We love cemeteries in Vermont:
|Mount Hope in Rochester|
It was not the same kind of walk.
On the non-river side, we walked around, deciding that we would set our path by choosing an interesting stone in the distance and then set out to get to it, and alternate between the two of us. Which worked out great. We even saw an unusual sight...There was a car that was stopped and then moving very, very slowly and we couldn't figure out why, and then we looked left:
|Tried to darken it but it's still super light and hazy thanks to the weather.. but do you see the FOUR surprises? And a PIEBALD!|
And then our walk took us down a path to the right, where we found a section entirely made of small stones, some short, rectangular stones with the epitaphs on the top, and some with weathered lambs. Oh...lambs. If ever you see a headstone, a small one, with a little lamb on top, it's a child. And this ENTIRE section...it was all children. Two. Three. Ten. Five. Lots of Fives. Bryce wondered why you would bury your child separate from you, but then here was a whole section dedicated to lives cut too short.
You would think that would be somber enough, but no.
We walked along that section and came across a smaller one, near the border fence at the back. It was labeled "Guardian Angels." There were all kinds of things along the stones, most of which were the kind that lie flush with the ground. And the dates were largely singular. A birth and death date all in one.
We saw stones for babies born too soon, who never took a breath, who lived for hours, who lived a few days. That was the oldest stone I saw...a few days.
There were teddy bears and toy trucks and one bright yellow baseball.
We stopped walking.
We just stood and read the stones and looked at all those objects, the things that weren't flowers or pinwheels but tangible potential. And we cried.
I mean, how could you not?
The baseball was the thing that stood out the most. A baby doesn't play with a baseball, but the child that baby was supposed to grow into would have. It sat there, laden with all the potential that was lost on the day the child was born and ceased to be, all at once.
We felt our own compounded losses then, the loss of the pregnancies we thought might become children but only lasted weeks, and just a couple at that. The loss of all the many embryos that held the potential for so much more, for parenthood and life beyond cellular division. These losses were just so tangible, and ours are so conceptual. We have our little star, and our little Buddha statue, but someone could come into our house and not know what those really stand for. They are for us, not for the annals of time. The only evidence that they existed at all is this space and a drawer full of bendy-cornered, fuzzy black and white pictures at various stages of development.
But we also felt deeply the losses of all these people, who were clearly taking very good care of these tiny graves, where the tiny items laid next to the stones weren't weatherworn at all and could have been placed there yesterday. People who thought that they were going home with a baby and didn't. People who endured the kind of unimaginable loss that so many people don't ever have to think about...loss that changes you forever.
We talked about that section for the rest of our walk, about potential and loss of potential and how we lost 27 tiny chances at having the pregnancy experience that ends with a baby, with two of those making it just a bit further than the rest. About how we have this tremendous potential to be parents, but that in this space of waiting and waiting and NOT having a pregnancy, a physical reminder that we are actually going to have a baby sleeping and playing in the nursery that is slightly dusty and enjoyed mostly by cats...it feels just so far away. It feels a little removed, because in adoption, you complete all the paperwork, you take all the classes, and then...you wait. And wait and wait and wait and wait and wait. There's been events lately that we wanted to go to (a waiting adoptive parents ice cream social thing, the picnic) but that fell on dates that didn't work or were hard for other reasons (our homestudy update visit, the weekend before Bryce's GREs, things located over an hour away when we both work, blasted celiac food concerns). It's hard to feel super connected to the process in a way that feels real, all the time, like we are truly expecting, in part because we'd hoped to receive more profile opportunities by now (although all we need is that one right one), and in part because that's just how this process goes. Hurry up and wait.
For some reason, that very colorful, very sad section of the cemetery brought these things up to the forefront and made them REAL. It made us realize that we also have potential, some that has been lost forever (I'm never going to experience pregnancy, we're never going to have a genetic link to our baby, we'll never have another shot at those embryos that came and went), and some that is here, with us -- amorphous and swirly in the ether but here. We ARE expecting. We have a room filled with potential that has yet to be fulfilled -- all the onesies, some of which I've had for years as symbols of hope and an attempt to "manifest" a baby through our sincerity (nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see!), the board books and picture books and tiny rattling toys and blankets and everything else that shows we have hope for a tiny human that just hasn't arrived yet.
The operative word is...yet.
It was a sad walk in some ways -- especially as we moved to the river side and went over to the neighboring cemetery, aptly named Riverside Cemetery, which was VERY ACTIVE (fresh graves, graves waiting to be filled presumably at a funeral on Sunday, a girl visiting her mother's grave and hugging it while her father looked on, and some kind of balloon release ceremony that was a little confusing as everyone was dressed in primary colors and there were many children and it was incredibly joyous sounding... so maybe an annual thing for an anniversary of one person's death, or, as the section looked very colorful as well, maybe it was for lost children? THAT would have been just too coincidental). I said that we should stick to the more historical cemeteries, the ones where you feel like you're visiting graves no one has visited in a century or more, where this idea of mortality is a bit more removed, more implicit than explicit. But, as Bryce said over dinner later, "Maybe it's the walk we were meant to take today." Which was odd, because Bryce never says things like "meant to." We are not "everything happens for a reason" people, but it did seem like this particular walk in this particular cemetery allowed us to explore our own grief together, our own loss of potential, our lack of a stationary sort of public monument to it, but also the potential that we still hold even though it feels so very far away. It brought all that close to us, in a moment we experienced AT THE SAME TIME, which doesn't happen often anymore. It deepened our conversations about our own long and arduous quest for parenthood, one that we never ever imagined would still be incomplete and conceptual only, seven years later.
It was not an easy walk, but it was the walk that we needed to take. Which is like so many things in life, right? Necessary, and challenging, and not at all easy.