(Written on the day of Visitation, but slightly edited and Published two days after funeral, trying hard to get up the energy to do this…)
It was a long day. My brother, his wife, and their twins arrived late the night before. The kids had trouble adjusting to the trip from Chicago and cried a few times during the night, I felt bad for them. I, of course, was awake staring at our ceiling. We gave them Gabriel’s room and Gabriel slept in our room in a “tent city” he’d created which included a “living room” and “bedroom”. What he wants, within reason, for now.
So, funny story: I finally give up and get up at 4 in the morning or so and decifde to just go downstairs and work on Alexandria’s video for the funeral. I get downstairs and it’s pitch black, but I hear the telltale snoring from the couch and figure it’s Michael with a twin on him that he finally got to sleep. I walk over to my office, open the door, there’s a pack-in-play in there. YIKES! Close the door. They’d placed one kid in there to keep him happy and away from everyone. Damn. Understandable, but damn. So I walk out to find my laptop, but it’s been moved and I couldn’t find it in the dark (probably to be kept away from the kids). Damn. Understandable, but damn. I decide to just go into the bathroom downstairs, open the door, and there’s a pack-in-play in there with the other twin! Doh! Shut the light off and leave quickly. I immediately thought, “If I go out to check the mail, what would I find?” I was at least glad they (Mike and Lisa) were able to separate the two so they didn’t keep waking each other up and were able to get some sleep themselves. Found my laptop and began working on editing the prior days’s writings… didn’t get to the video until after everyone was awake.
I spent all morning putting together the video for Alexandria’s funeral. I’m hopeful it shows how great her life was, how many people brought her joy. Not just how many people she touched, but how many people touched her. How many people gave Kimberly and I hope and time. Kimberly and I wanted to put the days on each of the pictures to mark the progression of her life, but I just didn’t have the time. I had Michael (brother) review it and he said to not change a thing. Pastor Nick is going to meet with me after the visitation tonight at the church to make sure the video plays on the monitors at church, it’s so nice of him to take time out to do that for me.
Went by the funeral home to get more picture boards for Kim.
Went to several places around 2:30 and bought them out of papers.
Midland Daily News, as usual, screwed up and didn’t run her obituary today. That’s 3 for 3 now; the spelled my name wrong in Grandpa’s obituary in 1991, they didn’t format my mother’s obituary in 2004 so it was all broken up in mid-sentences, and now they didn’t run Alexandria’s obituary at all. Kim says to me later, “Well, it isn’t called the Midland Daily Mistake for nothing.” Isn’t that the truth. So now her obituary won’t be run in our home town the day before her internment, or even the DAY of her internment. What a complete let down. If there is one thing, ONE SMALL THING, a newspaper should take care to get right, it’s the freaking obituaries.
BTW, GR Press, nice color picture, all one unbroken column both days, well done.
Literally a 3 hour tour. So many great people showed up. One in particular was a gentlemen (name withheld for privacy) whom I’d met several months prior who lost a daughter many many years ago. His compassion and story moved me so that one day I’d searched him out at church so he could specifically hold Alexandria. I kinda felt like someone was telling me, “Find him, he needs to hold her.” So many people. Couples that have lost children. I don’t know how they handled being reminded of what they went through by coming to support us, but what strength to see and it gave me hope that at some point this overwhelming pain will be manageable. Friends. Family. I was all cried out after the two hours. Just when I thought I was done someone would say something and I’d fall apart again.
At the very beginning Kim and I were standing near Alexandria’s casket and a small line was forming near us. Gabriel picked up on that and as people began to walk in, he started telling people, “You need to get in line!!!” I’m getting my public education money’s worth, the boy knows lines and their importance. Kim and I heard him say that and it was a good reliever, but I told Kim we should probably move down a bit so people could mingle around and not be herded by our 4 year old.
Everyone said how great parents we were to her. I kept telling people we got the better part of the deal, and that’s absolutely true. She was such a great blessing to us, I feel like she gave us so much more then we could ever give her. I have this hole feeling I didn’t do enough for her. Three things I didn’t think of until it was too late for her bucket list: Passport, Shoes, Barbie. Didn’t realize the Barbie thing until today. I was walking Gabriel through the store and saw some, it just crushed me for a minute, what father doesn’t get his daughter a barbie?
50 days wasn’t enough.
I was very moved at the number of co-workers that came out, even one that just had triple neck-bone surgery days prior. My uncle Bill commented, “I think half of Meijer showed up for the visitation.” What a great group of people. I’ve never had a more supportive employer, they’ve really been outstanding.
After everyone was gone we went to say goodbye again to Alexandria. They did a very good job making her look good. I remembered the funeral home saying something about putting ointment on her ears to “help”, wondered what they meant, so I touched her ears. Mistake. I’ll just say they were “different”, they weren’t (understandably) the floppy little ears they were days before… I wanted to make sure her ring was on her finger, but afterwards wish I had not. Her ring was on, but her hands had not been “prepared”. Everyone else who had died in my life had their hands clasped at their chest, but hers were at her sides covered by her blanket…. so I checked for the ring. It is a tough call to get closure to know how much time to spend with them after they go. I don’t want her “being dead” to be the images burned into my mind. I also need that finality. As insane as it sounds, the day after she was gone, it was almost as if they were was a hope that it was all wrong, they’d call because she wasn’t really dead and we could go get her. But she’s definitely gone. My mother told me several times when I was young that if she ever died she’d want my sister and I to see her at least once without anything done to her by the funeral home, so that we would know she was definitely gone. She felt kids needed that finality, and part of her career as a nurse I know she’d seen many kids who were denied the chance to grieve. It was very important to her, probably one of the reasons I’m so careful to make sure Gabriel is included, understands, and does see her, but glad she “looks” somewhat like she did while she was alive.
I was concerned that an open casket would be a mistake. It wasn’t. Gabe walked by her a few times, he needed to know she was really gone. I think seeing her changed helped.
We took Aden up a few times, explained she was gone. I think he understood. Something in his eyes told me he understood.
They had a good room the side for kids to watch videos, glad it was there, really helped the kids.
For visitation at the church Kim and I will go alone, the kids will join us for the funeral.
Gabriel told me today in the car again that he was happy, not sad. He didn’t like crying. He told us on the way to the funeral home that Ethan was sad that baby Alex was gone… projecting his pain onto him I suspect. A co-worker with a psychology degree brought that up too, which I think was kinda the confirmation I needed to know we should watch it closely. Gabriel did say during the day he wanted to go to the funeral home because he hadn’t seen baby Alex in a long time. He was so close to her, he misses her, it is so hard to see his difficulty expressing it.
We had some nice moments at night with family all sitting around the dinner table talking and eating very good chocolate brought by Uncle Bill and Aunt San.