My grandmother passed away on February 1st. She and my grandpa live in Houston, TX. So, my dad and I (and my parent's 15 week old Maltese Poodle, Addison) got in the car on Thursday, February 2nd and drove for 28 hours straight to be there in time for the viewing on Friday evening.
My dear husband was completely awesome, assuring me that he would take care of everything and to just go and have a nice time (as nice as you can have at a funeral).
The viewing was such a mix of emotions. Everyone would ask while we were hugging, "How are you?" What do you say to that question at the viewing of such a beloved person? Yet, I was asking everyone the same thing. Most of these people I hadn't seen in several years, and some of them, a decade or more. I hadn't been to my grandparents house since I was 11 years old. Sad, but true.
When my uncle, Mickey, and I exchanged the "How are yous", I responded, "Well, kinda crappy.... and wonderful at the same time." It was so good to see all these people. All this family. All those who share my blood. It was crappy to be there with my grandmother laying still in her coffin, her beautiful hands crossed over each other. Mickey, who is always searching for the perfectly coined phrase, burst into laughter and exclaimed that I had done it. He expressed the same feelings about the question that everyone was asking each other, "How are you?" There was no good answer, but apparently, I found it. How are you? I'm crappy-wonderful, thanks for asking.
The viewing was poignant. Crappy and wonderful, joyous and tragic.
It was hard to see my mom. She was more shaken than she would've ever imagined. My sweet grandfather was strong, but his strength would slip now and then and his heartbreak would peek through. It was emotional and tender to witness all the love in the room.
After the viewing, we went to my Grandparent's home for more visiting and last minute prep for the funeral the following day. My aunt, Bronwyn, was trying to write up the life sketch from the notes she had written, and she was struggling. I offered to do it for her. My mom and I, together, wrote up from all the notes, what I thought was a beautiful life sketch honoring a beautiful woman. I was glad I got to participate and help and that my mom was there to clarify and add her own beautiful memories and words.
Saturday, the day of the funeral, I was awakened, not by my alarm clock, but by the incredible thunder from a very incredible storm. We got ready and rushed out the door. We had another few minutes with Grandma's body and then, a beautiful and comforting family prayer was said by my dad as we closed the casket.
We followed the casket into the chapel and proceeded to have one of the most amazing services I've ever attended. It was so perfect. So beautiful. So powerful.
I sobbed and sobbed, particularly at the end, that my siblings weren't able to attend. My brothers and sisters were trying hard to make it work, but in the end, it just didn't. I missed them so much and ached that they weren't able to participate in the beauty that was there.
I had the honor of being a pall-bearer, which surprised me in how much it meant to me to escort her casket out of the building and then lift it into the hearse. I felt like I was part of her honor guard. Her casket was so beautiful and completely something that she would have chosen herself. Natural, light wood and the most beautiful spray adorning the top. It was the prettiest casket and spray I've ever seen. As we walked her out, I kept my hand on the casket, touching that beautiful, soft wood. It was such an honor and I couldn't stop crying.
The hearse took her away to await her burial the following Monday. The family congregated in the church and had a luncheon prepared by the ward Relief Society (church group). I've never felt so grateful for the service of a funeral luncheon. What a wonderful thing to do for grieving families.
After the lunch, we went back to my Grandparent's house and everyone sat around visiting. We had an impromptu talent show. My uncle Lex played guitar, people were singing and playing piano. We all sang songs that we've all been singing our whole lives with our family, Old Dog Tray, Nellie Bly, Man's Life's a Vapor, To Ope Their Trunks... it went on for at least two hours and it was magical.
Monday morning was the burial. It was an interesting thing because it was at the Veteran's Cemetery. They stressed many times the importance of being on time. We were successfully on time and were escorted to a pavilion. The pall-bearers removed the casket from the hearse and placed it on a raised concrete thing. We said the dedicatory prayer for the place Grandma would be buried, but it was interesting because we weren't even in the actual plot for her burial. We left her casket in this pavilion (not unattended, but it felt that way because we were just supposed to leave) and the cemetery workers came and picked up the casket to take it to the burial site without any of the family around. It was very different than any burial I've previously seen and I know it's because it's a Veteran's Cemetery. My grandpa told me they have over 2,900 burials there per year.
I took several hundred pictures over the weekend and my favorites were at the cemetery. It was a bright, crisp morning... very cold for Houston, TX. The beautiful lighting made for nice pictures.
Here are a few, cemetery and not.
My Grandma (in the picture), Grandpa and all their kids.
Grandpa and I
My amazing Grandfather.
The beautiful casket and flowers.
My stunning Mother. (next two as well)
My Uncle Lex. One of the best parts about this trip is the chance I got to spend time with and get to know this man. He's SO great. I am a lucky girl to have such an amazing family.
Aunt Tana and Grandpa. I have the sweetest and coolest Aunts on the planet.
Lex keeping us all mesmerized with his voice and a guitar.
One of my greatest treasures, my aunt Devan. She's helped me so much over the years.
Tana and Bronwyn. Brony was kinda my other mother as a kid. We saw her family the most as they lived (and still live) the closest to us.
And finally, Jann. This woman is gold. She's so sweet.
This was a weekend I will never forget. Dad and I stayed longer and helped Grandpa with some things around his house. And then, on the way home at 1:30 a.m., we lost the alternator on Dad's car in Artesia, NM. Thank goodness it was in a town and not in the hundreds of miles of desert between towns. We felt very blessed. We even felt blessed when we discovered, a few miles down the road, that AutoZone sold us a faulty alternator. We only drove about 30 miles to the next town and found another AutoZone and RE-replaced the alternator. It was an annoying time delay, but we were very grateful because it could have been much much worse.
I'll miss you, Grandma. But I know I'll see you again.
I'll miss you, Grandma. But I know I'll see you again.