone through what I am going through and they made it. I just needed to suck it up and stop acting like such a baby. I needed to square my shoulders and get on with it already. By this point I had a few people tell me that I needed to move on, that I needed to get my head back in the game and move on. One person told me that I seemed obsessed with David and his death and it didn’t seem normal. I thought long and hard about what they had said. I pondered on it for a long time. I didn’t have any bad feelings towards them for saying what they said, but I sincerely wanted to think about what they said. Maybe they were right, maybe I needed to move on, maybe I was obsessing, and maybe I needed to just get on with it.
Here is the problem, I couldn’t. I simply could not move on. I wasn’t ready; I was not ready to stop grieving for my son. I have prayed and studied my scriptures daily and tried to use that to help me. While it always helped it was not all that I needed and deep down inside I knew that. That alone was not the complete answer, but I knew it was the right start and that only good would come from it. I trusted that the Atonement of Christ was all encompassing and that he knew exactly what I was feeling because he had suffered in a way incomprehensible to me and because of that he knew what I was going through and he knew exactly how to help me. In one of my favorite hymns “How firm a foundation” there is a line in the second verse, “What thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be”
In Mathew’s account of the Savior’s atonement we learn that accompanied by Peter, James and John. He went farther; and was soon enveloped by deep sorrow, which appears to have been, in a measure, surprising to Himself, we read that He “began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy”. He was impelled to deny himself the companionship of his three friends and “Saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death”.
I felt such great comfort reading this. Why? Because I had felt exceeding sorrow, even unto death many times since David’s death. I knew that because he had felt that way, he knew exactly how I felt and only he could comfort me and see me through all of what I was going through. That gave me comfort and I wanted to be closer to him so I could feel his healing and love. I know I am not the first person to lose a son in this way. I know that and I won’t be the last. However, it’s just so personal, it’s a reality that is hard to get your head or heart around. To have these intense feelings reminds me just how much I love David and all of my other children. It is good to know that I love someone this much, it’s good to know I have the ability to love someone this much. Comfort comes because we are sealed together as a family forever, not just in this life and the promise of being together again is real.
If I can love this way and I am just a normal guy, I feel I get a glimpse into how much our Father in Heaven loves us. His ability to love is so much bigger and all encompassing. His love is infinite. It feels good to know these things.
Whatever my days had and would demand he would know exactly how to succor me and that is what I knew for sure. Deep in my heart I knew that this process was not over for me and in a soft quiet way, I knew it was going to get worse before it got better and it did get worse. However, worse would lead us to more tender mercies and the continuing knowledge that we are never alone. Our life was about to change in a way we could never have seen coming.