Etchings in stone

Paul’s grave marker was placed at the cemetery in England last week, and his family sent photos of it so that I could see how it looked. At 35 years old, I never thought I’d be looking at my husband’s name etched on a headstone. It was so very strange seeing the photos – his name there alongside his parents’ names. I can’t really describe the emotions I felt, but they brought tears and heartache.

Note: This post was originally shared on my “widowhood” blog, “Frances 3.0: Still in Beta”.

Seeing the stone in place in Billingham reminds me again that I’ve yet to decide on a marker for his grave in Cle Elum. Right now, there is a temporary marker that holds a small piece of paper behind a plastic cover. When placed by the funeral home it just had Paul’s name, birth date, and date of death. It was plain and simple, and with the rains that came in the weeks after his funeral, it was tattered and crumpled looking. I designed a replacement insert with a photo of Paul and a few words and printed it on nicer paper stock and put that behind the plastic cover. Dad built a container that holds two vases so that I have somewhere to put flowers.

Paul’s temporary marker in my hometown of Cle Elum

I’ve read so many stories about grieving families being pushed to select headstones while making the rest of the funeral arrangements, and I’m so very happy that no one pushed me to do the same. Over the past four months, I’ve given a lot of thought to what I want for Paul’s permanent marker. In the early days, I went back-and-forth; unable to decide what would be the most fitting. Eventually, my mind settled on what I now think will be the right choice. But I’m not ready to do anything about it.

It’s funny that even though I’m pretty certain I know what I want, I can’t bring myself to do anything about it. I can’t bring myself to talk to the monument companies to see if it’s even possible to do what I want. I can’t bring myself to think about the wording that would go along with the stone. But I’ve decided that it’s OK. It’s OK that I am not ready to order my husband’s headstone. It’s OK that I’m not ready to decide what words to etch in the stone. And I know that Paul would be OK with me waiting, too. I’m certain that it will be a difficult task and that when it has been ordered, and again once it’s placed at the cemetery, I will very upset. And that, too, will be OK.

In the meantime, I will continue to replace the insert for Paul’s temporary marker as the weather batters it. And I will continue to place flowers in the temporary container that Dad made. And when I’m ready, I will see about getting that permanent headstone ordered.

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