December 28 is Ashley's birthday. We acknowledged the day and paid homage to her too-brief life by visiting her resting place. Ashley is buried in a hillside cemetery beside the Catholic Church. Her grave sits beneath a towering pine. Close by are the tiny plots of three infants, a poignant reminder that we had her for 18 years.
A cement retaining wall surrounds the grave and a cross is carved into the steepest facing. Her grandfather has filled the shallow bay atop the grave with shards of Mariposite, gray-green rock with a dull sheen. A headstone of dark granite is in the making and water has puddle in the place where it will sit—like a collection of the tears that won't stop flowing. Family and friends have left keepsakes and memorials at the grave. Her grandmother made a heart wreath of ivy with a ceramic angel at the base. For Christmas, her mom placed a small potted cedar on the grave and decorated it with ornaments. Little pumpkins sit on each corner of the enclosure, placed there back in October for Halloween. Someone has piled white rocks and a baseball cap on the steep downhill side of the grave, and candy kisses, artificial flowers (that the deer won't eat), and other mementos adorn the uphill side.
Snowfall had blanketed some of the graves when we visited, but Ashley's is protected by the spreading limbs of the pine from seasonal assaults. Pewter clouds hung heavy and low, attesting to the weight of our loss. We stood huddled together in coats and gloves to ward off the 38 degree cold, silently remembering and wishing it weren't so.