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  • Writer's pictureShey Yearsley

Preparing to say goodbye

Today we prepared the land for your final rest. The day started cold but bright. Through the trees we could see gold on the slopes of mount Ashland, though the madrone and pine were still in shadow. We walked the woods to the creek. The trees were still and quiet. The remainder of the snow and frozen mud crunched under our feet.

Later in the morning, Chris came with his tractor and his sadness and his problem solving mind. The first task: to gently move your headstone without disturbing the moss. My mind wanted to be useful but my hands felt mostly helpless at my sides. That is how I felt all day. I remember your ability to see something and make it happen—just this year, your treehouses, mom’s new lawn, irrigation for her garden, beautiful paved steps leading from our parents home to yours. But I felt incapable of any coherent thoughts and my body followed suit.

As the morning grew warmer, the frozen ground became squishy with mud, slippery on the driveway, so I ran up and down through the trees, avoiding paths and roads, feeling the layers of pine needles, the soft underbrush, remembering the way we used to crash through these woods together. On those short trips, I let the air ooze out of my lungs in long, slow, painful groans: both an exhale and a wail.

We dug your grave in the center of a grove, just below your tiny house, facing the garden you’ve so lovingly tended and your snowy mount baldy. Tess went early to clear some of the Oregon grape and underbrush from the area, and discovered a birds nest high above. Once the headstone was placed, we gathered with shovels to remove the top layer of soil, commenting on how healthy it was, the rich white veins and loam running through it. And when Chris began to dig, I’d never seen such tenderness and intention in the movement of a tractor arm.

I moved about, trying to be useful— but no amount of moving sticks and decomposing trees from one place to another could do the one useful thing I most wanted/needed: to bring you back to us. No amount of activity could ease Dad’s pain as he cut stumps lower with a chainsaw and felled that one tree that kept leaning. Nothing I could do would comfort Mom, who’s strong beautiful hands had fashioned a heart from the clay removed from your grave as she watched the hole grow larger.

The gift of the day was an evening hike to The Spot. Your three sisters held each other in the last golden light of the the day. The wide open sky didn’t feel big enough to contain all the love we have for you. So we huddled in close to each other, arms entwined, kissing each other’s tear stained cheeks.

Your other gift were the moments of pure delight in our children. I held my sweet Zeba with more openness than I’ve felt in over a year. I called you in as I helped him tap his meridians to move from restless to sleepy. Now we rest. I hear the breathing around me and wish I could hear your breath. The night is still. And still you are not here.

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