Thursday, January 14, 2016


Thursday arrived and it was time to begin this process of saying goodbye. It was time to see Pam again, only this time it would only be the shell of who she had been. This would be the first time Kate, Kylie, and Logan had seen her since Christmas, when she was still so vibrant and full of life.

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."

After we all made it to Dad's house and changed for the evening, we headed up to the funeral home around 4. Visitation was to begin at 6, so this would give us plenty of private time with each other to cry and release some emotion that we needed to get out. This also gave the kids their opportunity to come to grips with everything. Some people may disagree with allowing such young kids to see Nannie like that. After all, no matter how well the funeral home did with her hair and make-up and clothing, there was no way to replace that spark, the warmth or simply the life in her. No amount of make-up or beauty tricks would change that, and it's not easy to see. Some people say that often the dead just look like they're sleeping. I say no way. There has only ever been one experience in my life where a person in a casket just looked asleep, and that was an infant. She really did look like a porcelain doll. I didn't even know the baby or the family, and I cried. But I also know that children need closure as well as adults, and I am very firm in my belief about this. Death is a part of life. It's a hideously ugly part of life that we don't want to acknowledge, but a part just the same. Kate needed to understand what it meant. They all needed to see, to have that realization and finality that she was gone, so they can begin to slowly repair the hurt in their heart. It's part of the grieving process.

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.
I leaned down to her and told her it was okay to cry if she was sad. It was a good thing to show how much you loved someone by crying.

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.
We admired all of the beautiful flowers that various people had sent in her honor. Dad had chosen red carnations, gerber daisies and roses for her casket piece and grandkids spray. Carnations were her favorite flower and Pam loved red. I made sure to grab photos of all of the beautiful flowers so we could remember what has been sent.
Once we arrived at the funeral home, time felt as if it was slowed to a crawl. It seemed like 4 hours passed from the time we arrived and 6 pm when the first visitors started making their appearances to pay their respects and pass along condolences. Several people from the hospital where Pam worked came, and you could tell how much they all loved and appreciated her by their actions and tears. Nick took Kylie, Logan, and Kate to Pizza Hut for dinner and then Dairy Queen for blizzards.

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.

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