The air is crisp and damp and the chill tucks itself up beneath my thin denim jacket as we navigate the wet leaves on this place of death so rich in history. Day is falling and across the way the sun streams happy against the edge of a rough-cut field, blazing warm yellow where leaves have shrunken and faded in their annual mortality - a gleam of heaven beaming in the haze of this autumn twilight.
A whole year. Gone in a blink but it's been forever since I heard him laugh. He's so hard to hold on to - though we never really let go, do we? And we stand, banded together at this memorial, children stepping on this resting as we think upon his name - our name - carved deep and forever into cold stone. Our little flowers lay softness against his memory and we set them haphazard and random because any formality would seem presumptuous and plastic.
"But Grandma, how do you know when you're going to die?" Because they can't understand why Grandma's name stands there beside their grandpa when she stands there beside them.
"No, you see...?" she says, pointing to the dates, "this is when I was born. This is so I can be buried here with Grandpa someday." And they accept it because they've known now for a year that death is real.
It's hard not to remember the ending. It's hard not to remember his face void of the him we all cherished. That ending that stole from him all that made him the man we loved. Those awful days when he was already gone but we stood by his side and urged him to let go because what he was hanging on to was no kind of life.
Erase it. Every gasping breath. Every glassy gaze. Just erase it. Remember, instead, the man who came before - that man of integrity and strength and humor. That man who sang. That man who made a mean roast beef. That man who loved us all with a love that never quit. That man who believed in us all with a faith that never faltered. That man who welcomed me and called me daughter. Remember that.
For that is the stuff that never passes away.