The Headstones

I was having a hard time with the headstones I need to purchase.  I’ve placed such a mental importance on these markers that I couldn’t place an order.  Nothing was right.

Do I have laser engraved pictures?  A fun saying?  A dumb poem about lights and birds?  Lynard Skynard lyrics?  Those options are endless.  Add in stone color, size, height and the options are overwhelming.

I can not deal with these decisions.  What can I put on a stupid rock that will sum up the incredible lives that were cut so short?  It’s too much.  I am not equipped to make this decision.

Plus (PLUS!) there is the matter of cost.  As it turns out, there isn’t a bulk discount on headstones.  No BOGO or coupon codes.   When I called the monuments companies in my area, the best I could do was have the transport and placement fees removed if I did the heavy lifting myself.

My brother suggested ETSY.

I found the perfect situation – and the perfect company.  A small outfit in New York state run by a husband and wife.  They lost their infant daughter in 2000 and then their 21-year-old son shortly after Z passed away last year. After their second loss, they started an economical marker company.  $45 plus $14 shipping (USPS: if it fits, it ships) and you get a small headstone with just the name of the decedent and the appropriate starting and ending dates.  Nothing else.  There is no choice in size, color, material, or flourish.

They did this because a tragically large number of families can’t come up with $2,000+ for a modest headstone from a monument company.  That’s a lot of money.  This is the reason so many families can’t mark the grave sites of their children.

In the company description they noted that for every marker they sell, they put $5 toward their donation fund.  They will find the unmarked graves of kids and install headstones for free.

I’m a sucker for a low-cost good deed.  I purchased a stone for Z, a stone for Joe, and then paid for a third stone and asked them to donate it.

That was last night.

This morning, I got an email back from their owner.  She had the details for a month-old infant in Pennsylvania that had suddenly died.  The economical marker company called the funeral home.  They reported there was no funeral or burial because the family couldn’t afford it.  She told the funeral home she had a marker to donate.  A few hours later, the funeral home called back.  The family really wanted a marker.

This entire transaction – from my surprise donation, to the identification and offer of a free headstone – took place in less than 12 hours.  She passed along the name of the baby to me.

Today I’ve got all these children on my heart.  Mine, the two that belong to the family that makes the markers, and the baby in Pennsylvania that never got a funeral.

It’s a lot to soak in, but I am happy I happened to make the decision yesterday to buy the headstones.  Maybe I’ll chalk this up to kismet.

Buying headstones is a terrible chore.  0 stars.  Would not recommend.



If you’d like to buy and donate a headstone, do it here.


There is no crying in rock concerts

I’ve written before about the significance of Flogging Molly in my life.  And, as per my usual love, this past Tuesday I went to see them again.  Except this time, it was different.

After Joe passed, I’d relentlessly sit in my car and listen to “If I ever leave this world alive”, a conversation between a dead husband and his late wife.  Obviously it rang true to my soul and I’ve never looked back.

A couple of years ago, I took the girls to their very first rock concert.  Flogging Molly.  They, having never been to a rock concert before, met me in the kitchen ready to go in their best dresses.  I instructed them to go back and change into jeans and tshirts. I’d clearly not done my part as a parent and they had no idea what was coming.

Z was changed that night.  She was hooked.  She got her taste and was with me for the ride.

I have a blown-glass necklace with the cremains of both Joe and Z embedded in the glass.  I don’t wear it that often out of fear.  If it breaks or I lose it, it’s gone.  And once they are in the ground, that’s it.  I won’t have another shot at making another necklace.

I wore the necklace to the show so that I’d have them with me.

I rocked hard, my ears hurt, I saw a drunk girl looking up the kilts of random men, I walked through a very large puddle of what was probably 90% beer urine.  There was drunken impromptu renditions of “oh-yea-oh-yeah-oohhhh-yea-oooohhhh-yea” (does that song have a name?) it was rowdy and perfect.

And at the end of the set, they sang my song.

Really though, this song is everybody’s song. Everyone that’s lost someone.  Everyone that has their heart broken or been cheated in life by death.  It’s the anthem from one lost soul to another.  It doesn’t speak to only me, it speaks to everyone.   For that song, I am not alone in a crowd.  I am with everyone that needs to commune in personal tragedy.  We are all in this together.

