It is the night before the total solar eclipse. I am sitting on the porch of a cabin in Bryson City, North Carolina, writing and listening to my brother-in-law playing country songs in his guitar, music that blends perfectly with the mountain air and crickets of this lovely evening. The cabin is called the “Trot In.” It is surrounded by tall trees that encircle a disk of clear blue sky. It so happens that the sun will be visible right in the middle of that patch of sky when the eclipse happens. I look forward to the celestial show but I am hoping for something more than a show, however spectacular.
This solar eclipse is probably a providential sign of Big Doings. There are many theories that have been put forth by watchers of signs in the sky — war, the end of the world as we know it, the second coming of Christ, a counterfeit second coming to be staged by enemies of humanity, etc. — and I do not doubt it is a sign of something. But I am hoping, probably as Linus hopes for the Great Pumpkin, for a more personal sign– at least that the eclipse might show me something or tell me something or cause me to realize something that up to this point in my life I have missed.
I am hoping that by driving the eight hours to this place in the path of totality I will find an essential key to the puzzle of life and after it is over, some new understanding will snap into place and things that don’t make sense today will make sense tomorrow. Like why my son Jesse, who would be so fascinated by it and would have so many funny and interesting things to say about it, is not standing beside me on this mountain, watching the eclipse.
Will he see it too? Will he see it from the other side of the sun? Does he know the meaning of it all? Will he somehow clue me in? Does he know things that no one here in earth knows, like why the shadow of moon will travel west to east when the moon generally travels east to west? Does he know if God uses such signs in the heavens as harbingers? Does he know if I will see him soon?
I will just watch and listen with all my heart and soul and see what happens. Whatever happens I do not think I will be disappointed.
Today is one year since the day we found out Jesse had transitioned to the next world. I do not like to say “died” because the word has so many connotations I do not believe: finality, lack of life, ugly things. He, what he is in truth and spirit, did not die. He transitioned, the same as all of us humans have done or will do. If there is one thing that has become more clear than ever this past year, it is that we are not our bodies.
None of this is to say that I am okay with Jesse’s early departure. I don’t know which state of grieving I am in — I wander back and forth in and out of all of those rooms — except the one labeled “acceptance.” I have not gone into that one. Not ready. And although I know Jesse is still the essence of Jesse, I am not okay that his body lies in a grave at Holly Lawn Cemetery next to the Farm Fresh grocery store. I would give my very life to see him walk and talk in that beloved body one more time.
Yesterday, August 7th, the date I believe he really departed, I visited that grave for the first time since the funeral. I just have not been able to go. I had to walk in the park adjacent to the cemetery for several days before I could bring myself to go. Closer and closer every day for a week. When I went I brought a bouquet of bright yellow daisies. I cleaned up some old flowers someone had brought and felt very little that I didn’t already feel. He was not there. Today Tom and I went again with more flowers. We talked about getting a nice head stone, what we want it to say. This is a conversation I never wanted to have and still don’t want to have. But his memorial is important and needs attention.
I remember 20 years ago when we were having our house built in Suffolk and I’d drive out from Norfolk and drive around and dream of raising our little boys in this town, discovering the places to go — how long would it take to get from our new house to Farm Fresh. I didn’t notice Holly Lawn cemetery next door to it. If I had noticed it I never would have dreamed that the little boy, whose every reaction to every new thing in his life I cherished, would lie in a grave in that cemetery by 2017. His body that is….
I remember the day we moved into our brand new empty house and four-year-old Jesse ran up and down the stairs and in circles around the family room with his toddler brother and said with wonder in his sweet voice, “Are we going to live here forever?” He did live there all the years of his life on earth except the last one, but lives forever in a place I hope to join him soon enough. Then it will be my turn to run around in joy and be amazed at where we will live forever.