My strongest memory is of carrying my dead son to the hearse. It is the last time I pick him up and I immediately think of the pieta artworks, but I’m not Mary and Oliver is not Christ. His death does not save the world. He is just a little boy. Six years old. Plus, Jesus always looks so limp in the artwork and Oliver’s body is already stiffening. He weighed so little alive it is amazing that death makes him lighter.
They park the hearse in the back to avoid disturbing the neighbors with the sight of a dead child. It makes him harder to get out of the house since I have to manage more corners. First, into the kitchen. Right, into the short passage to the back porch. Left, out the back door. Down the steps. U-turn down the gravel path. I carry him more carefully than I’ve carried anything. I’m not worried about scrapping the walls. I’m worried I will hurt him.
When I turn down the path I realize the hearse does not look like a hearse. It’s a black station wagon. The back door is open and the stretcher is ready. It has white sheets and a pillow. Amazingly, he has become stiffer in this quick journey. Can that happen in such a short time? I gently place him on the stretcher. His head on the pillow. He is no longer in my grasp.
We place Miss Quackers next to him. His constant companion. A stuffed animal to be cremated with him. I kiss his forehead and then step back as they slide him into the car and close the door. Gently. And then drive off.
Eight years ago. Just minutes ago. Time does not touch some memories.