It was so cold that day. At first I thought it was because I felt so numb, so alone, how could I possibly feel anything else? Standing graveside in that cemetery I found myself wishing that some sniper would choose that moment to target me, what did I have to live for? My life stood before me in those three white coffins, and nothing anyone could say to me could convince me that I wanted to be anywhere other than right there with them. It seemed only appropriate that there was no sunlight that day, it was almost as if the sun itself was mourning their losses. It snowed that day, icy tears carried on frozen winds, cutting into us as if they were tiny daggers, but only to wound us, not to kill.
The white coffins were so stark on that grey day, the only color the little tribute to each occupant that lay on top of them, roses for Danijela, a doll for Jasna, and a teddybear for my baby boy, Marko. It seemed cruel somehow to offer toys to my children, knowing that they would never again know the joy of playing with them, knowing that I would never again hear their laughter.
It was my choice to stand alone that day, it's a decision Danijela's parents never forgave me for, one my own family never fully understood. Maybe I was being selfish, but, how could I risk any of their lives by asking them to come to Vukovar, how could I take the chance of anyone else dying because of the choices I made?
The regrets are ones I still live with even after all these years, ones I revisit on the anniversaries of their deaths, ones that cost me any hope of a continued relationship with Danijela's family. They never forgave me the choices I made, never forgave me for stealing away the life of their youngest daughter, and the grandchildren they never knew. I couldn't know this though on that day, all I knew was that the future we had so looked forward to now was sealed tight in those three white coffins before me.
I wish I could tell you that the Priest said all the right things that day, but, in truth his words were lost to me, my grief so great that all I heard were the thoughts swirling around in my own head. And if I thought those moments were bad, they were only made worse when it came time to lower the coffins in the ground and I knew that my wife and my babies would forever beburied beneath mounds of earth. As irrational as it seems, as long as those coffins are standing in front of you can tell yourself there are hopes for a miracle, that somehow God can undo what has happened. Not so once those coffins are placed in the ground, as they disappeared from view, any hopes I might have had for it to be a dream were finally lost, it wasn't a dream.
I can't tell you how long I stood there after the Priest and those who had laid my family into the ground left, it wasn't like time had any meaning anymore. In my eyes, my life was over, everything that made me who I was had died, and all I wanted was to join them.