Death is a Lie
June 10, 2019

I’ve been sitting on this post for a while.  It’s been brewing under the surface since the day we buried Hagen, and each time it has tried to rise up, I have somehow managed to shove it back down even deeper.  It, like Hagen, has proven to be extremely stubborn and I’m just tired of carrying it and fighting it.  Each time I allow myself to put my pain into words, I find relief, and today, I need some relief.  This will not weigh me down any longer.

In the south we have a tradition called “Decoration”.  Every year the women in my family participate by traveling through two counties placing floral arrangements that my grandmother makes on the headstones of her parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, husband, brother and sister-in-law.  This year, she made an extra one that I wasn’t expecting, and, as ifI hadn’t been present on March 30th, seeing those flowers made me realize that I buried my son.

I buried my son.  Literally.  We had him cremated so we could lay him to rest in a cemetery right in the middle of a field on our family farm.  I knew that is where he wanted to be...where he loved to it was the only option.  His dad, bless his heart, reluctantly agreed to the cremation and bought a beautifully fitting urn to keep part of Hagen with him.  The rest of him was strapped into the backseat with his brother as we made our last trip home together as a family.  We listened to his music, we laughed, and we even spilled 44 ounces of root beer all over him.  After the unfortunate root beer mishap, Hagen had to ride on the floorboard.  Before leaving the funeral home, I had to sign a very official piece of paper stating we were carrying “remains” in the car in the event we got pulled over, and because my family is so quirky and because laughter is therapeutic for us, we were hoping we would get pulled over just so we could pull that out of the glove box and present it to some poor state trooper.  It was funny to us because it would have been funny to Hagen.  It was a typical trip to the Ozarks, with one glaring exception -those were ashes.

We stayed with my brother and his family and as I was planning the trip I wondered if it would be proper etiquette to haul the urn into his house and set it where - the coffee table?  In a corner or a closet?  It didn’t seem right, and I cringed at the thought of leaving it in the car from Wednesday until Saturday.  They were just ashes in an incredibly heavy marble urn, but they were my baby’s ashes, so, just no. 

When we planned Hagen’s memorial, we kept in mind what he would want and it was perfectly fitting for him, complete with Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” and funeral selfies.  I told you we were quirky.  When it came to what to do with his urn for 3 days, I asked myself what Hagen would want.  The answer was simple.  He would want to sit on the front porch of the farmhouse where he, his brother and I had spent so much time together laughing, talking and listening to music, so before heading to my brother’s house we made a stop.  It was easy for me to carry that urn to the front porch on Wednesday, but Saturday afternoon, that wasn’t the case. 

My sweet brother had dug a hole in that old cemetery where my son was to be buried next to others in our family that had gone before him.  Some had been out there over 100 years, but my son wasn’t supposed to be there for many more decades.  There was no hearse leading that funeral procession. Instead there were 4x4’s, an old Ford pick-up and an ATV.  We weren’t in suits and ties and our Sunday best.  Carharts and Muck Boots is how we rolled.  I knew he would have loved it, but that urn became heavier and heavier in my lap and my chest got tighter and tighter the closer we got to the old cemetery. 

It was a cold, wet, windy and dreary day, but I didn’t notice.  I walked through the gate first staring at the hole that I was going to place my son in.  Only immediate family was there, but there were a lot of us and as I waited for everyone to file in, I stared at that hole and rubbed my hands across the smooth marble and thought “how am I going to do this?”  I had no idea but I knew that everything Hagen and I went through we went through together and this would be no exception.  I don’t know what anyone else was doing.  I don’t know if there were tears or crying or talking. All I knew was that I had a task to complete as Hagen Elijah Jones’ momma.  Without warning, almost as if I had no control over what I was doing, I marched up to the hole, dropped to my knees and placed what was left of my son in it and began raking the wet dirt over that navy blue marble urn.  My brother had a shovel and offered to help me but I couldn’t acknowledge him.  This was the last thing that I would do for what was left of the child I gave birth to.  It wasn’t until Hagen’s dad knelt down beside me that I realized I did want help and he was the only one that could do it.  We buried our son together with our hands. 

A headstone wasn’t something I wanted to think about.  I didn’t want to choose the font that would immortalize his name and I didn’t want to see the dash that would separate his date of birth and date of death, so I asked my brother to make a cross out of barn wood.  As he pounded that cross into the earth, a ray of sunshine broke through the clouds and shown directly on that cross. 

My brother said the first words.  They were simple and profound and in his awesome country draw he said “Death is a lie.”  We knew where Hagen was and it wasn’t in that cemetery. This was just the end of his time here and we knew we would be joining him in our own times.  With mud covered hands, surrounded by family and a herd of cattle, I put the period on the earthly life of my son.

Next to headstones so old you can barely make out a name is a wooden cross.  No name.  No date of birth and no date of death.  I’ll get around to getting a stone, but Hagen’s story isn’t finished yet and until then, I know what that cross represents and I know what the cross represented to my son.  

Death is a lie. 

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