I stopped going to funerals when Vietnam ended. I buried far too many young men. We lost six, including Kim Fish our star trumpet player, to a drunk driver. Those funerals nearly ended me, and I swore, at the ripe old age of 21 that I would bury no more young men.
My step-son was murdered in 1999. I had to make an exception to my rule because I loved him. It was six or seven months after his funeral that I was clearing out old magazines when his Mother’s Day card to me fell out. I lay on the floor weeping until I could no longer breathe. That’s the thing about grief, not only are you destroyed but crying so hard you wish to dissolve into your tears only fills your sinuses with cement so you cannot breathe.
Now a young man of 30 has fallen to his death. Ten stories up, washing windows, something went horribly wrong. His father was Tim Sargent, my husband’s younger brother. I know I should go, but God forgive me I can’t. I have only one funeral left in me and it is my own.
It is selfish of me, I know, to hold to that long ago vow to bury no more young men. I have tried to convince myself I could go to just one more, but thoughts of falling ten stories, it takes several seconds, bring me to my knees. I would be just another burden in an already crushing event.
Grief is exhausting. I know this from far too much personal experience. I will mourn another young man, quietly. I will wish once again that I could take his place, just as I wanted so much to take my son’s place. But almost every mother in the world would gladly make that exchange even for a child not her own.
If you wonder where I am, I will be on the floor. I weep quietly and somehow survive the exhaustion that comes with grief.
It is all over the news, at least here in California, the Butte fire has doubled and doubled again. I can see the dragon’s breath from my driveway and it breaks my heart. The state seems to be on fire. People and animals desperate to escape the monster fires. I call it a dragon, I do know it is not real, but the flames grow and devour everything like a monstrous beast.
The results of a state on fire can be seen in many ways. The wild animals are forced into more populated areas and are not just in danger for their lives but for the humans they come in contact with. I nearly stepped on a rattlesnake yesterday. It was small, maybe eight or nine inches. How it came to be on my patio is a mystery. It was not there when I went out to collect the clothes off of the line. The Marine I married, picked it up with tongs and took it out to the field behind our house. I am not brave when it comes to snakes. I will endure days of labor to have a baby and think nothing of it, but a snake in my yard is way beyond my limits.
Now there is another fire in Lake County. They say it will rain, they just don’t say when. They say we will have floods and mudslides in the burn zones. Crap, half the state is a burn zone and the other half is dead because we don’t water and our yards are dead. I fight a daily battle to keep my trees going and my small flower bed alive. Buckets of shower water and a midnight sprinkle once a week. I say ‘midnight’ because water shaming is also a by-product of this historic drought. It was wonderful to see the firefighters pumping water out of swimming pools to defend against the dragon. Seems the water for their pools folk is coming in handy after all.
I have no point to this post. If I were to make a point it would be that there are very, very brave men and women out there fighting a dragon of a fire. The Rough fire has been burning for six weeks and is never more than 20% contained, there’s a dragon that will not be stopped. These men and women are true heroes and I pray every night for their safe return to their homes. So pray in any way that you wish, that the dragon does not devour our firefighters and ask any deity for rain in California. It is our only hope.