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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Hardest Goodbye (Part 1)



There is nothing more numbing than the period of time between a death and the viewing/service.  It's this haze where time stands still, and you are in, what the Mr. calls, the funeral bubble.  Life is going on around you, people have said their "I'm sorry for your loss," and you're just left suspended in time. The night before her showing, I wanted to watch the pilot episode of Six Feet Under and told the Mr. I needed the weird comfort The Fishers brought.  It did too.  I could laugh and focus on things to see if there was anything I could take forward into the hell that could be the next day.  I had to laugh when I saw some random woman come up to Nate at the viewing of their father and say "he's in a much better place now" and he sarcastically snapped back " you are SO RIGHT about that!"  I know I'm weird, but it was what I needed at the time.

The family is allowed to arrive an hour before the showings to have their time to get everything out, so they don't make a scene in front of others be with the deceased.  When we walked in, her husband had just been seated beside her, and he was starting to cry.  Nope. I'm not ready for that, so the Mr and I grabbed the memory boards and stood them on the easels the funeral chick brought in.  We set up some artwork she did for her daughters and looked at the memory boards.  As cousins arrived and made their way around the room, we would chat and share stories.  Then the tears would come.  I was very strong for the first portion and spent a lot of my time comforting my middle cousin and her daughter.  She was the first great-grandchild so she knew Grandma the most out of all of them and she was sobbing uncontrollably most of the day.  Her younger brother was probably about 4 when she was first diagnosed, so he probably has a few good memories of her before she started having real problems.  I made my way closer to the casket, and Grandma looked beautiful.  The funeral home did such a good job on her, they made her almost look completely like her old self.  After seeing her hair and the skeletal appearance a few hours before she died, I thought there was no way she'd ever look like that again.  I even wondered if she looked the way she did the last time we saw her if they would decide to do a closed casket.  What I didn't anticipate was with them restoring her appearance, it made it 100x harder because it was like "wait, that's the old her, I want her back!"  The ravages of the disease had been almost erased, and they brought back the woman my heart remembered.  We met the minister who was 20 years retired and barely able to stand even with his walker.  We got the order of the service the next day down which was I would do the eulogy, and my cousin would sing.  He mixed up our names, and I laughed and said "funny Grandma" because she and I looked alike as babies (even though we're 17 years apart) and she would sometimes call us by each others name.  It was a cute thing...until it wasn't but that comes later.

As people came in for the early showing, we did see people we didn't expect to see and some people we hoped would come, didn't...just as I suspected.  I saw my favorite inappropriate second cousin and his parents.  My great aunt always gives the best hugs (us cousins took a poll, and it was confirmed) and being enveloped by her brought great comfort.  But it was also exhausting, and the flats I was wearing had zero support in them so after an hour, my feet were searing with pain, and I thought at least I'd be able to sit soon.  Nope.  It'd only been 55 minutes, and we had just over an hour to go.  All of us cousins groaned at the time check because we said we were all wearing uncomfortable shoes and laughed.  My MIL came which was nice, and I felt bad I didn't get to talk to her very long before someone else came up to me.  She, unfortunately, brought her brother who tried to start sh*t with the Mr because you know, a viewing is an appropriate place for that.  When I was told about even a fraction of what was said, I was ready for a cage match.  It's the worst effing day of my life, (not like he said anything to me other than "hey, how's it going") give me a reason old man and I was pissed that either of our attention was deflected on such a walking POS.  As I said yesterday, people will say things that'll make you want to slap them, and a welt mark across his face was well deserved.  Anyway.  It was nice to see so many of my mom and aunt's friends come to lend their support and condolences.  When it was "halftime", we all kind of went our separate ways.  We had stuff to get for a gathering we were having Easter Sunday and wanted to just chill a bit, watch episode two of SFU while we ate the lasagna I had in the Hot Logic while we were gone.  The Mr said he was amazed at how I was keeping it together.  When we went back about 15 minutes before the next service, most of us grandkids and great grandkids were by her casket.  Her husband was saying how he could see her breathing and how hard she struggled to breathe in those last days.  It was not something that should've been said in front of the little kids because it really upset them and I cried comforting some of them.  We all stood there, arm in arm locked like a fortress around her.  It wasn't enough time because before we knew it, people were pouring in for the after work session and we were still composing ourselves.

