Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Where the Sidewalk Ends

I guess I didn't really mention that on Mother's Day Sam and I planted a tree for Lucia. It is a Kwanzan Cherry Tree. It blossoms pink double flowers in early Spring. I sort of envisioned it looking like a majestic Japanese Cherry Sakura, but right now, when your eye catches it, a little Vince Guaraldi strikes up in the background, and I do my little bop ala Peanuts.

I meant to talk about it, but then I became ashamed of the whole thing. Ashamed of not saying anything profound. Ashamed because I didn't even search for a beautiful poem. Nor a snippet of a song. Not even a seventeen syllable haiku. I couldn't even muster a "This tree is for Lucy." We didn't cry, not then. We had been crying all weekend. But when we planted the tree, no tears. We didn't do anything really but dig a hole, chase the puppy away from our work, talk about what we were doing for dinner. We initially invited my sister and her family and my mother over for the planting. I was going to sprinkle some of her ashes. Say something. Say anything. But then, on the phone with my mother the day before, she said something to the effect, "Oh, I'm glad you are doing this, because I really needed a funeral and you didn't have one." And then, I knew. I couldn't make this a funeral. I couldn't even make it a memorial. I couldn't even see anyone. So, in addition to being a lousy babyloss mama, I also was a lousy sister and daughter on Mother's Day. I barely mustered a call to both of them. But I decided this year, I allow myself the selfishness. I allow myself the wallowing. I fucking earned it. And I absolutely could not make this something it wasn't. I was planting a tree. I wanted something beautiful in my yard to label Lucy's Space. Maybe even one day, it will be a meditation space, but I didn't want a ritual.

This isn't like me. I love ritual.

There are so many reasons I didn't want to make this something more. One reason is that I am simply not ready to let go of any of Lucy's ashes. I may never release her ashes. I want my baby with me, even if it is in a little urn. (Shit. That made me lose it. Just writing little urn.) But it is true. I want her ashes in my house. Sitting in my living room. Right where we always are. Reading some Shel Silverstein with her sister and her parents.

Beatrice and I water Lucy's tree everyday. A lot. When I went to pick the tree out on Mother's Day, we walked around the nursery, looking at different trees. I wanted a Weeping Cherry Tree, for obvious reasons. Sam wanted something fast growing to shade our deck. Finally, someone came up and asked us what we were looking for, and I, weary from walking around and around in circles not finding anything beautiful enough for Lucia, said to the man, "Let me be blunt. My daughter died. I want a tree for her. Help us pick a tree that is idiot proof that I simply cannot kill. If I kill this tree, it will defeat the whole point of this." He looked non-nonplussed. He directed us appropriately, like he heard just this sort of request everyday. When we got home and decided on the perfect place, we began digging. Mounds of dirt, and our girl and the dog running up and down the piles giggling. Then clunk.

Clunk. Again. "What was that?" Clunk.

Something hard.

Dear Lord, please do not let it be a coffin.

It is what I thought. Please. Don't let it be anything dead. And I got on my hands and knees and dug my hands in the dirt, started brushing the dirt away from the three foot wide hardness. Brush. Brush. Tears fell a bit as I imagined the worst. I became frantic. Did I mention that FBI agents used to live in my house? I was expecting something...lurid. Something ugly. Something dead.

It was a sidewalk.

We uncovered a strange, misplaced, handmade concrete walkway UNDER a foot of soil in my backyard. Not just in my backyard, in the middle of the yard. Where was it going? I began pulling pieces of concrete out, and laying it on the brick path in our backyard. I sprayed it with water, and examined the concrete. Someone made this. A very long time ago. With their hands. Someone made a path to Lucy's tree. Maybe 80 years ago, when this house was built, they thought someday someone will plant a tree here, for their girl. Her tree is where the sidewalk ends.

And so, if I had to do it again, I might read Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.


  1. I will return tomorrow. My battery is running low. But, I wanted to send my love! And, it's all so perfect. :)

  2. I am sure it will be a beautiful tree, and I love Shel Silverstein.

    Pls don't be ashamed of anything, you freaking need a break. Be gentle on yourself.

    much love,

  3. I was captivated by this post Angie. I had no idea where it was going, or where I was going to end up. Beautiful, as always.
    And I now second guess or decision to bury, not cremate. I think perhaps I do want her here, even if it was in a little urn. In my weakest moments, I think of going to that cemetery and digging her up with my bare hands. But lets face it, both options suck. It is a decision no parent should ever make. Turn their body to ash or bury them in a box in the earth.
    Yes, you are more than entitled to your wallowing. We all are.

  4. Angie - your post just reduced me to sobs, I can barely see through the tears. Love to you my dear friend.

  5. This is so beautiful. How strange to find a sidewalk there. Yet how strangely lovely also. And the Shel Silverstein.

    I love cherry trees, I grew up with a weeping cherry tree in the front garden. I'm sure Lucy's tree will be lovely.

    As Janis says, please don't be ashamed.

    And I am also guilty of ash hoarding. I keep meaning to scatter them but they are still in a plastic bag wrapped up in a blanket, in a box. I sometimes think that the blanket is conclusive proof that I have lost my marbles.

