The final journey

Before I go into the final journey, please read the blog right before this one. It would be great if you had words to say about my mom that you enter them into the guest book at the Funeral Home in Longmont that initally handled her arrangments – all of the information is there for you to click on to their website and enter your thoughts.
Now, it is all over – at least the easy part. I am beginning to realize that the hard part is only beginning, as I reach for the phone to call her and of course, she is not there.
I went to Florida a day early to close some chapters. You can see that I added a new photo album that has some pictures of the house that they loved so dearly and the mall that they always walked.
I met my aunt Jane (my uncle Vic’s second wife) and her daughter (Charmaine) for breakfast on Friday at the restaurant where they used to meet my mother for breakfast once a week. I had the opportunity to share with them the story of mom’s last days and it was very cathartic to do so.  Charmaine helped me find a restaurant for the meal after the burial – most nice restaurants in that part of town do not open until 4pm and she was able to talk a restaurant owner into opening sooner for our party. That was great – mom would have loved the place and would have approved.
After breakfast, I went to take pictures of their old house. They loved that house so much – it was their dream, and in retrospect, they lived a "dream" retirement for almost 20 years. As I was taking pictures, the owner of the house came out. I told him who I was, and he immediately said to me "Oh, you must be Euphrasia’s daughter " and I said yes. He asked how she was and how Nick was as well (Nick was the one who spent a month with her to help her move to Colorado).
When I told him about mom, he expressed his sympathy and asked me if I wanted to go inside the house. I told him, that if he did not mind, that I would really appreciate that. Well, life does go on, and I had to laugh because the house was very different from what I remembered.
This man and his wife were animal rehabilitators – they had 6 dogs, 7 cats, 6 birds, 2 racoons, and 2 squirrels all living in the house. He told me that when he saw me taking pictures of the house, he thought maybe one of the neighbors was preparing to sue him because of the complaints that he has gotten about the dogs barking.
They had added an additional screened-in area off of the pool deck to accomodate some of the birds, the two squirrels and the 2 racoons. You could smell urine in that area, and my first thought was, oh boy, mom and dad would really be turning over in their graves to see this. But, it just reinforced to me that life does go on, and that is the way it should be. It was their home now, and their home and their lifestyle certainly did not have to conform to my memories of it.
I was grateful to be able to take some pictures of the pool, and they are included in the new photo album as well that I just added to this site.
Saturday was a tough day, much tougher than I expected. I found out that I really had no desire to see my mother in a coffin, nor did I have any desire to touch her. Personally, I would have just been happy being there with her when she died and then having her taken care of in a manner in which I did not have to view it. What I saw was not my mom (don’t get me wrong, they did a fine enough job with the body) – it was just an empty shell – a well dressed stone of a person.
But, I could also see that the viewing was very important to my brother and the rest of the family that attended. The funeral party was very small – me, my brother and his wife, my aunt from Florida and her daughter and husband, my aunt and uncle from Georgia and my cousin, and one of my mother’s friends from bingo. Nick could not make it – with his lung problems, the doctor does not recommend that he fly at this time – so he handled the home front and I took care of mom.
We had only an hour and a half of viewing and then went to the Catholic Church (Light of Christ) where my mom and dad had been parishoners for 20+ years. That mass was very nice and it was officiated by a priest with a noticeable accent (I found out later that he was Polish, so it was ironically very appropriate).
At the cemetery, after the priest spoke, I said a few final words. I shared with the group the story of mom’s last week (which is included in some of the previous blogs if you want to read them) and the story of her death. Then we escorted her to the crypt. There was a curtain over the opening, and when we asked what it was covering, they said that it was covering dad’s coffin in the back. So, we asked if we could see it, and sure enough, there was his coffin. I immediately said, "Hold on dad, here she comes and I am sure the orders will start shortly", everyone laughed. We watched as she was put next to dad, and we left as they began the process of sealing the crypt.
And then, the easy part of was over. We had a nice lunch – I went back to the hotel and called my aunt (Sister Teresita) to let her know how it went, – went to a nearby mall to do some retail therapy and met my brother and sister-in-law later to watch part of the Ohio State and Michigan game.
Chapter closed. And in the words from the play Steel Magnolias – … I know that is true in my brain – I just wish someone would tell that to my heart… because the chapter is not closed, the essence of my mom is not gone – it is here with me, and now I have to figure out how to live with that and be happy with that.
As I went shopping, all I could think of was her words to me "Honey, I won’t be able to go Christmas shopping with you this year." and I told her that she would always go Christmas shopping with me, because she would always be in my heart. And yet, as I was carrying her in my heart through that mall, I was angry and I was sad, because it just was not good enough. I wanted her there, with me, hanging on to my arm like she used to, talking away about every little detail of her life and wanting to stop for some lunch or a glass of wine.
But she was not there, and it dawned on me that as I face this holiday season, she will not be there – and I have to figure out how to live with that, and how my life has to go one without one of the most significant influences and loves in my life. We shared a love for the story of the Christmas Carol, and all of the antics of Ebeneezer Scrooge – we loved holiday music (she especially the big band version of holiday songs) and I would play them incessently in my car as we travelled around doing our holiday chores. Right now, none of this brings any spark of joy.
She had to give me an early Christmas gift this year – the gift of helping her move on to her eternal life – and although that may be the most precious gift she has ever given me, I feel empty with that gift right now. I know I am being selfish, and that time will help me appreciate that gift even more than I do now, but it is my reality and I have to work through it the best I can.
When I was flying home, and just as we were making our approach back into the Denver airport, I swear I felt her touch my shoulder and I felt a calm as I came back to Colorado without her. It was hard to leave her in Florida and come back her by myself, but she belonged to dad much longer than she belonged to me, and I know dad was overjoyed to have her back in his arms.
So I am banking on the fact that they will do in death what they did so beautifully in life all those many years and that is take care of their little girl. Because Lord knows, she really needs it now.
I am taking this week off to get some things done in relation to mom’s estate and to take a little rest. Tomorrow I am spending all day at a spa and I am really looking forward to that. And on Friday, I will do what I have always done and that is go Christmas shopping. Yes, I am one of those nuts that actually enjoys going Christmas shopping on the busiest shopping day of the year. So mom, I am counting on you to help me feel your presence so that my life can go on -and that I learn that carrying you in my heart is enough while I am on this earth – and that I never forget and never stop feeling your love.

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