Today I went to visit Matthew's grave. I go about once a month for my friend, who has to be out-of-state for her husband's military assignment. I didn't go before she moved away; I never felt the need to. I always thought of Matthew as being in Heaven.
Two things struck me today. The first is that I felt so sad when, as I was winding my way through the pretty grounds, I recognized Matthew's grave from far off. It just seems wrong, somehow, to visit him there and to be so familiar that I can spot his little headstone and bench from around the bend in the cemetery. Yet at the same time, I was comforted that I could see it, know where I was, know where he was, because, despite my wishing it were different, this is where he is on earth, and I want to visit him.
The other thing hit me tonight as I uploaded and forwarded the photos I took for his mother: I don't remember Matthew by the photos of him. I think of him as the photos I've taken of his grave since I started visiting in June. That is disturbing. I don't like it. So I called up my "Angel" folder and looked at the pictures of him that I gathered that first year: Matthew alive, his eyes open; Matthew alive, being held by his father and prayed over by friends and family; Matthew gone, held by his father, grieved by so many; the photos taken by Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, so beautiful; Matthew's casket, too small; the mark of an angel's wing on the church sidewalk; his marker at the cemetery on a cold day in January; his headstone. Then the card sent out to mark his birthday: "One year ago, our lives were blessed with an amazing miracle. We will never be the same, but are so much better for the blessing of his life. Thank you for loving him with us." And more bittersweet, with the photos of him, his feet: "...Matthew... 11/28/09 - 11/29/09 Our Gift from God." There he was. Matthew.
I love that boy.