  6. Be "selfish" all you want this year (though I would not deem any of this selfish). I have to say, that if I had ashes, I would not be able to let them go either. I couldn't.

    PS I was having a flashback to a college lit class when you said cherry tree. I found this about the symbolism of cherry trees: "Cherry tree symbolism includes death and rebirth and new awakenings".

    Love and Peace.

  7. Your post has left me speechless Angie. I just want you to know that I'm reading and wishing love and peace for you.

  8. ash hoarding = guilty. me.

    talking about a tree planting memorial, inviting all loved ones, making it something wonderful and beautiful and memorable for my beautiful girls. A celebration rather than a funeral...and then totally flaking out and doing it on the sly with M = guilty. me.

    nary a card to mom of MIL this year = guilty. me.

    And my reasoning was very similar to yours. If there was ever a year where selfishness in the name of self preservation was earned. Dammit, it was this one.

    The kwanzaan is going to be beautiful. We planted okames, but once we saw a grove of mature kwanzaan's in all their beauty, I admit I had some second thoughts.

  9. What a beautiful and perfect tribute to Lucy! That whole sidewalk ending thing really made me emotional, it's just so perfect. People had asked us when we were planning Dresden's tree if we'd have people over and do a little ritual type of thing.. I wasn't sure what we wanted, but I felt like I just wanted our little family of around - we used some of his ashes (there are still some in his little urn in the family room, and around mine and Shaun's neck too) and didn't really say anything, we knew why we were planting the tree.. it didn't feel like we needed any beautiful words to go with it.. we just did what felt right at that moment. I'm glad you did too.. NOW, the important thing.. we have to keep these little memorial trees ALIVE! Huge hugs to you!

  10. Beautiful, Angie. You do whatever feels right in this strange new world. I interred Sam's ashes with Norm's mom and have often thought about getting them back. I am thinking about scattering them on the 1 year anniversary where we left his spirit clothes, food and offerings. Like Sally said, it's decisions no parent should have to make.

  11. I totally get it in, Angie, when you say that you want Lucy near you.. in your living room.. with her family. I feel the same way. I haven't had the heart to release any of Nicholas' ashes either. He is where I believe he belongs for now.

    Never be ashamed. You are such a beautiful, deep and sensitive soul. Do what you have to do to get through the days right now.

    This post was magnificent. Such an amazing story. And the tree sounds perfect, like Lucia.

    Oh and I nominated you for an award! Go to my blog to check it out.


  12. Thank you for letting us all in to experience the sidewalk ending with you. I am feeling like my tears are watering Lucia's glorious tree right now.

  13. I can't let go of my daughter's ashes, either. Not yet. I want her with us, at least until we find the right place to let her go - if that's even possible. A tree sounds so lovely - I think if we had our own home, I might want to do the same. But what to make of that buried slab of sidewalk and where it's leading or where it's winding away from, past and present both. I just don't know.

  14. Chills. Haunting. Beautiful.

    I just introduced my son to this book last night - we are reading 10poems at a time until we get to the end, which will now be full of Lucia.

    I'm so sorry she's not here with you.

  15. I'm back. I was especially struck by the part about your mom 'needing' something. I guess if I dig deep I can empathize with her, needing to grieve for her granddaughter. But, the thing is, you are not responsible for that. She needs to grieve in her own way and be responsible for that process. I don't think it's fair for our parents to expect us to organize rituals that really don't benefit us at all, but serve their purposes.

    We didn't have a funeral. I thought we might have a memorial service at a later date. But, the reasons we didn't have a funeral haven't changed, so I don't foresee a memorial now. The reasons were I just knew I couldn't handle others' stupid comments, pithy advice, competition amongst in-laws, etc., etc. We've chosen to keep the focus on E. We know the rest of our family wouldn't do that.

    And yes, the tree will be beautiful.


  16. Oh, how fitting. I am like you. We planted a tree too but there was no ceremony. We just did it, or I should my husband did it and I watched. It felt best that way.

    And there's nothing wrong with never giving up her ashes and wanting her near you. I often wish I had ashes of Hannah so she was nearby. What kills me, is that "normal" people don't get this.

  17. W.O.W.

    Yes, planting a tree with purpose, determination, and without wailing is a wonderful way to do it.

    Perhaps you can read under the tree, outline, hearing your own voice. And that poem would be great.

    I am not sure exactly which tree you have, but here are links to two possibles that will help you care for your new tree:

  18. oh angie. i can so understand about not being able to deal with having a ritual. i didn't even go to lev's funeral, i just couldn't.

    that is so strange about the sidewalk and perfect too. did you know that shel silverstein lost a daughter too?

    sending you love

  19. Such a beautiful post Angie, as always.

    I keep Alice here, in her tiny urn. I couldnt't let any of her out here. She will stay until I die. Then she will come back to me.

    Sending you love. xxx

  20. I'm so glad you have your tree, ceremony or not. It made me laugh to think of the guy who helped you at the nursery.

    My family also wanted a funeral but I just couldn't do it. We each have to do what's right for us to hang in.

    much love, mol


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