I read a study once that claimed people would rather see their family at a funeral than at a wedding. I found it strange at the time, not understanding how anyone would feel that way, but I can say after three funerals in a year and a half…I get it, especially after our trip to Texas last week to say goodbye to Gramps. Weddings are clearly celebratory, but funerals are intensely special, a true time of bonding, sharing tears and stories and pain and grief and laughter and thankfulness. I spent time with family–immediate and extended–that I miss and don’t get to see very often, the months or years apart fading quickly away. It’s truly a time like none other and I’m glad Joe and I were able to be there.
There were so many sweet and special moments we shared together as a family, I wanted to share a few with you:
* Visiting the funeral home with my grandmother, aunt and cousins to view the body and cry like no one was watching. It was cathartic. I needed to be with those women–the ones who stayed lovingly by his side until the end–and feel the gravity of our loss together. I’m so thankful for them.
* Making photo boards: Going through photos with my Dad and cousins to create collages to display and then running them into the funeral home with my Dad when a storm was coming. It was fun to go down memory road with them.
* Watching the stoic faces of my grandmother and Dad, who stayed strong for us and our constant flow of tears. I hope they have had their times to cry after supporting us for a week.
* Speaking at the funeral: I read bits from my last post and more about how he’d always wrap up our phone conversations with “well, I don’t know anything.” But he did. He knew that every good meal starts with a blessing and ends with a toothpick. He knew that any task could be made better whistling a good tune. He knew life lessons could be taught over a game of cards with his unforgettable “are you gonna watch, or are you gonna play?,” And he knew he couldn’t leave a more impactful legacy than through loving his Lord, family, friends and church with everything he had.
* Hearing everyone else speak at the funeral: Many, many people from his church, men he worked with at Bell Helicopter, family friends and more stood up to share their favorite stories, their blessings on our family and their own grief. I was particularly moved by his physician, a man I met last year when visiting Gramps in the hospital, who cried as he spoke about Gramps’ impact on his own life, how Gramps’ prayers for his family were comforting in a time of need, and how they call their young son EJ. If I wasn’t crying before (I was), you better believe I was balling at that moment. What an impact Gramps had on all he encountered. Knowing that a little boy called EJ is running around and will someday learn about the great man who inspired his nickname sucker-punched me in the heart.
* Singing with my family before the service: After eating lunch we gathered in a small room filled with chairs and a piano to sing together, just as Gramps would have done. We could barely get through some of the songs and it made me sad knowing that no one would love us being together, singing together, more than Gramps.
* Seeing these two, who helped fill hearts with joy and promise when we felt like staying full of sadness. Kids will do that. (Time marches on.)
This is really the first time since Linc was a baby that we’ve been together, so connecting with him was extra special, especially all of the kisses he insisted on giving his Aunt NoNo.
* Having everyone together since Bryan’s wedding
(And Lily loving on her Mikey Joe.)
* Being at the farm. It’s hard to imagine it without Gramps, but it continues to soothe my soul.
This is the view as you leave town, heading to the farm. One of the best views in the world.
It was especially hard to walk through Gramps’ workshop, seeing everything as he left it. His very own time capsule.
* Visiting the animals
Seems like just yesterday I was doing this with Gramps. I’m sure you remember this guy.
And who could forget Lucy? The last time I spoke with Gramps in the hospital he asked me, “If you’re there, and I’m here, who’s taking care of Lucy?” She seemed to sense my sadness and nuzzled my face for a while.
* Seeing my aunt’s incredibly-decorated house, including this accent wall in her dining room made from salvaged wood from their church. Absolutely amazing. She’s a DIY-goddess.
And seeing my great-grandmother’s salt and pepper shaker collection on full display.
* Going through Gramps’ papers next to his chair in the living room — his home base. We found this map detailing where to put the trash basket when it rains to catch the ceiling leak.
And, my favorite, this list of gifts he was thankful for…
1. The gift of Salvation — “free,” eternal, given to me on August 8, 1940
2. The gift of a chance at life — could do better the next time, better than millions that were aborted (no chance)
2a. The gift of a family and church family
3. The gift of having the capacity to love and be loved — spouse, family, friends (church and other), …
4. The gift of our 5 senses — some don’t work as well, but they make our time enjoyable
5. The gift of provisions — physical needs, financial security. Home is best nation in the world.
What a sweet, sensitive, wise man this world has lost. And no one feels it more than the family who came together to celebrate his life and the legacy he leaves behind. Thanks, Gramps. We’ll miss you forever.