Children under the age of 12 are not allowed in the ICU for health reasons, among others. I mean let's face it...children are pretty much walking petri dishes so who knows how many illnesses they are carrying around at any given time. But even if they had allowed it, none of us wanted the kids to see Pam with all the tubes and needles and machines. It was scary and difficult enough for the adults. I cannot imagine that it would have made life any easier for little ones, though none of us ever imagined that the next time they laid eyes on her she would be laying in a casket. Is any of this really happening?
When we picked Kate up from school early on Thursday, she was curious and excited to know why. At this point we hadn't told her that Nannie had passed away, so she thought perhaps we were going on a special trip somewhere. She was actually annoyed that she was missing school on Friday. Once we got her home and sat her down, we explained that the doctors were not able to help Nannie because her brain was just too badly damaged by her stroke, and she had passed away. It was pretty clear at that point: Kate didn't fully understand. She seemed sad, but she also was mainly curious to know if going to Pop's meant that we would see Kylie and Logan. Basically I had worked myself into this huge ball of anxiety over telling Kate this awful news and carried around this lump in my throat for 2 days about it, only to have her say, "Oh."
Dad and Jason had already been to the funeral home to see her and approve of the way they had presented her. There were some challenges to overcome, mainly a large portion of her hair that had been shaved for surgery. There was also a fairly large incision, closed with staples, right at the front of her hairline. I had told Donald, who worked with us from the funeral home, to do the best they could by using her hair to cover most of it. We knew it would not be perfect, but we knew that in reality none of that mattered too much either. The other obstacle was just the overall swelling her poor body endured while in the hospital. There was nothing to be done about that, but it did alter her appearance just a bit.
We all walked up to the casket together. Jason was holding Logan, Heather was holding Kylie, and I was holding Kate's hand. Pop was right behind us. Kylie and Logan were already in tears before we even reached the front. They had known for a couple of days that she was gone, and the reality of the situation was very clear to them. Kate was hesitant....curious....a little too short to see everything but also unwilling to allow me or Nick to pick her up. She kept trying to peek over on her tip toes but wouldn't get really close either. I could tell she was scared but also curious and intrigued at what was going on. She knew it was a time to be really sad, but I think the reality and the weight of everything took several minutes to really penetrate her being.
It was almost as if she had been waiting for that permission because her tears began to flow freely at that point. It was all very gut-wrenching to watch those three sweet babies weep for their Nannie. Watching my Daddy break down was hard, but watching these little ones have their hearts broken is enough to make you question everything. Adults can rationalize and process, we can come up with reasons why things may happen even if all they do is make us feel better. But a child? All I can say is that it isn't fair and there's no real reason why. No amount of justification can make a child feel better about losing their grandmother. I knew eventually we would deal with this - death is a part of life. I just always hoped that maybe Logan and Kate would be teenagers before we started losing our parents.
I must have looked at my phone 30 times. 6:05. 6:13. 6:17. 6:33. 6:41. It was like there were 120 seconds per minutes instead of 60.
I didn't have a lot of tears once the visitation began. I hugged friends and loved ones we hadn't seen in a while. I visited with people who worked with Pam, with relatives I didn't really know, and with family members I see often. I held it together pretty well, and then I looked up to see my friends Susan and Kristeen signing into the guest book.
I couldn't hold back tears for that. My dear, sweet, wonderful friends had driven an hour in horrible traffic I am certain just to give me a hug and offer me their support. Who does that? Not a lot of people, I will tell you, and times like this really do show you how many true friends you really have. It was awesome and made me feel really special. Not long after they arrived, our friends Brad and Kimilee showed up as well, and I would have cried again had I not just finished crying when the other two came. Nick came back with the kids so he could visit with our friends who had come all this way just to say in person "We are praying for you and love you guys."
In all, it was a beautiful night.