Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.
– Rumi, A Great Wagon
“I’ve been to three party supply stores and this is all I could find. I know you wanted more, but I hope this is alright.”
My mom hands me five heart-shaped Mylar balloons and averts her eyes as I tie them to the bag of supplies I’ve gathered.
“It’s ok. This is fine.”
“I tried, honey. You know he is still going to love that you’re doing this for him, even if it isn’t just as you imagined.”
It has been exactly one year since my husband, Kristian, died in a helicopter crash, and I am met with the remnants of the hot July evening that indelibly changed the course of my life. This isn’t my first “memorial day” rodeo. I think back to last year and the awkward two-step of figuring out whether we were supposed to do anything when March 10th rolled around, to mark one year since my father’s passing from brain cancer. Kristian, my mom, and I ultimately settled on watching the DVD of his funeral, sobbing between shots of Jameson thrown back in his honor. Figuring out how I was expected to feel and behave on July 1st seemed like a much more arduous and critical task. There is no manual for memorializing your young, dead husband, especially when there are still zero answers on why he is gone in the first place.
I load the balloons, a bunch of candles, a letter I had written, flowers, and one of the poster board photos from his funeral display into the back of my car. My mom gets in, and for a moment I wish I were making the drive alone. She holds a map of the crash site the investigators had given to me; a crude Google printout marked with GPS coordinates and a red dot near the upper right corner.
The drive from Portland to Newberg is quiet, and the weather is similar to this same night last year. It was unseasonably hot for Oregon, still 95 degrees during their 10:00 p.m. takeoff, a full moon illuminating the empty field below. Perfect conditions for night flying, for learning how the instruments looked in the dark while still being able to visually assess altitude. I imagine the moon lighting up his face, his child-like smile at being in the cockpit, pure joy that could only come with being a bird for a small moment in time.
Evergreen rolling hills turn to charred wheat fields dotted with deciduous trees, the road narrows as the turns become sharper and more frequent. I check the GPS as we make our way closer to the airpark. I turn up the radio to drown out my constant inner vacillation. Kristian is speaking to me a lot lately, so I should have almost expected to hear one of our songs come through the speakers. The pulsing beat of “Moth’s Wings," one of the more important songs on the soundtrack to our love story, pumps through the car as I approach the field. I guess he knows I’m close. I hastily change the station and my mom reaches to squeeze my hand.