Saying Good-Bye Too Soon

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Upon arrival at the funeral home in the town where we always lived, as soon as they opened on Friday morning, we were greeted by staff who were not only professional and caring, but also friends who knew we needed a little extra empathy.   And they were determined to help us plan some special arrangements and a celebration of life for my sweet Momma.  And I am still so thankful for that because to be completely honest, it felt like I was a robot just going through the motions after everything that had just happened in the previous week.

Of course, Brad was with me and he was the strong one…always holding me up and keeping me going.   I had fallen apart so many times during the week already…I’m not sure how he kept at it and stayed so tough.   I knew he was hurting too.  And tired…We were both so tired…from lack of sleep and the overwhelming worry and helplessness that we had endured all week.   And I knew he loved my Momma as much as I did.

Anyway, we spent a couple of hours planning out a visitation for the following Monday (to give Momma’s out-of-town family time to travel to Indiana) and a beautiful funeral service for the following Tuesday.  We tried to pick things we knew my Momma would have loved, but, of course, would have never indulged in for herself, because she wouldn’t have felt entitled to it, but we knew she was so entitled to it and then some.  To us, it didn’t feel like nearly enough…But we did the best we could.  We were determined to try to abide by her wishes she had made known to us about her end of life.

We then went next door where another very good friend of mine worked at the flower shop.   I knew that my Momma LOVED flowers of all shapes, types and colors, so we just went with a large variety and focused on colorful and cheerful and beautiful.   I trusted this friend and the staff there to do a phenomenal job and they did not disappoint!

I remember driving back home with Brad and just feeling so drained and exhausted, but there was still so much to be done.  And I wanted to do the very best I could at this one very last act of love and kindness for my Momma.   So, I willed myself to just “snap out of it”…And I went into full-on action mode.   We continued to still be very much on pins and needles because after getting a call-back from Momma’s attorney this morning, we learned that even through the hospital legal department agreed that the emergency guardianship gave us the ability to make Momma’s arrangements after it was questioned by my father, the attorney told us that it was not out of the realm of possibility that my father might try to file an injunction to block these arrangements.   We asked what we would need to do if this were to happen and he explained that we could fight it, so we instructed him to draw up whatever documents we would need to do so and to have it ready, just in case that happened.   So while we were completing these tasks toward the final arrangements, we were not sure how this would turn out.  And it all still seemed surreal…I was still waiting to wake up from the nightmare.

Next stop was the salon where Momma had enjoyed visited each week since she moved in with us to ask if her stylist would do Momma’s hair.  She was a little hesitant, as she had never know this before, but she had grown to love my Momma and agreed and said she would be honored to do it for her and she hoped she would be able to get through it.

We went home and Brad and Alex had mowing to do, so I asked my younger brother if he would like to go with me to look at monuments for Momma and he said he could.   So we went back to the place where my friend, Kena, had taken me a few days earlier and I showed him the stone that I thought Momma would love and he agreed that it was perfect.  So we talked to the business owner and told him we wanted it and decided upon what would be engraved on it…including “Our Sweetest Angel”, as well as her favorite saying “Oh fiddlesticks”.   And we checked one more item off the list of our things to do.

We had already contacted all of Momma’s family and several of her friends to let them know that Momma had passed and now contacted them to let them know when and where the arrangements were planned.   I also called the cemetary and confirmed everything with them, as well.  I had never planned a service and funeral so this was all new to me, but it was actually a blessing to have something to keep my mind busy and occupied.

I also made contact with a good friend of mine who is a lovely singer and asked her if she would like to sing “Amazing Grace” at the funeral service and she graciously agreed to do so.   We also picked out one of Momma’s all-time favorites sung by Vince Gill “Go Rest High On That Mountain”.  And I picked out a song that just seemed so fitting by Tim McGraw…”Please Remember Me” because I did not want anyone to ever forget my sweet Momma.   That was another item to check off the list of things to do.

Family would be coming in starting this evening.  As I had mentioned earlier, some of my nieces (Momma’s grandchildren) had been wonderful about being at the hospital throughout the week, which was quite impressive given that they were just teenagers.   But they loved their MeMe.    I wanted to make them a part of this and hopefully do something to help them get through this difficult time.  So I messaged and/or called them, and my daughter, to see if they would be interested in going with me this evening to pick out a new outfit for Momma/MeMe to be laid to rest in and they did.   So we planned a family dinner with them and my youngest brother, and my niece, Gracie’s Momma, and my daughter and her family and Brad and Alex at one of our favorite restaurants in Evansville for later in the evening.  And then the girls and I would go shopping after dinner.

