In My Place – A Mammoth Forgotten

Gus passed away in the early hours of a Sunday towards the end of June.  At first we went home and tried to sleep. Then we tried sitting at my parent’s house only to find ourselves staring at the walls. Then we realized it was only 9:30 in the morning and we could make it to Mass.  So we did.  That is what I remember concretely.

Then I, who’d just a year before rejoiced that he’d been in remission for eight wonderful years, retreated to a place within myself and went quiet.  In my place was a strange woman able to evaluate choices, make decisions, sign papers and even produce a memorial video with music. What a fraud. Who was that woman pretending to be me?  She accomodated those that wanted him cremated as a final act of revenge on the body that failed him so miserably; those that wanted him buried quickly so as to not prolong the torture and those that needed to celebrate his short life.  I could not have done those things.  I was in shock…numb.  I had been deceived by a medical team who failed to predict this terrible turn and a God that dangled his “cure” in my face just to pull it away. I was not there.

She did pick a beautiful urn, I noticed.  A rectangular stone box with the sillhouette of a what looked like a little boy dancing who then transformed into a bird and flew away.  Although the precise niche she picked was hurtful.  Didn’t she know that I made the arrangements to place the Jesus statue on that niche base? And then installed the skylight over it to protect it? That is what I DO at the Archdiocese.  Gus would have thought it was funny though, to be placed there behind Jesus so he could tug on his robe.  Then, just a week after racing his dad across the parking lot of that hospital who swore he’d be cured if he was in remission for five years, the woman picked up Gus’ urn from a sun flower laden table at the conclusion of the private family service. Cradling him in her arms, she processed across the parking lot into the vibrantly lit atrium and gently laid him in his niche with the promise that one day he’d be flanked by his parents and grandparents in eternity.  I do praise her for leaving his favorite X-Box controller in the niche with him so he’d have something to play with and the signed pictures of the family so he’d remember us.  Is one even allowed to put extra things in niches?

A few days later, during the standing room only public memorial mass, a friend offered my family their house in Mammoth for a few days and this woman accepted.  She, my husband, my two older sons and even the girlfriend (I would have never allowed that) climbed in the car, the same car where Gus dropped a nickle in the front passanger window that still rolls around to this day and drove eight or so hours north.  The pictures suggest that she walked in the woods, had a decent meal and may have even followed the car’s GPS through a mistaken but memorable trek through clearly un-driveable areas amongst the trees in search of some ever-elusive craters.  I was glad that I was not there because I would have noticed that it was summer and that all the vacationers seemed to be families with ten year old boys.  I would have been offended that the girlfriend sat where Gus would have been sitting.  I would have noticed their return from the Mammoth trip was on a Sunday.

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