I hope everyone had a better 4th than we did.
On July 2, my grandmother’s birthday, we buried my grandpa. At first, we (meaning my mom and our husbands) were concerned about burying him that day and how it would affect her, but when we asked her if this would be okay she simply said, “He never really did anything special for my birthday. Now he has.”
Well okay then. (Gotta love grandma’s spunk!)
My mom, cousin and I all worked on gathering pictures for the funeral services. I spent hours upon hours going through photos, printing the digital ones from my laptop, and putting together four photo boards. It was definitely therapeutic for all of us and gave us something to do with our hands to keep our minds from going crazy.
Grandpa meets Desmond. This is the last photo of my grandpa.
The visitation on Sunday was lovely, other than the fact that my grandpa didn’t look anything like himself. We dressed him in the suit he wore to my wedding, which was apparently the last time he wore that suit because we found three copies of my wedding program in the jacket pocket. My mom and I handled the food, serving sandwiches, chips, drinks, cupcakes, and a big ‘ole cookie cake from Sam’s Club (which was delicious). We also put out a few varieties of chocolate (M&Ms, Reese’s mini cups, peppermint patties) because I hear chocolate is a natural mood booster. Personally, I would’ve rather handed out Zoloft but I’m told that’s not legal.
The flowers people sent were all gorgeous. My grandpa would’ve complained that they were a waste of money and would’ve rather had the money go to my grandma, but deep down I think he would’ve really liked them. My aunt on my father’s side sent a nice memory stone for either me or my mom to take with us. I let my mom have it since she mentioned building a memory garden for grandpa in her backyard.
Several of my friends came to the visitation, unexpectedly. I had made a general Facebook posting about the times so that extended family would have the details, but I didn’t expect so many of my friends to show up. It was definitely nice and appreciated. My entire husband’s family also came into town that day. Their visit had been planned for a couple of months already, so it was just unfortunate that the timing happened the way that it did. Or maybe it was fortunate since having them there was comforting to my husband. My FIL and MIL had met my grandpa a few times before, so they wanted to come to the services anyway, which was nice.
The visitation was from 4-8pm and I can’t believe how quickly the time flew. So many friends and family members came to pay their respects and I felt bad for not being able to visit more with each of them. I worried that not everyone would’ve been informed in time since the funeral notice didn’t run in the paper until that morning, but it seems my aunt did a pretty good job of calling everyone she could. There was one friend of my grandpa’s that I knew couldn’t make the services. He lives in Florida and is fighting his own horrible battle with cancer. “Wild Bill” is what my grandpa always called him and he used to manage the merchandise sales for the St. Louis Cardinals. When I was little, grandpa would take me down to the stadium and Wild Bill would let me pick out a souvenir. Last year for my grandpa’s surprise birthday party, I was able to get Bill to record a video sharing some memories of my grandpa. It’s truly my favorite video and if you have four minutes, it’s worth watching for a good laugh.
Anyway, I was worried no one had called Bill so I did. And I could barely get the words out before bawling so my mom had to take the phone and finish telling him. My aunt had already called him a day or two before so he knew, but said that when she told him, he couldn’t talk because he was so sick and depressed over it. He said he was used to being the guy that made everyone laugh, but my grandpa was one of the few people that could make him laugh.
Monday morning was the actual funeral and my husband warned me that the funeral part is always the hardest. I had made it through the visitation with only a couple of crying episodes, so I was hopeful I’d be able to hold it together for the funeral too. Well, let’s just say my husband was right.
My grandpa had requested three songs to be played at his funeral. What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong, Memory by Barbara Streisand, and Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Due to some time constraints with the cemetery, the minister asked that we just pick two songs, so we cut out Memory, since that was grandpa’s least favorite of the three. What a Wonderful World had been grandpa’s favorite song for years, so one year for his birthday I bought him the CD so he could listen to it on his computer whenever he wanted. We played that one first to start the service. Take Me Out to the Ballgame was one of the first songs I ever learned, and grandpa and I used to sing it on the way home whenever he’d pick me up from daycare. We played that one to close the service, and a few of us – those who could anyway – managed to sing it.
