I visited the national cemetery that holds my father's remains. I had not returned since the day of the ceremony. I felt no guilt at that, taking so long to visit. As I told my mother, that place is not him. The house holds him. My memories hold him. The beach reminds me more of my father than the sacred ground of heroes on Pensacola Naval Air Station.
As I held my children's hands in the waves of the Gulf of Mexico this past week, I again felt the rough skin of his palm on my hand. I heard his directions about the current, the pull of the waves, and the way to avoid the froth of the wave tops. When I told my mother, she rubbed her hand as her own memory, the ghost of his hand, supplied the sandpaper of his grip. Ask my sister. She feels it, too. We have no need to visit a square of marble. He hovers around us daily.
Atop the engraved marble cover sat a quarter. A quick glance revealed that other niches had coins resting on the edges. I wondered what that meant besides that someone had come to my father's final resting place.
As I searched online later, I realized that the significance varies. Pebbles are left atop the graves of Jews to show that the family remembers and that someone had visited. Truly showing the beauty of the internet collective, a Flickr group discussed this practice of leaving coins.
Payment to cross in the underworld of the dead? Pennies from Heaven? Showing someone's worth? Or simply leaving what you have with you? To whomever, thank you for remembering my father.