Yesterday we had the unveiling of Kevin's headstone at Calverton National Cemetery, where Kevin chose to be buried. It's a Jewish tradition for very intimate friends and family to visit the grave for the first time within the first year of mourning — typically close to the end of that period — to hear scripture read, to pray together and to share words of remembrance about the loved one.
Kevin's family was not able to make the trip nor were my parents, but they were there in spirit, and members of our spiritual family were there.
I told how Kevin thought about an epithet, and then chose not to have one. Kevin wrote beautifully, especially in this blog, but he needed lots of processing time to access his thoughts and feelings and put them into words. And sometimes, after lots of processing words failed him still. In the eleven months and eleven days since Kevin died, I have come to appreciate how some things take lots of time to process, and how still, some feelings are too deep for expression and some experiences and relationships too complex for summation. It's why I haven't kept up this blog the way I thought I would.
But we who were there did try to put some of how we felt about and thought of Kevin into words. We remembered Kevin's relationships with us. We spoke of the his consistency of his character, the heroic way he fought his battle with cancer, and the peace and grace he showed in his last days. We remembered how he made us laugh. I recalled how he loved war movies and was moved by the way a true soldier faces death — with a combination of acceptance and defiance. He became what he admired, and then he surpassed it. The three of us with him in that room when he took his last breath had the same feeling of not so much watching someone die, but watching someone leave joyously — though coupled with the pain of leaving us behind — for the ultimate adventure. We felt G-d's presence in that room, and yesterday, we remembered that, too.
For me, yesterday was a significant part of the very difficult process of saying, "goodbye" — wrestling with the letting go and holding on that is part of mourning... By going to the place where is body lies in the ground, I tried to get my brain and my heart to comprehend what is still at times unfathomable — he is no longer here. In this lifetime, I will never again converse with him, touch him, see him — only in my memories. And I'll never again make new memories with him. My heart continues to break over that. But also in that peaceful, orderly setting, we comforted ourselves with the knowledge that Kevin is now at peace. For him, all now makes sense, all questions are answered, chaos, turmoil, pain and anguish are forgotten.
After the graveside ceremony, we gathered at my home and shared more memories. Feeling the need to remember how alive Kevin's spirit now is, I read a written exchange between me and Adrian, Kevin's best mate from Australia, that occurred on 12/19/2010, nine days after Kevin's passing. I'd like to share now with all of you.
To me, from Adrian: Something I wanted to share with you was that on the day of Kevin's passing, I was at work when a butterfly flew around my [ground moving] machine and up and down the door as if trying to tell me something. I guess at the time I was thinking about Kevin a lot and for some reason when I sighted the butterfly, I became a bit emotional thinking about the Indians and the birds that they see when someone passes.
Next day we learn of Kevin's passing and I share my story to Marg about the butterfly and lo and behold another arrives at our door doing exactly the same thing. This brought us both to tears and the next day at church we shared the story and yet another arrives at the door of the church doing the same thing!
Now thinking I'm going a bit mad the other day after breakfast, I went outside to put my boots on and another came and landed on my hand and just stared at me.
Did Kevin have an affiliation with the butterfly clan of the world or am I really going mad?...
My reply: Thank you for sharing this, Adrian.
Though Kevin had no more connection to butterflies than he did to other beautiful things in nature, I do think there is REAL significance to your "visitations."
As Kevin's body began to succumb more and more to the ravages of the disease, he began to become more and more curious about how his resurrected body would look, feel and operate. We talked about it extensively during a day when he rallied physically, just a week before he died. If you listen to the song he chose for the funeral, you'll know he was really looking forward to shedding his old body.
I think that the message [of the butterflies] is one of comfort for us. Not only is his new body free from pain and suffering, it is as changed as a butterfly's is from a caterpillar's. He is experiencing a new existence that is unfathomably light and free compared to his earthly body.
When I called my mom on Friday morning to tell her that Kevin had gone home, she told me that she had had a dream that morning in which Kevin was telling me he had invented a new greeting card with a video embedded in it. He said that what was unique about it was the content of the video — him kicking his heels up and dancing like crazy — something no one had ever seen before. (That's for sure!) My mom woke from her dream and looked at the clock; it was 5:03 a.m. Kevin breathed his last breath at 5:00 a.m.
Yep, butterflies are free, and so is Kevin. The two pictures I now have of him — dancing freely and flying with a lightness of being — do ease the pain of loss. I hope they do the same for you....
No, Kevin is no longer here with me. His body rests at Calverton, but he is not there either. He went off on the ultimate adventure where he is no longer encumbered in any way. He is freer than he ever imagined he could be. Reminding me of her dream, my mother sent me this poem the other day:
When we are healthy, we walk
When we are decrepit, we shuffle
But when we are beyond ourselves with vitality,
— Eugene Peterson