Friday, January 15, 2016

Final Goodbye

Friday morning began early. I was exhausted. I will admit that when this entire saga began, I lost the ability to fall asleep easily and then sleep through the night. My mind races at night and I just can't seem to turn it off. Anxiety, stress, worry, sadness, fear....all of these things have thrown my body into a whirlwind and sleep has paid the price. Thursday night was no exception. I think I checked the clocked once every hour or so, and just before 3 when I woke up to use the restroom I thought maybe if I played a mindless game on my phone for a little bit it would make my eyes droopy again. 45 minutes later Nick rolled over and said "You have to get some sleep" through the iPhone glow. So here was Friday morning, a huge day for us all and I was pretty much done.

Dad got ready first. The funeral home doors were going to be unlocked at 8 am, and he wanted some time alone before we all arrived. Pam's service was at 10. So he left the house pretty close to 8 and the rest of us got ready. The kids each sat down and drew a picture for Nannie. When we arrived at the funeral home, we walked Kate and Logan up to the casket and helped them place their drawings inside. Kylie couldn't come up there with us, so Logan had hers. They wanted Nannie to take those with her.

People began arriving, and someone told me that my mom had arrived. I headed straight for her, knowing what was about to come out of me like a floodgate that had been opened. I had done my fair share of crying over the last week, but I had not fully allowed myself to lose it yet. Even when I was alone, I hadn't let it the raw emotion take over and just get it out. (Mostly because these moments tended to happen while I was driving in my car alone, which just isn't an opportune time to lose it.) But when my mom wrapped her arms around me I let go and it all came out. I guess in a way I had been waiting for her to hold me and let me cry. Isn't that what mommas are for? No matter how old you are, sometimes you just need your mom to hold you while you lose it.

They gathered all of the family into the foyer area just before we began the service so we could walk in together. Jason and I sat with Dad in the front, with the rest of the family filling several rows behind us. The chapel was packed. A few days later one of the funeral home workers would tell Dad that it had been a long time since they had a service with so many people there.

Pam was head of the nurse's in the OR at her hospital. I don't know her specific title, but she was important over there, an the entire OR had rearranged their schedule so that everyone could come o the service. I thought that was very touching and quite a classy gesture. Dad appreciated it greatly too.

Just before it was time for the family to enter the chapel, I looked up to see a familiar face walking into the funeral home and knew she was only there for me. My dear friend, Jeannie Logan, had driven all the way from Hemphill, Texas just to be there for me. We're talking around a 7 hour round trip. Cue the tears once more. I couldn't believe that she was there, walking towards me with a big hug and condolences. I'm beyond blessed by the wonderful people in my life, but some of them are extra special and Jeannie is definitely one of those.

We filed into the chapel finally and the service began. I think I held Dad's hand the whole time. We all alternated between listening quietly to the minister and crying. Cathy's minister performed the service for us, and it was beautiful and sweet. He read the eulogy before they played It Is Well. He talked about Pam and some of the things he had learned about her from Cathy and others. Despite not having ever met her, he did a pretty good job of capturing her spirit with his words. Then they played the slideshow I had prepared.

I filled it with as many photos as I could find that showed all the best parts of Pam. Heather sent me many to use, and Cathy and Jeff's wife Gina also sent me some. I found some older photos in Dad's house to scan, and I think overall it was a nice depiction of her life. I wish that some of her coworkers would have had some photos from Pam on the job - we didn't have a single picture of her in scrubs at the hospital. Apparently they just don't stop to grab pics now and then, and being a photographer I think that's unfortunate. I told one of her coworkers that I hope they'll start to occasionally snap a selfie here and there with each other, because you never know when it will be needed.

Despite wanting to make the slideshow happy and upbeat, I just couldn't do it. I sat at my computer for over a week, listening to one depressing song after another, trying to find the perfect melody. Some were far too sad for me to use, and some just didn't convey the message that I felt inside. Finally I remembered "When I'm Gone" by Joey & Rory. No matter what other songs I tried, I couldn't get that one out of my head, and so I stuck with my gut. I knew it would make everyone cry, but perhaps that what we all needed. Crying isn't a bad thing, and expressing sadness can be very therapeutic. One the slideshow finished, they played "Forever and Ever, Amen" by Randy Travis, which was Dad and Pam's song.

The casket was opened one last time, and friends, coworkers, loved ones all began filing past to say their goodbyes. Kate had been ok during most of the service but also very fidgety. She wasn't really understanding what was going on and has a hard time sitting still in church anyway, and to her this just felt like church. She spend most of the service alternating between wiping away my tears and Nick's tears. But when the people began walking past Nannie's casket, she leaned over to ask Nick what they were doing. He told her they were saying goodbye to Nannie, and the reality came crashing down on her. She began to cry, and all we could do was hold her and let her get it out.

I've always found it pretty easy to do the final pass by at a funeral. It's just a body, an empty shell that no longer houses the person it used to, so saying goodbye again seems redundant. I mean, they're not there anymore. I had watched her spirit leave her body in the hospital. I knew she wasn't there anymore. She hadn't been in that body for a few days now. I guess the final viewing is for the people who didn't get to watch their loved one pass away, which is almost always the case. Only a select few are privileged enough to be present in those final moments, if they must happen.

When we finally left the funeral home, we headed to Dad's house for lunch. Several friends and neighbors had purchased food from all over - we had BBQ, chicken tenders, chicken wraps, roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, baked beans, fruit, cole slaw, rolls....and probably more that I just can't remember. There was a ton of food, I know that much. One of Dad's neighbors had helped set everything up and she stayed to help make sure it was all put away since we had an almost 2 hour drive to get to Mount Pleasant for the graveside service.

Pam only lived in Mount Pleasant for a few years, but she always told Dad she wanted to be buried where ever he was laid to rest. His immediate family is all buried in the Farmers Academy Cemetery in Mount Pleasant, so that was our destination. Several relatives and more friends from Mount Pleasant were already at the cemetery when we arrived, people who couldn't make the drive to Sunnyvale for the service. My grandma, Aunt Sheila and Nikki were there, as well as my Great Aunt Pat, Heather, Olivia and her mom and dad came, Dad's cousin Vicki, our friend Deana, and a few others that I don't recall at the time. There was a nice amount of people there to say one final goodbye. Jason actually spoke for a few minutes at the graveside, rather than allow someone else to do it. He mostly talked about what Pam meant to us all and how we would miss her, very simple and sweet. It was perfect. We ended with a prayer, and then everyone slowly made their way out of the cemetery.
I think Pam would have been happy and touched to see so many people who came to mourn her loss with us. I am not sure that she fully realized how loved she was by so many, and I hope that she knows now. I don't really know how all of that works, but it makes me feel better to think so.

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