I see Mary’s willow tree every time I walk on the deck. I planned it that way but I didn’t realize I would be haunted by its sight. Rather like her pictures on the boards in the living room that jump out at me saying “look at me – this is all I am now – a memory”. They are not everywhere, just bunched together in one spot, so as not to be devoid of her image but not over whelming, still they haunt me.
Now I worry that the tree might not make it. No reason why it shouldn’t, just worry. I might have to go through planting another one. That would not work. This one was hard enough. Tony and I started digging the hole. The first few inches was dark rich soil from years of burning branches and leaves. Then we hit the rocks. These must have been from fill dirt from when the county was putting in the sewer line. Rock after rock impeded our way. So I got a spike and a little sledge hammer and slammed away at them. Beating on the end of the spike as I held it with every ounce of energy I had. I was just as surprised as the rest that I didn’t smash a finger or a fist as I let the hammer fly down. Unfortunately it did not do much good. Only caused my arms and shoulders to tingle and ache from the reverberations of energy. Kind of prophetic, don’t you think?
Julie, Kerry, the rest of the DeMarco’s, and Bill and Michele showed up slowly and each took a turn at digging the every expanding hole. It was about two feet wide and two feet deep when we stopped. We had left the water hose turned on from when we burned the limbs so I was squirting the dogs and watching them play. I turned and filled the hole up with water and Tony put the tree in the hole. As we shoveled the top soil from the old burn pile and the ashes from the new burn pile around the tree roots I guess Tony and I were thinking the same thing. We should bring Mary down and let her be part of this, after all she is the one we are honoring. So we slowly turned and walked back up the hill to the house.
I put Mary on the back of Kerry’s dresser when we brought her home that I had not touched her, barely looked at her, since then. There was a can I found in her room decorated with dancing people all around the sides that I wanted to put her in. I was never able to do that..
Ashes are heavy. That surprised me.
We brought her down awhile later. Sat down beside the tree amid the dirt and water opened the lid and cried. As I touched Mary, again I was surprised and pulled my hand away. The ashes were gritty and lumpy not fluffy and light like ashes I’m used to. I spread her around the bottom of the tree as I sat with arms of others around me holding me tight. Each person touched Mary. Some of us lay on the ground face down crying, some of us standing head down tears falling. Each of us grieving in our own way, helping each other as we could, if we could was all we could do. No words spoken just the sounds of pain, sorrow, anguish, uselessness, frustration, helplessness – you name it, we all felt it. This was not a place for happy memories, this was for finality, realizations that Mary is truly gone from this earth. I could add something about how Mary and the willow tree are alike but I can’t. She’s gone and it’s a tree. Maybe later, not now.
We took more dirt and spread it around the tree soaking it with water. We took Mary back up to the house. A friend of Tony’s sister wrote a song for Mary and we played it for the world to hear while Tony and I sat on the deck. They said from below it sounded so clear and loud, as if it was coming from the sky.
Shade was upon us and we all sat in our chairs around the tree talking and remembering. Some tears, lots of smiles, some laughter, many memories. It was a beautiful afternoon, no clouds, not too hot. Mary’s doggies ran around the fields behind the houses, jumping in and out of the river, shaking water on everyone. We drank beer, soda, and water just hanging out as we would have in any other situation. Smoked some 10 year old Cuban cigars just to mark the moment. Some of us had special stones and things we put around the tree. We stayed until it was almost too dark to see our way back.
We do not have a place in a cemetery for Mary. She will be in our back yard, at Chilkat Lake , other places special to her and Tony, and any where in the world she might like to have visited. Mary will be everywhere for all eternity but most importantly, in our hearts. I will, one day, find the strength to carry on her name and memory for the world to see. I have promised her that.
Yes, I still fight the hate and loneliness and I will for a long time. I will write that out day by day if it’s possible.
Tomorrow will be a hard day. I will put on my other face and we will talk to the DA about the criminal case and pick up Mary’s things from her work. One breath at a time.