I sit here searching the depths of my sorrow. Confined in a dungeon against my will. The fission of my heart has lead me to this place. It wasn’t a clean cut. No, the jagged tear of my beating heart is from top to bottom. This prison, It’s a forsaken place with cold stone walls and miles of hallway to nowhere. I know because I walked every one of them searching for answers. Moisture from the earth above has penetrated and seeped through the rock. Every few seconds the sound of new mineral laden water drops strike the floor with precision from above shattering the cold silence. There’s very little light to speak of from one small window with thick iron bars. Slowly dragging my palm and fingers along the cold stone. Broken chains and shackles from long ago litter the dark earthen floor. What does it all mean. As I wander with one had on the wall, my fingertips fall into each valley between the stone where cold mortar rests. Rough to the touch I push on to feel every stone. To wonder what it’s like on the outside. Searching for warmth and signs of life I find the only window is out of my reach. Dappled sunlight wars to enter, barely enough to cast a shadow. I stretch my hand up to reach the light if only for a moment for relief but I am met with disappointment each time as I extend on the balls of my feet to be reminded it’s not for me. Crouching to my knees with one hand extended onto the wall, my head lowers to find rest on my outstretched arm. Mercy is not found in this wretched place but I continue to look for it.
I wrote the above the evening of Friday December 26, 2014. It would be the next day on Saturday that my wife and I would pick out a headstone for my son Caleb. We were invited over to a friends house for the evening on Friday but as the time got closer to leave, the storm clouds of my thoughts were getting deeper and I had absolutely zero desire to be around anyone. In the last few minutes before we were set to leave, I found myself on the couch with my arm over my face and the back of my head wedged back against the arm and cushion. If I could disappear into the couch, I would have. I asked that Tiffany go on without me. I had few days and I kept finding myself in an off and on funk. I tried to paint a picture with my words of what I was feeling but it still doesn’t fit right. Even now as I continue my thoughts, I still try to find words to describe where I was that evening.
Saturday would come and the morning came with just as much weight as the night before. Having to pass through another unknown door. We were focused but the closer we got, the more real our situation became. Talking briefly in the days before, we knew we had to do this and it was just finding the right time to do it. Being price conscious, I mentioned, “do we shop around?” The thought though of prolonging this task lead me to go a place I hear on the local radio often and Tiffany really had no stomach for shopping around. I still had no reference and no experience in picking headstones and Google searches really didn’t do it for me either. After years of hearing ads on the radio, I felt comfortable going to Earl Wenz Inc. in Breinigsville, PA.
I work in Breinigsville and it just seemed right. I only had a mental picture of what this place might be like after years of ads on 790 AM and as we approached and pulled into the driveway, the picture did not match at all with my mental image. There weren’t any parking spaces per say, just a horse shoe stone drive with some puddles scattered about. The property was strewn with stones of all types. I pulled to the side of the driveway and parked. I quickly turned my head and surveyed the lot to digest my first impressions. Because it wasn’t at all like I had imagined, I was a little apprehensive. The business is run out of what seems like a very old house that was converted to be used as office space and very dated from the outside. We guessed what door was the entrance and slowly approached on the old concrete sidewalk. It was warm morning. Almost spring like for being early winter on the calendar. Tiffany knocked and the front door quickly opened and we were greeted by Bill Wenz. He invited us in with a warm smile. After our pleasantries, we were invited into his office.
Tiffany and I were already on edge. This was a big moment for us. We had no idea what to expect and there was certainly and awkwardness about our situation. There wasn’t really any easy way to say why we were there. Had it been for an elderly aging parent or grandparent who past away and had lived a full life, it may have been a bit different than to have to say we were there to pick a stone for our son who tragically past away at just 18 months of age. Even as I type these very words, it’s still hard to believe it’s true. I still have this weird hope I am just in a wicked bad dream and will wake up soon. Anyway, our passage through this next door had already begun and we began to tell our story. After telling Bill about Caleb and our ideas, he wanted to show us some example stones and what he had in mind. The three of us went outside to walk the property. He first took us to a heart stone with a teddy bear wrapped around it. Honestly the whole teddy bear thing did not do it for us. We had something else in mind.
Tiffany began to mention she liked the heart shape but not the bear. She began to tell Bill about her new affinity for hearts since Caleb passed and why she only wears socks with hearts on them. I wasn’t totally familiar with the story but as Tiffany began to describe it, her well filled and began to spill out down her cheeks and onto the ground along with my tears as well. It was an emotional moment. I would like to detail that story in another blog post but as for now we were still on the hunt for the right stone. We continued for some time and found another standalone heart stone that both caught our attention. It was black. We told Bill we really liked it and all but decided that was the one. Bill led us back into the office where we would spend a lot of time discussing options. In that discussion, we talked about the size. The one that we liked was a bit big for one plot. When we told Bill we bought plots on either side of Caleb, he brought up doing one stone for the three of us. This idea intrigued us and continued to explore that option with some custom ideas that Bill would sketch on paper. After several iterations and hours later, we decided on a stone design.
Bill also took us to his shop on the property where all the stone work is done to show us other examples and also the process by which our stone would follow. It was a great moment to actually have a decision made. Bill was great and made the process easier than we thought it might be. He thoughtfully answered all our questions and I am glad we pushed past our initial apprehensions because Bill in my opinion really hit it out of the park. He obviously has very talented artist on staff and I am confident our stone for Caleb will be nothing less than perfect. We wanted something that stood out because of the location where Caleb is buried. There is unobstructed view down the main center isle of the cemetery to Caleb’s resting place and we wanting him to stand out from the rest without being obnoxious in such a small church cemetery. No, it’s not super huge but does need a cement footer. I think the base is just over 5 ft long. I will post pictures when I have them and the stone should be set in the May-June time frame of 2015.
I’ve felt much better since that day. My spirits have been better and without any depression. I think this process was a bug weight lifted off of our shoulders and the next step in our healing process. I can’t say what other people do and or how soon is too soon but we waited a little over two months to get this done and probably would have done it sooner but we had financial obligations to get out of the way and other time constraints. I’m glad we are past this step and I am please so far with our experience with Earl Wenz Inc. I will report back with any updates and will add them to the end of this blog post and perhaps have a standalone post once the stone is set with pictures.
I keep looking up and continue to praise God for all he is doing in our lives. We continue to be refined and continue to covet your prayers. It’s currently New Years Eve and we are looking forward to a bright new year and a fresh start. Our next big milestone will be April 6th, 2015… Caleb’s birthday.