Margaret’s Pinwheels

I’m not sure when we started putting pinwheels on Margaret’s grave. Maybe it’s more of a mom thing than a Margaret thing. I don’t remember my sister having a particular liking for pinwheels. She liked kittens and puppies and small children. Playing teacher and office and library. Going sledding with friends and to the mall with me. At some point after we buried her shell in the Charleston Four Corners Cemetery, we started putting pinwheels on her grave every year.

Maybe Nancy started it. She was almost the same age as Margaret, and they went to school together for a little while. When Nancy’s young son’s body was crushed by a train, they put it in the cemetery near Margaret. Nancy would bring a little toy to lay on Eli’s stone and sometimes she’d put something, a flower or a toy, on Margaret’s grave, kind of a remembrance, like Jewish pebbles. I know she has put a pinwheel or two there over the years, but I’m not sure if she started it and we copied her or was it the other way around.

This year I found a yellow (my mother’s favorite color) tulip pinwheel at Dollar Tree. Mom will love it. If Margaret could look down from heaven and see it, would she like it? She could be sharp-tongued, telling the nurses to mind themselves, don’t bump the bed, that hurts. But she was careful of our mother’s feelings, even to the point of delaying her death.

“Mrs. Smith, there’s no physical, logical, medical reason for your daughter to be alive at this point.” The doctor may have been trying to be gentle, but there is no gentle way to say those words. “We think she may be hanging on for your sake.”

Oh. That’s tough. Why not just say “It’s your fault she’s suffering?” “You have to let her go.” What kind of words are those for the mother of a young teen who hasn’t even begun to live?

Sitting by the bedside holding her hand, Mom lied like a soldier before a hopeless battle. “Margaret, you can go. I’ll be alright.” It was years before she was alright. Baby steps. Finally getting out of bed because her eight year old needed her, sitting by the side of the road sobbing with her surviving daughter because neither of them could see enough to drive, watching people at church avoid her because they didn’t know what to say.

Now her twelve year old granddaughter loves to pull out Margaret’s journals and poetry, read them aloud, try her hand at writing poetry “like Aunt Margaret’s”. It’s beginning to be okay.

Eli’s tiny sister is grown now. She graduates from high school this year. She goes with Nancy and the three siblings born since Eli’s death to the cemetery when they can. It’s less often now, since they’ve moved away. I wonder if she tells him about her plans? It must have been tough on her that first year, going back and forth with her parents from the funeral planning to the hospital where their eldest brother clung to life, not finding out he’d lost his best friend until the doctors thought he could handle it. He’s married now, to a slender pretty girl loved by his whole family. It’s going to be okay.

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