Fourteen of us have trailed behind the hospice bereavement coordinator and the chaplain, each holding blue and white helium balloons on ribbons that are tied together in a knot. We gather around them in the parking lot of the senior citizens center. It is warm, the sky is bright blue, and a breeze suddenly springs up to tug at the balloons.
The manager of hospice medical services comes with scissors and cuts a balloon free from the knot and hands one to each one of us. Our son had lovely blue eyes. I ask for a blue balloon. I will later realize that this was a mistake. I should have gotten white.
The chaplain and the bereavement coordinator speak a few words. The symbolism of releasing the balloons in connection with the death of our loved ones is obvious. We let our balloons go. The woman next to me says “The souls of our loved ones rising to heaven.”
They race up into sky climbing higher and higher. I am able to watch my balloon for quite a while, until the blue of the balloon blends with the blue sky and I can no longer see it. The white balloons remain visible.
The last time I cried was several weeks ago when I unexpectedly found the birthday card he gave me last year. The last birthday card I got from him. I will never get another birthday card from him.
I start to cry, again, as the balloon symbolizing our son fades into invisibility and I can no longer see it. I feel alone and isolated. And then the moment passes.
We return to the dining room. I visit a bit with the woman who was sitting next to me, whose son died of AIDS, and another woman whose son died of cancer, and another woman whose daughter died. I no longer feel so alone.
Eventually the balloons will pop and the shreds of rubber with the attached ribbon will fall back to earth as litter someplace. The bodies of our loved ones will eventually become dust or ashes, but least their souls will not end up as litter.