Why we visit the cemetery

Autumn is here. The trees are starting to change color and everywhere we turn there are pumpkins and signs of Halloween.
This is a beautiful time of year, a vibrant season of abundance and color. It’s also the season when we said goodbye to our nephew and cousin Georgie two years ago when he was stillborn at 34 weeks.
I’m not surprised that when Daniel and I stop at the grocery store for something else, our 5-year-old is the one who suggests we should pick out a pumpkin to put at Georgie’s grave. Then he picks a little balloon on a stick and a bouquet of dyed daisies.
At the cemetery we park in our usual spot and walk to Georgie’s grave.
We talk to God. We talk to Georgie. We talk to each other.
We make sure Georgie’s grave looks beautiful. Daniel fills the vase with water, places the pumpkin just so, and he asks me to take a picture of it for his aunt and uncle. We know that even if they happen to visit tomorrow the flowers might be eaten. And we want them to know how lovely it looks right now.

We watch a man sitting near a grave not too far away. He looks sad, and Daniel wants to know why. So we talk quietly about why he might be sad.
We are sad, too. We miss Georgie. We also feel honored to have a special friend—a family member—in heaven. We talk about how he must watch his cousins play and think what fun it will be for him to meet them one day.
A few years ago I didn’t imagine making the cemetery a regular stop for our family. In fact, I didn’t bring our boys to Georgie’s burial because I thought it might be too distressing. But since then we have come many, many times.
The cemetery is a place where we feel very close to Georgie. It’s a place where we talk about dying and heaven and love and family and God and life and sorrow and joy. It’s a place of sadness, but it’s also a place of comfort and peace.
We have good conversations here. Our children aren’t afraid to talk about death. They know that death is a gateway to life in heaven. And, although they still feel cheated that Georgie is in heaven and not here—because cousins are just so much fun—they feel so connected to him. And I am so very grateful for that.
Georgie has a baby sister now. We love her dearly. She’s almost 1 and she thinks our boys are terrific, which they are. Our boys, though, never forget her big brother—and I imagine they will help her remember him, too. They are the ones who during prayers ask God to give Georgie a hug from us.
As we climb back into the car, I glance back at the little painted pumpkin we placed on the grave. At the store Daniel had asked me to lift him up so he could pick just the right one—and he found it.
“This one,” he said. “He’s looking up to heaven.”
So he is. And so are we.

If you are interested in reading more about Georgie:

Missing Baby Georgie

A Visit to the Cemetery

20 ways to support loved ones as they grieve the loss of a baby

A Book to Remember Baby Georgie

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.