Today is three years since Tom died. It feels like longer and sometimes it feels like less. The grief is not nearly as heavy and sharp as it was the first year. The year of firsts is the hardest of all. And for a while I thought letting him go would be about the sadness fading as the years go by. But it is not just that. I did not count on the new things that would hurt. Watching our son grow and knowing that Tom is missing it. This summer my brave sweet boy conquered new challenges. And each time he swam without a float, jumped off the dock, rode in the tube behind the boat I caught myself wishing Tom could see. Wishing he could share in the celebration that is in each milestone of raising a child. And as Keegan grows up his relationship with his father changes too. He still has those memories of moments with his father. But he also seems to be seeking something else. He talks about God. Despite the fact that we are not raising him with a formal religion he chooses to believe. He asks about angels. He believes in magic. He wanted to know if I believe in what Buddha believes. That people come back and have many lives. All I can offer him is the space to explore his beliefs and a hazy picture of my faith. And I can offer him the chance to say goodbye.
After I had scattered a third of Tom's ashes in Alaska in May 2007, Keegan and I talked and he asked to be a part of coming to Vermont with me to scatter the last. I knew he meant it but I wanted to wait until he was old enough to remember it later. With the anniversary coming I decided this was the year. This past Friday we took Tom's ashes to Vermont. I asked my mom to come because I felt I needed the extra support. We took Tom to the mountains where he learned to snowboard and where we spent many weekends year round. We also brought Pepper's ashes because she had always loved it there. Keegan showed some anxiety before we left and was worried about being too sad. I told him it was okay to be sad but also be happy we could say goodbye and put his daddy in a place he loved. We had lunch and he swam in the clubhouse pool before we headed over to the gondola. He chose the gondola with the design he liked and loved the ride up. Once at the top we took a hiking path to be up higher and also away from other people. We scattered Pepper first so I could show him how and we would both be ready for Tom. After scattering Pepper I asked if he wanted to find another spot. Keegan assured me that Tom would have wanted to be near Pepper. Keegan scattered Tom's ashes and kept repeating, "Goodbye daddy, goodbye daddy." And the calm and strength I had been hoping for all day was with me through it all. So I was able to be there for Keegan in the moment and not crying. I took pictures of the spot and also of the trail sign so that Keegan can have a reminder and go back if he ever wants to. Then went to the observation deck and had ice cream. And we put quarters in the viewer and took in the beauty of the mountains. Driving home I felt like we spent the day exactly how we should have and it was a truly special thing to have shared with my son.