After almost two years, I returned to the cemetery, where we buried my grandmother (Nana).
I went for two reasons.
First, my mother wanted to go and needed somebody to drive her and my father to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. And second, just before Nana passed away, we discussed her funeral and burial. She laughed and poked me in the arm and asked me to make sure that there were some blooming flowers and no weeds near her headstone (she hated the idea of the weeds covering her name.) And then with a gentle tear in her eye, she told me she felt it was important for me to go at least once.
In our beautiful relationship of 55 years, she played the role of my confidant, the keeper of my secrets, my cooking and baking instructor, and my source of humor.
My purpose was to be her source of entertainment –making sure we always had something fun to do. And then later in life as her protector, making sure that she was treated with respect, that her plate was always full with her favorite foods, that her clothes had soft elastic waistbands and her socks were heavy and warm.
She never spent one night in a hospital or rehabilitation facility that I wasn't sleeping in a chair next to her bed. And when she called out for me at night, I was quick to get to her before she was scared or uncomfortable.
So, I was not sure how I would ever "leave her alone at the cemetery" and drive away. But almost two years ago, I did, and I never looked back. I didn't cry. There was no knot in my stomach. There was no instinctive need to protect. It baffled me, but at the time I wrote if off as the denial phase of grief.
Today, I returned to honor her request. As we pulled in, I felt my stomach tighten. We walked up the hill, and there it was, the headstone with her and my grandfather's names. But this time the stone had the date of her death. I knelt and pulled out a few weeds and put a fresh pot of flowers on the headstone.
As I knelt there, I felt nothing. It seemed odd. Then I realized that under the ground that I was kneeling on was simply a beautiful blue casket, my pale blue beaded top, Katie's infinity necklace and a pair of her warm pink socks.
She wasn't there.
When I got back into the car and drove away, I felt her. She was stroking my hair like she always did and I heard her smiling voice saying, "let's go home."
It has taken me close to two years to accept the loss of her physical presence. But the surprising and joyful ending of our love story is that I realize it will never really end.
Before Nana died, she promised me she would send me a sign to let me know that she is alright. And, as she always did—Nana kept her promise.