My friend whom we got together with a few weeks prior came and I was surprised because she doesn't usually do these types of events.  So it was good to get to just hang out and talk because I didn't know as many people at this showing oddly enough.  As we were talking, the Mr alerted me to the presence of my former friend and maid of honor at our wedding.  She was now one of my aunt's best friends.  Long story.  The Mr asked what we should do and wanted to bust into her conversation.  He has this thing where if he feels he's being avoided, he wants to get in their face to show we're the bigger people or something.  I have no desire.  I told him if she wanted to talk to me, she would...and she did.  I haven't seen her in 19 years, and it wasn't awkward which was nice.  She actually thanked me for getting her job and said that we were still "old friends."  No lunch plans were made.  ;-)  We looked around at the flowers and were all kind of bookmarking which ones we wanted.  I wanted the ones my best friend sent, and the MIL made it known she asked for Hawaiian flowers in her arrangement so we knew we should take those.  A very dear friend of Grandma told me a story that I felt Grandma wanted others to hear.  So I told myself if I had the strength or opportunity, I would work it in the next day.  That showing went by much quicker, and before we knew it, it was getting dark, and we all headed out. 

A dear friend of ours lost his grandpa a few hours before we lost Grandma.  He was going to be in town for the funeral, and I told him if he had some time even just for a quick hug, let us know.  He asked if I would have any time Sunday even though it was Easter,  I told him that was fine because we planned on still celebrating Easter even though my family canceled ours so would he like to come over for Easter lunch.  He said yes, and his brother would be with him if that's okay.  It was, and there was something about knowing that us grandkids were all going through the same thing that made me feel good about my first "hosting" of an official holiday.  Even though he doesn't really celebrate Easter, at the prospect of all of us not having a holiday, our grandparents would ensure we did.  So I got to making as much ahead as I could.  For the next day's "after party," I was asked to bring my cheeseball, and since I already had the ingredients since I bought it originally for Easter, I didn't mind.  Knowing my family the way I do, I thought I should make something chocolatey, so I grabbed a box of fudge cake mix and fudge frosting from the basement, made a batch of homemade peanut butter frosting and filled chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting which is the ultimate comfort food of my people.  I think I was done with all of that stuff and cleaning up by around 11pm and then the Mr and I talked until about 1am before heading to bed.  We had a big day ahead of us the next day and should attempt sleep.

I woke up the next morning around 6:30am unable to sleep.  I flipped through my phone to read stories or check email, anything to distract me.  I told the Mr to just get us McDonald's for breakfast because I had no desire to cook anything or clean it up.  We ate while we watched our third episode of Six Feet Under.  I could tell the Mr was like "is this a good idea?" but it was fine.  Again, just something else to focus on and that episode had nothing to do with what we were going through at that point.  When my grandpa was dying, he asked me to do his eulogy, but grandma hadn't because to her, she wasn't sick.  I had something written in case the family didn't mind if I said something but I wasn't going to force it.  They were glad when I did have something and offered it up the night she passed.  I began getting little jitters of the eulogy I had to read.  It wasn't that I didn't like what I wrote, it was that in the end, its a lot of pressure to sum up someone's whole life.   I would have no idea just how much until halfway through her service.

For the sake of your eyes, the funeral post will be tomorrow.


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4 comments:

  1. I'm glad you are recapping this here because it's already such a blur now for me. You get to that point where you feel you've been drained of all the emotional currency you have left and then you are suddenly expected to just move on and get back to work and the routine. What if we're not ready for that?

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  2. I am so sorry for your loss.

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  3. I remember being in that numb state and I actually welcomed it because it required nothing from me. I just had to be on auto-pilot to get dressed and do those functions. And I think numbness is a protective device that gets us through the worst of the part we have to do, such as the readings, the greetings of family and friends. I've often felt like I was outside myself watching me interact with people and wondering who I was. You describe the day so perfectly it's like we're all there with you, experiencing every emotion. Very powerful.

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  4. I remember that numb state too. Mostly because I’m still in it some days. My dad passed in January from dementia. Glad he doesn’t have to live with that anymore but dang I miss him. He was only in a home for 5 weeks. During that time he threw a tv at a nurse, tried to climb into the tv, went through a window trying to escape... worst time of my life, ever. Thought there’d be drama at the memorial and was glad there wasn’t. There’s been plenty since though:( we will get through this, moment by moment some days.

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