It was a cold, rainy November afternoon. The skies poured down relentless rain like the dark emotions that encompassed my spirit. I was determined to ride that day. The last time I had seen Ashley she said to me, “Uncle Scott, will you ride me on your bike some time?” We had had a short conversation at the local Kangaroo store in Dawsonville, Georgia. I nodded yes and pulled away. That day is burnt in my memory forever.
I barely made it through the memorial service. The slide show accompanied by music tortured me. I sobbed uncontrollably as I watched the pictures of my beautiful niece from birth until her 17th year. Then, it was time to go. The procession made its way from the church and I was determined to make the ride through the harsh cold and rain…Ashley`s last ride.
My mother, Ashley`s grandmother, was never the same. They were very close. In August of 2010, mother was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. I never knew a woman as tough as my mother. She was a hippie, a bar fighter, a biker chick, and a working woman that raised three kids on her own. The cancer moved into her bones. I remember the day the doctor told me her hip bone and lower back were like a two by four that had been eaten by termites. Her pain seemed unbearable. In the end, she was unable to clean herself after using the toilet. I imagined myself in such a position. Could I bear such a thing? She finally said to me, “Son, I want to go to hospice.” There I was, arguing with her about her life. Who was I to ask her, for my sake and the sake of the family, to try and continue the fight? “Mama, if you go to hospice you`ll die of staff infection, not cancer.” She had recently had surgery to remove a tumor and the cancer not only spread but she also contracted M.R.S.A., a really bad form of staff infection. She said, “Son, I just want to go to sleep until Jesus comes to get me.” How could I argue with that?
Mama requested to be cremated and buried on top of Ashley—right over Ashley`s heart.
I rode back one spring day to visit the graves of both my mother and Ashley. Ashley died in 2004, the day before Thanksgiving. She was a beautiful seventeen year old girl with all of life ahead of her. In a bad rain storm that fateful morning, her and her friend Amy, who was driving, hydroplaned into a van head on. Amy died on the scene and Ashley lived about 8 hours before her vitals were unable to be sustained. I watched my sister deal with the devastating reality of losing a child. +
Six years later, my mother went home as well. Like the old Pink Floyd song Time, I realized time was ticking away—“shorter of breath, and one day closer to death.” I was seeing myself begin to become the next in line. The patriarch of the family, when yesterday I was just a kid.
On that spring day, I realized I simply couldn’t bear to see the grave site ever again. I`m ashamed to say that I haven’t been back since. I guess I`d rather remember them alive. Life and death are divided by a thin veil. I cannot help but wonder if they can see me sometimes. I once feared death, I no longer do. That I cannot return to.