Late in the afternoon, I got a call from Momma’s attorney’s office and when I saw the number pop up on my phone, I am pretty sure my heart stopped for a minute…I, was, of course, thinking my greatest fear was coming true and my father had filed an  injunction, as our attorney feared.  But I answered it to find that it was his assistant and she wanted me to know that Momma’s attorney had drawn up the papers necessary to address an injunction, if it were to be filed and she wanted to know if I could meet her at the local courthouse to sign it, in case if was needed.   She asked me to meet her at 330 pm, as the courthouse closed at 4 pm, so I did.    We met in the parking lot and sat in the car.  I signed the documents and we waited.   Momma’s attorney called at 345 pm and he said he had just checked and thus far, nothing had been filed.  He said he would check again in 10 minutes and call back.   He said that if nothing got filed, he did not feel we should file our paperwork because it might just cause a fight.   So he called back at 3:55 and nothing had still be filed.   So we did NOT file our documents either.   The court house was closed Saturday and Sunday, of course, and so he could’t file anything then, so Momma’s attorney felt we were good since everything was already scheduled and the visitation was set for Monday.   This was such a huge relief…I finally felt like I could actually breathe for the first time since early this morning.

After dinner, my daughter, my two nieces, Gracie and Skylar, and I went on a little shopping excursion at the mall.  We found Momma a beautiful, but comfortable outfit that we felt she would have loved and, of course, we found her some beautiful shoes.  And I know some of you might be wondering why in the world we would be worried about shoes, but if you knew Momma, she was very self-conscious about her feet from a surgery she had and she rarely went out without her feet being covered.  We also could not resist getting her some accessories including some jewelry that we felt she would have really loved, and, of course, we had to send her off with a purse!   She ALWAYS carried a purse and her granddaughters all agreed that they had better put some Mentos candy and some Kleenex in it or she would never forgive us.  She rarely ate a Mentos, but she made sure she had them in her purse for the grandkids.   She was very thoughtful like that.  The evening turned into so much more though, as we spent time telling stories and sharing memories about our favorite times spent with my Momma and their MeMe or the things about her we all loved the most about her.  It was a happy evening to be able to remember her like that and to be able to be activitely doing something for her one last time.   And we could not end the evening without stopping for coffee?!   Momma and I had coffee most every night after dinner while she lived with our family and she looked forward to it.  So we made a toast to her in Heaven that night.

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The next morning I took the items we purchased for Momma to the funeral home and our friends there were delighted with what we had done to honor Momma and remember her in such a fond and loving way.   They promised to include all of the items in a way that would hopefully carry on her sweet memory.

The rest of that day, we had friends and neighbors stopping by, kindly bringing food, drinks, paper supplies, and gifts.   But what meant the most were their kind words and heartfelt sympathies and offers to help out if there was anything they could do.   It was a flurry of activity, but I was really thankful for it because it kept my mind occupied and helped me not dwell on what had happened.

On Sunday, we spent the day with family again and asked my kids and the other grandkids to help in creating some nice picture boards to be on display at the funeral home.  We wanted to share our precious memories of Momma and MeMe with others.   There were not as many photos of her as we would have liked to have had, but there were several and we put together what we had into some nice collages.   I also had pictures of all of Momma’s grandchildren and great grand-children printed and framed for display because they truly were her pride and joy.  She loved each and every one of them like there was no tomorrow…And now there wasn’t.  At least not here on earth, for her.   And she was going to be so missed by them.  And by me.

My son-in-law approached me and Brad and said he would like to deliver the eulogy.   We already had the minister from a church she had attended in the past, with one of her best friends, to participate in the service.  However, since we truly wanted to make this as positive as possible about our memories of Momma and the new life she had been making for herself, we decided it would be a good idea.  We definitely did not want to dwell on the awful circumstances surrounding her death, so my son-in-law and I worked together to write a eulogy that was as uplifting as possible and that would give others some insight about all the things she had been able to do in the last 3 months of her life.   Hopefully, knowing she had some happiness and independence in those few months would help to ease the pain of losing her…If only just a little bit.

Sunday night, was a fitful night of sleep, if there actually was any sleep at all.  I was so worried that there would be a big scene made at the funeral home or that something was still going to go wrong before the visitation even started.   But somehow, with lots of prayers and by the Grace of God, we made it to the visitation.  And while it was completely uncomfortable because my father had gotten another exception from the protective order to be allowed at the visitation and the funeral, I knew I needed to be strong for Momma and make this about HER and the celebration of HER life, so I did my best.   The showing of sympathy and support from Momma’s friends and her side of the family, Brad’s family, and Brad’s and my friends was nothing less than amazing…We got so many hugs and so many kind words that it was hard to imagine.

