Just by chance, the grave plots my parents purchased happen to be near my home, so it only made sense that after my father’s death that I would be the one to drive to the cemetery to meet the funeral home’s representative to determine the exact location of their plots. When I arrived, an older man climbed out of the funeral home van parked alongside a grassy area. I waited nearby as he and his assistant tromped about the grass with a measuring tape and clip board, arguing back and forth about where the grave was located. As I stood there listening to their bickering, a sense of indignity swelled up inside. This might be just a job for them, but it was my father they were talking about, and their callous attitude was painful to witness. I kept up a brave face, but the little girl inside wanted to kick one of them in the shins and tell them to shape up and show some respect. (I’m really glad the little girl inside didn’t win that particular inner battle.)
After the coworkers finally agreed upon the exact location of the plots my parents purchased some forty-odd years ago, the gentleman used his foot to push aside the grass and uncover a small metal plate marking their eventual final resting places. After verifying the location imprinted on the metal place, he kicked the grass back in place and bent over to press a thin wire in the ground with a white flag attached. The name Sasser was scrawled in black sharpie across the attached thin square of fabric. It was all so matter of fact, just another day, another coffin to bury in the ground with only a last name on a piece of fabric to give that coffin any identity of the life that was buried inside.
A couple of days later, we buried my father with our family and dear friends gathered together to remember the man who had loved me from the day he and my mother brought me home. It was a hard day, but it helped to be surrounded by those who loved and respected him. After the last visitor said their goodbyes and went home, I drove the few blocks back down to the cemetery to make sure the workers had finished their work. As I walked among the pots of flowers strewn over the newly laid patch of grass, it somehow felt as if my dad had just disappeared. Even as the edges of the grass grew back and blended in over the following weeks, I would find myself driving out to his grave just to make sure things were okay. Sometimes on really hard days, I would go and simply sit nearby the tiny patch of grass where he was buried. It made the ache a little less, the worry a little less heavy, just to sit there in the quiet.
And finally today when I visited my father’s grave, his marker was in place. As I approached and saw the bronze and marble marker, I expected to experience a new wave of grief. Instead I felt relief. When I saw his name emblazoned on the bronze plate along with the words reminding the world for generations to come that this man, Charles Paul Sasser, this soldier who served his country, this man buried in this place, this man was a beloved husband and father. With his marker in place, I finally found closure.
Today I found a moment in which I could rest. My father’s grave is no longer a place where he has simply disappeared from this earth but instead a place of acknowledgment. And that marker on the ground? It is simply an extension of the permanent mark he left on my own heart and in those who he loved, and I can finally be at peace with that.