Last week, on Memorial Day, my mother decided that we should visit my father’s grave in honor of the holiday. It was a breezy, sunny day… one my father would have enjoyed. I was surprised by my mother’s request. You see, neither she nor I have visited this grave since my father passed away nine years ago. We live only five minutes from the cemetery (and I pass it at least once a week on my way about town), but in all of these years we have not once gone there.
Out of respect for my mother’s request, I agreed. And then I found myself walking up and down the rows of gravestones, looking for where he was buried, wondering what I would do or say once we found him. I mean, I hadn’t been here in nearly nine years… what did that say for me as a grieving daughter, one who still misses the sound of his hearty “belly-laughs” and still wishes I could feel his arms around me in that bear-hug that lifted me off my feet?
The Women of the ELCA resource, The Faces of Grief, begins by reminding us, “When we grieve, we each walk a different journey. No one can tell you how to grieve. Your process is your process.”
So, perhaps my way to grieve is not sitting at the foot of a gravestone and thinking of the day of my father’s funeral. I’d like to think that my grieving takes form when I hear one of “our” songs or when I hold a letter he wrote me in my hands and trace his “Love, Dad” with my fingers. I’d like to think that my grieving is less about a visit to the cemetery and more about pausing for a moment whenever I think of him.
We never did find the gravestone that day… but as we walked each row, we thought about James Hugh Scott… father, husband, grandfather and friend. And we felt connected to him in those moments…
As The Faces of Grief says, “What does grief look like? It comes in such a variety of colors and hues, and it wears many faces.” Mine is just one version. What is yours?
Jennifer Michael is president of Women of the ELCA for the 2011-2014 triennium. She’s shared a photo here of her father, James Hugh Scott (April 15, 1940 — July 2, 2004).