After the service, everyone filed out in front of the casket to say their last goodbyes. Two of my younger cousins (Krissy is 26 and Patrick is 17) and myself (the three of us were grandpa’s favorite grandchildren – and we all knew it) were the last, right behind my grandma, and we just stood there – the three of us with arms around each other – and just sobbed until the funeral director had to ask us to wrap it up, in a nice way of course. I don’t have any siblings so those two kids are as close to a brother and sister as I have, but the only thing we’ve ever really had in common is how much we loved our grandpa.
The burial service was sort of a blur. I remember pulling up and seeing a little baby deer laying the grass, just calmly watching us and looking out over the sea of headstones. My grandpa is buried at Jefferson Barracks, which is reserved for former military members and their families. I believe it’s the second largest, next to Arlington National in DC, and therefore very busy. The funeral director said they bury something like 30 people a day, so you’re given a 10 minute window to say goodbye under a little pavilion. Then it’s a few hours before they actually get around to burying him, so you’re asked to come back either later that night or the next day to visit the grave. And headstones take about 60-90 days to come in. Who knew.
It was so very hot that day and my poor husband was a pallbearer. St. Louis had been experiencing 100+ degree heat for days so I guess I’m glad our time slot was from 10:30 – 10:40 that morning. There was a gun salute and the whole flag folding ritual. There’s just something really special about a military burial. And I cried as I watched my entire family cry, and my grandma place a single red rose on my grandpa’s gray cloth casket.
And that was it. The moment Id’ dreaded my entire life finally happened and was over. And yet, the world keeps turning.
It’s been almost a week now since the services and I’m doing okay. I still cry every day, and I probably will for a long time, but I’m okay. I’ve never really suffered a loss like this before so I’m not sure what’s normal or what’s expected or what’s even healthy, but right now I’m just trying to keep myself busy, which is easy to do with an infant. I also find comfort in escapism – watching movies or mindless TV, reading blogs. And there’s also been some family drama that is too long to get into (basically my aunt isn’t coping well and is handling her grief by lashing out at anyone and everyone). So while annoying, that has distracted me a bit from the sadness. And of course I worry about my grandma. She’s always been very dependent on my grandpa for everything so it’s going to take a village to take over all the things he used to do to care for her. And I also worry about my mom, who was always a daddy’s girl, and now that she’s home in Kentucky without family or friends nearby, is on the verge of her own kind of depression. To put it simply, grandpa was the head of the family and without him, we’re not all quite sure what to do with ourselves. But I know that eventually, we’ll be okay. In fact, I’m going to visit my grandma right now and bring her some lunch. And last night I took a few pictures and video of Dez to send to my mom and cheer her up, which I think worked, because she sent me an email back at 2am (she couldn’t sleep) saying how much she liked them.
So that’s where I’m at.
And as if all that weren’t enough, we had a pretty crappy 4th. Originally, my husband’s entire family came from Ohio/KY/WV area to celebrate my FIL’s 60th birthday. So hubby’s aunt offered to host the party at her house, which was great because she has a pool for all the kids to swim in and with all that was going on with us, there’s no way I could’ve hosted it here. The annoying part was that she invited all of her inlaws over too, which would’ve been fine if we’d actually ever met them before. A birthday party for her brother where half the guests are strangers? Just…odd. So the party was scheduled to start at noon, but the hubs and his sister had planned to take their dad to get a new set of golf clubs for his birthday and the place didn’t open until noon. So we were already late for his own party. My MIL hadn’t been feeling well for the last two days (side note for those that don’t know – my MIL has MS and is in a wheelchair with a catheter so these long trips are really hard on her and she gets infections a lot) and with all the heat and running around, she was just exhausted. On top of that, she was battling a UTI and needed antibiotics. About two hours into the party, she ended up having a seizure. This isn’t the first time and she already takes seizure medication, but it’s not exactly common either and was a pretty scary sight. Needless to say, that cut the party short and my inlaws ended up leaving super early the next morning and took her to the hospital as soon as they got home. She’s fine now and should be released from the hospital today, but still, very scary.
That evening we had planned on watching fireworks somewhere with the whole family, but with my MIL’s health, we decided to just go up and visit with them at their hotel so she could rest. On the way there, my stomach started killing me so I had the hubs turn the car around and take me home where I promptly passed out at 9:30pm. I never saw one firework, and frankly, I’m okay with that. But see what I mean about a pretty shitty holiday? So yeah, I really hope yours was better.