Well, Daddy was not buried in Auburn. Talk about a mind set, or just plain old blondeness. He was buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, Nevada City. After one short detour (getting slightly lost) Nevada City was reached after five hours. I had no idea it would take that long. I was not able to find Thomas Shurtleff's store, (I should have planned this a bit better) so I concentrated on the cemetery. At long last, the library was able to give me directions. After scouring the cemetery on foot and in the car, (continually asking Daddy "Where are you?" and hearing nothing in response, I was about to think I would never find it, I knew I had to try the left side one more time. Out of the blue, I knew to stop the car. Stop the car!! I turned to my right to see a grave area, a stone that matched my idea of what it looked like, but the flat plagues were not right, according to what I thought. Even then, without being able to see the names, I knew with all my soul that I had reached my family plot. I didn't need confirmation.
The surrounding cement 'curb' has a front step with Shurtleff carved into it. On the large main stone, Grandma rests with her mother, Lodema, and Lodema's sister and brother. Grandpa's flat stone is to the left, Daddy's to the right. I remember what was spinning through my head. I sat down, cross legged in front of Daddy without thinking, then wondered what one does here without appearing to be performing for a movie. Keep in mind I am still keeping raw emotions at bay as best I can. That is when I said, "Just let go" and I did. I cried for a while, talking to Daddy, looked around at each stone, said hello to everyone, swept off the stones, and touched them all, reading over and over the engraved words I knew so well from the pictures I had. Hoping, feeling, trying to be open and listen. Suddenly, a breeze came up. A soft, gentle breeze. I looked up and took in the immediate space. Right next to a huge pine tree, on the top of a slight hill, the most lovely spot on earth, really. A wonderful place for Dad to rest. The most reassuring, calming, happy, peaceful sensation washed over me in a way I had never felt. I stayed a bit longer, said goodbye, took pictures, and drove away.
For some reason, I focused on the word "son" on his gravestone. You would think I would have focused on "Father" instead. It occurred to me that Helen, Grandma, felt towards my father the same love and deep connection that I feel towards my own son, John. Knowing, from my mother, how Henry, my Grandfather adored me, always called me his little girl, put a different spin on saying hello to him.
People say you have to say goodbye. I laugh a bit and wonder why you have to do that when he never left me. Agreed, you say goodbye to what was once, his physical existence, and that might fall more under the category of accepting his death. That alone, took me years, but I was aware of the day I was able to say, without breaking into tears, "My father is dead." Took me a long time to use that word, dead. I distinctly remember at some point, early on, knowing I was having an immense problem dealing with it, I decided I would just look at it as "He just isn't here right now." It was actually a relief to be able to move on to, "My father is dead."
I am not sure what today accomplished in the long run. I know that he remains with me in some form or another, the locating his stone and the breeze was not a coincidence or my imagination. The peace that washed over me might have been the reason I went. It certainly was wonderful, but only the future will tell.
Meanwhile, I am John Stevens' daughter. I am strong. His blood runs through me. I can do anything. As my sister said, "Make him proud."
Return to Inside Anne Return to Packrat Main Page