I tried hard to sing along for everything I could.  But, in the end it was my worst performance ever; tagged with a lot of tears and once even an outright sob.  But that’s okay because when I see Flogging Molly live, I am with my people.

As an aside, and I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this or not, but I used to sing The Pogues’ “I love you to the end” to Joe.  When he was really sick he told me that it was a great song and all, but considering the circumstances,  it didn’t really have a sentimental meaning anymore.

Joke’s on him – I still love him till the end.


(Personal note: Renetta – I know you’re new to this widow business.  It’s sucks.  I’m with you. Maybe Flogging Molly will help you, too)





The Intersection of Faith and Science

Personally, I believe that faith and science are not incongruous. I feel those that reject science for their religious beliefs are not giving enough credit to either God or science.

In the beginning, there was light. That happens pretty early on in the story of creation. It’s also the very first thing in the widely accepted theory of start of our universe – the big bang. God created humans after everything else – and that tracks with evolutionary biology pretty closely. God created the universe in 6 days – why does that necessarily have to mean 6 human designations of 24hour periods? Why do some people chose to limit God’s time schedule to one revolution of the earth? God is omnipotent, why are we assigning a human time line to creation? If humans were not meant to more deeply understand, God would not have given reason, intellect, critical thinking and free will. These are humanity’s gifts, why eschew them to force limitations on both Science and God? It makes no sense to me.

Several weeks ago a long-time friend went from a walk-in clinic to a coma in a matter of a couple of hours. It was touch-and-go for weeks. She’s been out of the coma for a while now and my mom and a third friend went to Texas to stay with her for a week while her husband came to Michigan to attend to their home fires. While in Texas, she told my mom that she can remember being in the coma. She more or less remembers what was happening around her. She knew everything was wrong.

She was anxious, upset, and afraid. She couldn’t be comfortable. Her body was rebelling against her life and she was not about to check out of this mortal realm.

Z came to her in the hospital and laid with her. She felt immediately calm from the inside. She relaxed. She was comforted and calmed. She started to heal. Z was with her in the hospital bed with her, she knows that with all of the resolution that any of us have about anything we *know* to be true.

It lines up, too, with the prayers of intercession I sent to Z when I found out about the whole coma business.

I frequently ask for intercessions on matters of mortal and spiritual importance. Z and Joe are my go-to for that. Their duties to me physically are gone, but that doesn’t mean they are released from service. They just have to answer me on a different, more universal level. Which, I guess, is a consolation prize. (It still sucks)

I am positive there is a scientific explanation for what she experienced in the hospital. Dr. Amy (non-certified) assumes it was most likely a chemical response to trauma and anxiousness that was relieved with serotonin and other self-soothing chemicals that get released in the body as a reflex to increased physical and mental distress and trauma.

I am also positive the strings of the universe are so strong and wide, that it was Z’s spirit that was picked out of life and brought comfort to my friend. It was not something like Z. It was Z. The same energy and shine and spirit that I gave birth to and raised is the exact same energy, shine, and spirit that went to Texas to bring comfort to the sick.

Our belief in God gives us heaven, a place for our spirits after we die. Our belief in science tells us energy can not be destroyed. These statements of faith and science reside in harmony.

My friend has known many people close to her that have passed. Her mother and her brother (for example). But it was Z that came to her bedside for comfort. That is the statement of faith.

I’ve not attended to my blog while I’ve had this event tossing around my mind. I’ve stopped and started it a couple of times, unsure how to articulate my resolution in all universal creation and works. Faith and Science.

Circling back to my prayers of intercession, I have two points. The first is that prayer is tantamount to sending energy into the universe. Whether a believer in God or not, we all do the same thing: prayers, good vibes, thoughts, hopes – it’s all energy we project for the goodness and benefit of others. Some people have more specific name for it and I’m not going to judge the label. I asked for and intercession and one was received.

The second point is this: I’m fairly certain this is the first time Z has done something that I’ve asked her to do without nagging. FINALLY. I mean, really. Z did noting without being asked (reminded?) several times. That in itself is practically a miracle.