Unlike the rest of the family, I very rarely visit P's niche at the cemetery. I've been two or three times since the interment, but it isn't a meaningful place for me. I don't feel any closer to him there. If anything, I feel less close than I do at other times and in other places. P's ashes may be there in the wall, but he -- the real he -- is not. Nothing there has anything to do with P as I knew him, P who could draw and play the guitar, who collected comics and once wanted to grow up to be Steve Austin.
I felt the same way about his body and the coffin during the long, long viewing and funeral process. Other people wanted to touch him in the coffin and to caress the wood of the lid after it was closed, and I understood that desire on an intellectual level, but I didn't share it. I did touch him once or twice, to be sure, and it only confirmed what I already felt. The body was his, but it wasn't him. I'd known since the moment I found him that he wasn't inside that body anymore, and I had no sense that he was anywhere near it, either: not around the coffin or in the viewing room or even in the funeral home.
It seemed particularly inappropriate to think that P of all people would linger around his body, because in life he hadn't liked it very much. He loathed his physical limitations, his thinness, his clubbed fingers, his surgical scars, the lump of his pacemaker. He always felt ugly, even though he wasn't, and went overboard with grooming and dressing nicely in an attempt to compensate. I can only suppose that feeling the way he did about his body, he never looked back once he was free of it. He wanted to be free of it. He told me so himself, the night before he died, and whatever he may or may not have known about what was coming, he absolutely meant what he said.
So I rarely go to the cemetery, but that doesn't mean I don't think of P. I think of him every day, all the time. So many things remind me of him: of some favorite phrase or joke or moment we spent together. And knowing P the way I did, I think that would mean more to him than a weekly pilgrimage to a niche in a concrete wall. When he was alive, he didn't visit graves or lay down flowers for people who had died, but he always, always remembered them. His only fear about dying himself was that he'd somehow lose his memories of me and G -- "I don't want to forget you," he said. And he wouldn't want to be forgotten.
You can rest easy, P. I remember.