The title of this post was taken from the song Cemetery Gates by Pantera.
The basics of this post were written back in early May, and I've added to and taken away from it since then. I've written, edited, and deleted this post at least ten times during this time frame. I've struggled with whether or not I wanted to share this and how. So, hopefully this will make sense and will match the vision I have in my head. Here goes.
My grandmother, my dad's mom, passed away on October 25, 1982. I was barely three years old. My absolute earliest memory takes place at her viewing/family night. I distinctly remember standing in front of her casket and not really understanding what was going on. My dad came over and picked me up. He pointed to grandma, and asked if I knew who she was. I shook my head no, and he told me it was his mom, and that her name was Sylvia. I don't remember much more of what he said, but I do remember a small tear escaping his eye and gently rolling down his cheek. Until recently this was one of the only times I had seen my dad cry. I wonder now if this event, this memory, was what ultimately caused my fascination with death and what happens after we die.
Growing up my dad had a series of books titled Beyond the Veil. I remember being around ten years old and reading every one of those books. Not only did I read all of them, I read them several times. I liked hearing about near death experiences. I felt like this was proof of something I already believed on a spiritual level. I already believed in life after death and knowing that others had physically died, seen the other side and lived to tell about it, was absolutely fascinating.
I've never thought cemeteries were scary, okay maybe at night, or after I watched a horror film with Mike, but in general I find them peaceful. As a teenager I visited them often. I loved looking at the headstones and wondering what a particular persons life was like. Sometimes I'd even pick flowers and place them on a grave. I guess it was my way of showing respect while I was invading the privacy of their final resting place, I don't know. Even in the beginning of our relationship Mike and I would take walks in cemeteries. I don't think this topic ever fascinated him the way it did me, but he would humor me.
About a week and a half before he passed away, we were in the car going somewhere and we were talking about our funerals and what we would want them to look like. This wasn't the first time we had broached this topic, but now I wonder if we tempted fate, and it sort of creeps me out. I had very specific things I wanted for my funeral, and Mike would often joke with me about them, because they were kind of silly. We also promised each other that whoever died first would come back and haunt the other. Silly, I know. Last but not least I often told Mike that I needed to be the one to die first. I wanted to be selfish, and not have to deal with the pain of losing him. He always promised me he would do his best to grant my wishes. I know that these things were all beyond his or my control. Maybe I thought by talking about what I wanted I could control this part of my life. I was wrong, and I'm angry about that. During that conversation just before he passed, Mike stated that no one would show up for his funeral, because no one would care if he died. I smacked his arm and told him to shut up that he was loved by many people. During the family night and funeral, I wanted to jump up and yell "MIKE, I TOLD YOU SO! YOU BIG GOOFBALL! Do you see how many people are here!" Mike also told me he thought it would be funny to have the song Fingertips by TMBG played at his funeral. It is an incredibly silly song and he said he would want people to be able to laugh and not cry. It wasn't so funny as I actually planned his funeral, and I couldn't go through with playing that song. No one else would have understood the significance of it, and it was personal to me and I wasn't willing to share that.
Since his passing I find myself once again obsessed with books on near death experiences. I've read and reread several of the Beyond the Veil books. I've researched others and hope to read them soon. I've also found a love for the TV show I Survived: Beyond and Back. It's real people talking about how they died, what they saw, and then how/when their spirits returned to their body. I like to think that his grandparents, cousins, and other family members who have passed were there to greet him as he slipped from this life into the next. I like to think that all the earthly worries he had are gone, and that he is at peace.
While all of this can be comforting, I still miss him dearly. I still cry for our loss, I still get angry, and I still feel sorry for myself. I'm still adjusting to this new life without Mike. Small things like the soft glow of the "clean filter" light on the thermostat bother me. Mike was the one to change the filter. Waves of grief hit me last week as I read and reread those two little words. It's almost like those words were mocking me. They seemed to get brighter each time I walked past them, as if to say "See you aren't strong enough to deal with this.", and yes it's probably pretty childish that I would stick my tongue out at it every time I walked by. Then after a few days I stood and stared at those words for what felt like forever, willing myself to do something about it. Instead I slid to the floor until my head rested in my lap. I cried until it hurt and I didn't think I could cry anymore. I cried over the finality of my situation. I cried for my children's loss. I cried for all the changes I was being forced to make. I simply cried. After awhile I wiped away my tears, took a deep breath, and stood up. I changed the filter all the while telling myself that that moment was over, and it couldn't hurt me anymore. I had slain this dragon, and won. Yes, being the grown up child I am I even said "Nah nah nah nah boo boo" to those two little words as I hit the reset button and made them disappear. So now I'm thinking that maybe just maybe my new mantra should be I Survived: Beyond and Back. I will survive, even if I do it kicking and screaming.