I visited Daniel’s grave today with my grandson, Patrick Daniel, who was named in his honor. Patrick’s mother is Summer, pictured at the far left in this old photo of Summer, Brook and Daniel taken when my three oldest children were still young people full of promise. I sent her a text message with Patrick standing at Daniel’s grave, and she replied with three blue hearts. We always put blue flowers on his grave, as I did today.
Perhaps you’ll be at your child’s grave this weekend, too, whether they served in the military or whether they only lived long enough to take a couple breaths — or even none at all. We honor our dead children in general on Memorial Day, with fake flowers and real tears, regardless of their age or affiliations and regardless of the years they have been gone. It always hurts.
Though I enjoy cemeteries — I’ve put nearly 10,000 photos of tombstones on find-a-grave for families who want to see or find tombstones of their relatives, and always (always) photograph any child’s grave I see along the way — I hate visiting Daniel’s grave. I remember always the first time we were there, and the death seems so recent, though it has been years now. It never feels remote. It always feels fresh, as does the ache.
Afterwards, we returned to my home, since my grandson is mine for the entire weekend, and we planted six trees — five for the five grandchildren I love, and the sixth in honor of Daniel, who didn’t live long enough to have a child of his own. He’s my forever 16-year-old boy. It should be obvious why we selected evergreen trees, which don’t even seem to die in winter.
Regardless whether you are able to visit a grave or not (I realize that not all grieving parents have that option, and others aren’t able emotionally to do so), our thoughts will naturally return to our dead children on this holiday. I wish for you a moment of certainly that it wasn’t all in vain — that your child’s life meant so very much. Your child mattered, and your love for them is indestructible. Like their energy, their very essence, it on this plane of existence — even if they do not. Yet they are with us always, in our hearts and in our heads and in our future.
It’s hard. Talk to a friend or someone comfortable remembering your child with you, or helping you honor them in your way this weekend. We’re here for you as well, if you need an ear or want a shoulder. We are here, a collective of people who actually do understand what you are going through. We can help.
To all of our children… you mattered. You changed our lives for the best simply by entering our worlds. And we loved you then and love you always.