I was doing pretty well handling it all, even with being completely ignored by relatives from my father’s side of the family (who I had considered as “MY” family my whole life), including the nieces who had supposedly helped fataher acquire and present the copy of the “Living Will” to the hospital that changed everything.   But then, a friend of my father’s came in and got him from his chair, in the front row (which I felt was pushing it for him to even be seated there),  and proceeded to move him onto a stool she placed right at the head of my Momma’s casket…you know, like the place typically reserved for a loving, caring spouse?!   I actually thought I was going to be physically ill and I had to excuse myself and go out of the building for a few minutes to get some air and regain my composure.   Why was I even at all surprised by this??  Here was my father, playing the “victim” once again…even after everything that had happened and the circumstances surrounding my Momma’s death…Many people still had no idea what had really gone on.   They had only heard one side of this story…His.  Most of them didn’t know what actually happened, so, of course, he would play on their sympathies!  It was beyond sickening.

However, this made me all the more determined to make this about Momma, so I marched back in there and got back in place with Brad and my younger brother at the foot of Momma’s casket to talk to people as they came through the line.  There were so many people who came to pay their respects….It was wonderful to know how many lives Momma had truly touched.  And I thank God that Brad, and Alex, my daughter and her family, and several of Momma’s side of the family and her very good friends, members of Brad’s family, as well as friends of mine and my family were there to help support us through that very, very long and difficult evening.   Honestly, I don’t even remember a lot of the details…I think I was still in a state of shock, at that point.   After the visitation was over for the evening, I just remember being so very drained.   I hoped I could muster the strength and the energy to make it to the funeral the following morning.   I prayed that there would be no more problems at the funeral home and that Momma’s service could be completed with the utmost dignity and respect, as she deserved nothing less.  After spending a little time visiting with some family that had just gotten in today…That night, I did sleep with the help of a sleeping aid.

There was a brief hour of visitation prior to Momma’s Funeral the next morning, but I told Brad and my family that I really just wanted to get there a few minutes before the service started, so that is what we did.   Just as the service was getting ready to begin, my friend who was singing “Amazing Grace” in another room out of sight, asked me to deliver a message to the Funeral Home Director about her music, which I did.   As I was walking back from their office into the main room, I noticed that one of my cousins who had apparently helped my father with the “Living Will” was at the Guest Register Stand.   She picked up the register book, tucked it under her arm, and walked out of the funeral home door with it!!!!   I went back into the Funeral Director’s Office to tell them what I had just witnessed and they said they would go out and retrieve the book.   They said they had never had anyone do that before?!

I went back in and took my seat and my friend sang a beautiful version of “Amazing Grace”, and the Minister shared some really comforting thoughts, and my son-in-law delivered the eulogy, which left very few dry eyes in the place, but I also noticed that it made me and others smile, at least a time or two, for the love and happiness Momma had been able to experience, if even for a very short time.   The other two songs were played and I cried so much I wasn’t sure I could actually muster any more tears.   I just couldn’t believe that my Momma was really gone and we were nearing our last good-bye?

After everyone who attended the funeral had their opportunity to offer their final condolences and say good-bye to Momma, we did the same, and were the last ones out of the room.   The guest register stand had been moved to the back of the hallway, where anyone who hadn’t signed their name already could do so on their way out.   When I walked out into the hallway, I see this same cousin of mine who had taken the book earlier, in a heated argument with one of the funeral home staff about taking the registration book for my father because he “deserved” to have it.  I thought to myself, “Really?   You are going to make a scene in the funeral home?!”   The funeral home staff looked at me to get my reaction.   I quietly asked the funeral home staff if they could make a copy of all of the pages in the book?    She said that they could.   I told her if they could do that, I didn’t really care about the book.  I just needed the names and addresses to send out Thank You cards.  She asked if I was sure and I said “Yes, it’s just a book..It certainly isn’t worth fighting over.”   So they made me a copy…And my niece took the book to supposedly give to my father.

The ride to the cemetary seemed like such a long one that day.  Following that big black hearse felt so…Final.   I cried silently most of the way there and we arrived at the gravesite for the short service there.   Since it was out of town, there was not a large crowd…it was very immediate family and a couple of my Momma’s very good friends.  And I was glad for that.  I insisted to Brad that we stay until my father and my older brother had left the cemetary, which we did.  I am not sure what I thought might happen, but I was still fearful that somehow her making it to this resting place was going to be interrupted.  Seeing her casket, there, in that cemetary, was certainly something to be thankful for, as we weren’t sure that we were going to be able to accomplish that for her.   But it looked like we had.   At least for the time being….

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3 thoughts on “Saying Good-Bye Too Soon

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