Seeing my sons' hands holding gifts for our dead in the wet, muddy cemetery today was a strange experience. It was one of those that seem unreal and yet mundane at the same time. The soft, damp light shining down from the sky, the black, slick mud of the graveyard, the smell of autumn, the crow watching us, the mourning doves singing, and the brilliant, neon green of moss growing on headstones all seemed to jump out at me. Gavin was holding flowers, bread, and milk in a small jar. Aiden held a blushing yellow apple and a small jar or honey. They were so sweet and solemn and uncertain that I felt myself getting weepy. Gavin was tearing up thinking about Grandpa, and Aiden was struggling with his lack of knowledge. At the base of Cyprus tree, in the middle of cemetery, under the watchful eyes of a raven, we left our gifts. For me, it is a way to hold tight to memories of people I've loved. It's liberating and sweet. For Gavin, it is the time in which we allow him to cry again. For Aiden, it was hard; he feels left out by his youth and his lack of memories. He expects his ancestors to appear right before him, and he struggles to truly grasp what death means. For him, for now, all I can do is share the stories I remember and hope that they take root somewhere inside him. For Gavin, all I can do is remember that some hearts take longer to heal than others.
It's moments like this when I remember just how big my job as a mother is. I am expected to teach them so many difficult and abstract lessons; I must teach them how to behave and why, while allowing them the freedom to create themselves, and I hold their past for them until they are old enough to hold it themselves. Maybe this burden is why we honor our dead fore bearers to remember that they once did this for us and somehow rose to the task.