You must be Carol. I wondered when we would meet. I’ve been here since May and I figured you’d be by to see me before long. See how well I turned out? Just as you’d imagined that day in March when you picked out each detail with your sisters. Stately and strong, but elegant, too.
You look relieved to see that the man from the funeral home got my placement right. He stood right in this spot that day when he called you in New Braunfels. Holding his cell phone to his ear, he looked over his shoulder just as you directed and saw your grandmother’s gravestone, engraved with the family name: “Thomas.” He placed me right here, just where you wanted.
The roses you brought are beautiful. I know you wish you could place real, fresh flowers here every day, but Archer City isn’t your home anymore. That’s OK. These will do just fine. The bright red silk petals bring a touch of softness and beauty to the strong lines of permanence that dominate the view around here.
Don’t mind your granddaughters wandering off down the path. They don’t mean to disrespect your mother, they just didn’t know her like you did. They’ll learn about things like aging and Alzheimer’s one day, but it’s not their time yet. For now this is just a strange and unsettling place full of messages they don’t understand.
It’s OK to cry, Carol. I know you felt like you lost your mother to Alzheimer’s 10 years ago, but you could still see her whenever you visited her in Wichita Falls, then when you took her to live near you at the nursing home in New Braunfels. You could still touch the weathered hands that dried your childhood tears, look into her eyes even though they no longer recognized you. Alzheimer’s stole her mind from you first, and now death has stolen her body as well.
But remember, sweet Carol. Just as you divided her ashes with your sisters, knowing there was nothing morbid in it because it wasn’t really her, it is also true that your mother isn’t here. Her ashes are a symbol, just like I am. Read again what you chose to have chiseled here: “Sheltered in the Arms of God.” She doesn’t hurt anymore. She’s not confused. She’s home.
Your mother’s name will not vanish, Carol. I will see to that. I existed on this earth long before you or your mother or her mother. I was pulled from the depths to stand guard here on the surface and proclaim to all who pass that Jeanette Henry lived, and I will.
But her memory is yours to take with you wherever you go. And you can share it with whomever you wish. See the woman with the notepad over there? Go ahead. Go tell her how much she would have liked your mother. I’ll see you next time you’re in town.