This past week has been a whirlwind of events and emotions. For the first few days I was operating on adrenaline and auto-pilot. Nothing seemed real and it all sort of felt like a bad dream. Monday morning came and after having breakfast with my Daddy, I started going through photos to take with us to the funeral home so they could make a slide show. As I looked through them, I reflected on so many memories that my family created. We never really went on a lot of vacations when I was a child, in fact, I only really remember 3 trips out of town with my parents. One when I was around 8 or 9 to Myrtle Beach with Carroll and Bobby and their kids, one the Summer before 7th grade when we went to Nashville and another when I was around 14 when I went to Myrtle Beach with my sister and Mama and a group of friends. I know we went a few more places, but I was young and don’t really remember them like I do these trips. Even though we did not travel the world, as I looked back at the photos, I consistently saw the same thing, happiness and joy. We are not a perfect family, but my parents raised us in a happy home full of love. We “discuss” things loudly a lot of the time and don’t always see eye to eye, but I know that we are there for each other through thick and thin.
After planning my Mama’s services on Monday we came back to my parent’s house. Flowers and a complete BBQ meal had been delivered while we were gone and people were arriving and bringing even more food, drinks, paper products and snacks than the kitchen would hold. We have had meals offered every single day. Even last Sunday, on the day my Mama passed, two of her best friends brought a meal to us. And I know they were hurting and heartbroken for their own loss. Seeing so many people offer their kindness during our devastation was humbling to say the least. And it still has not stopped. For those that called, texted, visited, sent flowers, food or anything else, it did not go unnoticed. My family appreciates you all more than words can ever express. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. No matter what you see on the news, there are GREAT people in this world, don’t let anyone tell you differently.
The visitation for my sweet Mama was quite overwhelming. We started seeing people prior to 6pm because they were lining up outside and we did not shake the last hand until around 9:15. I knew that my Mama was loved and respected, but WOW. I can’t tell you the number of times I heard, “Your Mama was my favorite niece, aunt, co-worker, cousin, client, fill in the blank”; everyone thought the world of her because of her genuine kindness to those around her.
On Wednesday, we laid Mama to rest. It was the first day of Spring, a gorgeous day without a cloud in the Carolina blue sky. Ironically, it was also “International Happiness Day” and I wanted to scream that there was not a dang thing happy about it for me. The funeral was also a packed house at Cedar Springs Baptist Church. There were so many people that not only was every seat taken, the choir loft was filled and people were standing, as well. My Daddy says that you preach your own funeral, and he is right. If you lead a life full of love and respect, people will show up and want to pay their respect to you in return. There is not a doubt in my mind, that my Mama led a life of love, compassion and kindness.
As I sit and type this blog post, it has been a full week since I got the call that turned my world upside down. It has been one week since I spoke to my Mama in person. In all my 37 years I don’t recall a single time that I went more than 2 or maybe 3 days talking to my her, and that was extremely rare. If I went on vacation and she did not go, I was calling her bright and early while she was cooking breakfast to tell her about the previous day and to see what was happening on Green River.
On Friday, I walked to Mama’s grave. It seems surreal to even type those words or think them. I sat on the ground beside her and told her all about her services. I told her what she would have loved and that she would have fussed and told my Daddy to close her casket because her neck was swollen. (I get my vanity honest, LOL!) I promised her I would keep her resting place clean and with flowers on it so it would not look trashy, just like she did for my Papaw. Ha! I shared with her all the people that came to her services and the kind words they said and then I told her about the people that did not show up, call or even reach out to us. I told her how angry I am at them for not showing her the respect she deserved. I confided in her my own struggles, fears, and secrets we shared and cried and cried and cried selfish tears for her. I think I sat there for over an hour before I dried my eyes and got up, told her goodbye for the day and walked home.
As the week comes to a close and I reflect on things, the only way I can describe the way I am handling things is one breath at at time. Someone close to me told me this past week that when you lose your Mama “you don’t cope, you don’t ever heal completely and you will always feel sorrow, but after time, it gets easier to manage and it is not crippling on a daily basis”. I am not sure how long that will take, but I am going to try to remember that Mama would not want me to be sad all the time and I am going to honor her memory in the best way I know how, to be like her as much as possible.