I planted a seed in an unmarked grave – By TheColdPeople
When I was young, my mother taught me that bad experiences – even losing people – can be good for us. With the end of a job, a relationship, or even a life, space is made for a new beginning, like the first sprouts after a wildfire. In the aftermath, you see only destruction all around you. But if you look closer, you’ll sometimes find little blossoms in the ruin.
I tried to keep this wisdom in mind when I lost my wife. Vicky and I had been together six years, married for three. Our life was simple: we ran a small business, and spent our free time hiking the woods behind our home. She loved spaghetti and painting and back rubs. I loved making her laugh.
Then she got sick. We saw every doctor, tried every option. I even started praying again. But nothing could save her. I couldn’t save her. And I damn near killed myself trying. Toward the end, we’d take little walks on our lawn. She liked the birds that nested there in the tree. And then, she was gone.
Losing Vicky destroyed me. I lay in bed awake each night, haunted by the silence in our home. I wasn’t afraid to fall asleep. I was afraid to wake up and not feel her there beside me.
In accordance with Vicky’s wishes, I committed her remains to a little plot in the forest. She was big on environmentalism, and taught me about “green burial.” The idea is to have as little impact on the planet as you can when you pass. Coffins have plastics and paint and varnish all over them; that crap gets into the soil and the groundwater. Cremation puts a ton of carbon into the air. But by itself, a dead body is basically plant food.
So, one night I set out on what would be our final hike “together.” I had to carry her in a wheelbarrow, but it still felt a bit like old times. Her presence filled those woods, and I pretended she was walking alongside me. I imagined us holding hands, listening to the mournful cries of the owls.
I didn’t bring a flashlight. I knew the way already, and the moonbeams falling here and there lit my path. They looked like a mane of heavenly swords plunging into the dark, smiting the evil that conquered the forest each night. Vicky would have loved to see them.
As we neared the grave, her voice echoed to me on a gust of wind. I tried to ignore it. The gathering fog closed in, forming a barrier of privacy around the little clearing. There was a hole here, and a shovel beside it.
“Felix,” I heard again. My name sounded muffled, as if whispered by a person hiding somewhere in the undergrowth. I looked this time, but saw only a wall of fog, and the gnarled fingers of trees that jutted through it.
My heart quickened, and my hands with it. I reached into the wheelbarrow and hoisted Vicky’s body out. It dropped to the ground with a dull thud. The voice grew louder. Closer.
I tugged the sack off Vicky’s head. I wanted to see her face one last time. A single ray of moonlight fell upon her features, bathing her in cold silver. She glowed like an angel.
“I’ll always love you,” I said, kissing her forehead. The coldness of her skin bit into my lips.
“Please…” she whispered. She tugged against the rope that bound her arms, but she was too weak from the medication. Somewhere behind us, a score of crows erupted in angry chatter.
I buried my knife in her chest and then buried her body in soil. The earth that swallowed her was cool and wet; before long her remains would become the trees and plants that hid us. In that moment I thought of my mother and the lesson she taught me: I imagined Vicky’s body as a seed, and saw myself a gardener. In time, the forest would reap what I had sown, and new love would bloom in my life.
I’m tired of people telling me that “real” disease is of the body. When my wife was diagnosed with depression, I witnessed the havoc that sickness can wreak on the mind. It ate away at her, made me unrecognizable to her, made me a stranger in our home. I lost her. And I lost myself. Don’t let anybody tell you any different: mental illness is as real as cancer. And it can send a person to an early grave.