Travels with Charlize, in search of living alone

Dr. David Gross
Dr. David Gross

Part 35: A Headstone

Wednesday was not a good day. It was time to do something about arrangements for a headstone for Rosalie. It seems nothing about losing a loved one is easy or simple. It has been eight months and I finally felt capable of dealing with this last, I hope, detail. I made some phone calls and found out what needed to be done.

First, the name of a reliable place to purchase the stone. I made a choice from two suggested and drove to the store to pick out a stone that will serve for both of us. My resting place will be on the same side of her as the way we slept for close to 53 years.

The first hitch in the process was that the place that sells the stones and carves the inscription doesn’t sell stones directly for people buried in the cemetery where Rosalie rests. I had to transact the purchase through the cemetery.

Another phone call and I arranged to meet the manager of the cemetery. After I arrived at his office, he handed me two books. One full of various designs and fonts for the inscription and another with various symbols to adorn the stone with. There were way too many choices. Eventually I just made them; Rosalie won’t know and I don’t really care.

But I wasn’t done. I had to make decisions about how I wanted our names inscribed. Should I have them put on Rosalie’s full middle name or just the initial, should I use her given name, Rose, or use the name she always used, should I use her maiden name?

The cemetery manager could see I was struggling and getting more upset. I imagine I wasn’t the first person he had shepherded through this process.

“Don’t worry,” he assured me, “just put it in they way you are most happy with today. I’ll send you a draft of what it will all look like and you can discuss it with your family and make changes anytime before they actually carve it.”

Next we went to the grave site to make certain the manager would place the stone correctly and to make yet another decision; I had to choose between a concrete base and a granite base for the stone to be set on. He showed me an older grave where the concrete base was starting to disintegrate and one of about the same age where the granite was still pristine. Another several hundred dollars for the granite base.

I only visited her grave three times prior to this, all in the weeks shortly after her death. During those visits the replaced turf had not taken hold and her grave site was clearly visible. After a wet spring and mild summer I was not prepared to see the struggling, brown-tinged turf that still clearly delineated her grave. I apologized to Rosalie, silently, and communicated my disappointment and displeasure to the manager, aloud.

During all of this, Charlize was in the back of Old Blue. When we finally got home, she knew I was upset and stayed very close, trying to let me know she was there for me and that everything would work out.

Rosalie often complained that I didn’t talk to her enough. Now I find myself talking to her presence in the house while Charlize cocks her head and listens intently, without judgment. I feel Rosalie is more of a presence in the house than she is in that small plot of ground, so I apologized again for the state of her grave. I promised to make certain that situation is rectified.

I’m still searching for a shred of humor in all of this.

After his losing his wife of 52 years to cancer, Dr. David Gross has embarked on an extended road trip with his new dog, Charlize, and is writing about his experiences.


  1. Thank you for sharing your struggles during the journey that many of us will eventually share. I appreciate your perspective, and I am sure your Rosalie would be proud.

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