On that day in August 2009, Zed was working in one of his favorite areas of Isle of Palms; the corner of 5th Avenue and Ocean Blvd. We had spent a lot of time out there together, as we have friends who own a house right there on the beach. I went there for the first time in a long while on Sunday with Saffron and my cross-eyed dog Charlie.
Saffron and I met at the house which overlooks the ocean. When we arrived, I asked her to walk with me for a minute before heading out to the beach; “I want to show you something”. We walked across the street to the side yard of the house opposite the ocean. She said “Are we just going to walk through random people’s yards?” “It’s ok, I know the owners” I said. We were on the side of the house where a short concrete wall not more than a foot high separates the front and back yards. Charlie was sniffing around and I said “This is it, this is where he fell”. Tears immediately welled in her eyes, I said “it’s okay, don’t cry”. I admit I shocked her, who expects that someone would want to spend time where their spouse lost their life. I have a love/hate relationship with that spot; I’ve cried many tears sitting on that wall.
Of course right on cue Charlie decides he has found HIS spot and promptly does his business, right as I’m telling Saffron. At least it made me laugh. While I’m telling her this tragic story, I’m also trying to pick up a steaming pile. Typical! The moment made us both laugh; more importantly I wasn’t crying. I couldn’t tell her the whole story; I would have choked up and neither of us really wanted to spend our Sunday crying.
I did share with her how I used to go there every month on the 1st, sit and cry, sob really. Sometimes I would lie on the grass where I imagined his body was or I would sit on the wall and listen to his iPod laughing at his song choices and sometimes I would scream with tears streaming down my face because I so desperately wanted my life back. Didn’t matter what the weather was like, hot, cold, rainy, I was there. I tried on many occasions to imagine what happened that day, did his foot slip?, did he fall when he was hanging up the phone with me?, did he know what was happening? He used to tell me “Don’t worry, I’m Spiderman, I always have a plan in case I fall” There was nothing he could have done to save himself, nothing to grasp onto, break his fall, to change the outcome. As time passed I went out there less and less. As we were walking away Saffron asked “where is he buried?” I laughed and said “Uhhh, nowhere” she replied “So where is he?”….“Now? In the dining room.”
Cremation is a bizarre thing. I never really thought about the details prior to Zed’s death. The how, what, where of it all. It was a couple of days after the funeral when they called to let us know he was ready to be picked up…Hmmmm, I didn’t really think this part through.
It was so strange, as we walked in the funeral home, my sisters and I, the attendant came out to greet us, she lead us to a room where candles were burning on a table with a black plastic box sitting between. She said “I’ll give you a moment alone with him” Uhhhhh alright??? We looked at each other like what are we supposed to do now? Trying not to giggle, we just sat down and waited for her to come back. She returned looking very somber, a reusable grocery bag with the funeral home logo in hand. She handed me the bag filled with information, a pen and some other stuff. Who’s going to carry around a funeral home bag? I don’t think they thought through their marketing materials. She started explaining that the box is quite heavy, something most people don’t think about I guess, I never did. Now I realize…Hey, he was a two hundred pound man in a 6”X4” box; of course it’s going to be heavy, like twelve pounds heavy.
We got in the car with the box; I held it on my lap. We had to run a couple of errands while we were out, when we stopped at Target I looked at my sisters and said “Can I leave him in the car?” My oldest sister looked at me like I was crazy and said laughing “well you’re not going to carry him in there are you?” I don’t know what I was thinking? The oddest thing about death and grief is how much you laugh through it too, at the absurdity of it all. I recall laughing at the funeral because Zed’s lips didn’t have any chap stick on them. I know irreverent but laughing is the only way to make it through.
When we got home I really didn’t know what to do, I carried the box upstairs and took him into my bathroom and shut the door. I set the box on the edge of the tub, sat down on the toilet and stared. He sat on the edge of that tub for a long time. Appropriate I guess, Zed and I had some of our most important conversations in that room, always with one of us sitting on the edge of the tub. Today that box resides in a beautiful wooden box that my brother made, it’s made of elm wood that he recovered from one of our childhood “second homes” sanded so smooth you can’t imagine it was made by hand, with beautiful walnut inlays. Zed sits on the buffet server in the dining room we never use, surrounded by pictures of our family. Inside the box there is a tray that holds our wedding rings, his watch and a pile of old cards we had given each other over the years. That box is only thing I’d grab if there was an emergency.
I’m glad I went to the beach yesterday, to our old spot. It was a beautiful day in Charleston, a little overcast, breezy and with great company, perfect really. It felt good to go there again and laugh a little, see old friends that I haven’t seen in too long. I know someday, when the time is right and I’m ready, I’ll take him to that part of the beach and let him stay. Well what’s left of him… That’s another story, ugh!
Footnote: Since my last post, I’m doing quite well. I feel like myself again and I’m smiling more than ever… more on that later 😉