I don't even know where to begin...I've been putting this blog post off for over a week...I've getting teary-eyed already. I don't want to write this...but I need to. I need to get these words out of my mind. I just feel like...once I "publish" this...it will finalize Maamaa's death...and make it true and real...and I don't want to do that. So bear with me if things don't make sense as I write, because I'm pretty positive they won't.
Sunday, December 9th, 2012, a day that I will never forget. It was emotionally exhausting. I woke up with a slightly stopped-up nose and a weird stomach ache. Mom came in a little bit before we left to find me lying on my bed.
"Are you okay?" she asked me.
I sat up. "My stomach hurts..." I leaned my head on her shoulder and teared up a little. "I don't want to do this." I'd been so much more at peace because I knew I was coming home to grieve with my family, but as soon as the day came...all of that peace left me.
Once we got to the funeral home, and I saw my grandmother, I immediately gravitated toward her, gave her a hug and cried into her shoulder. She seemed so much more together than I was, which didn't make sense in my emotional mind. This was her mother! "She's gone home honey," she told me over and over, rubbing my back and trying to calm me down. It just made me cry harder. "She's gone home."
She's gone home...that statement still makes me cry. I know she's in a much better place, better than any of us could ever imagine, but I never thought of heaven as her home...but here, with us...her family.
My cousin Jonny, who's been my after school buddy for the past three years or so, came up behind me and held tight to me. It was a long time before he let go.
Mom came up and asked if I wanted to go "take the tour"; walk along the row of flowers to view the casket.
"No, not yet," I replied, pulling my hands together and hanging them in front of me, feeling shy. I wasn't ready. I could see Maamaa laying there from where I was, but I didn't want to actually go up, for it to be solidified in my mind. I didn't want it to be real. Not yet...not ever.
I felt so out of place there in that funeral home. I didn't know what to do. I felt as if I was the only emotional one at the moment...but maybe that's because I was one of the only ones there who was extremely emotional. I think I went through about eight tissues in the first fifteen minutes I was there!
Finally though, my dad came and took my hand and led me toward line of flowers...toward the casket. At first I considered pulling away...but I knew it would have to happen eventually. But that didn't stop me from scuffling my feet...taking my own sweet time to get there. I snagged Mom along the way. I tried to look at every flower in every arrangement before the casket, putting off one of the moments I was dreading...looking down at my great-grandmother and not seeing her eyes sparkling. Not seeing her eyes at all.
As I looked down at her, I felt a different person take over me. I wanted to fling myself onto the casket and give Maamaa the biggest hug ever...apologize for not spending as much time with her at family gatherings. For not saying goodbye. Instead, I reached for my mom and sobbed into her shoulder. I didn't want Maamaa to be gone. I didn't want her to be lying there. After we walked away, used another half a dozen tissues, and said hello to the rest of my family members, I felt slightly more calm. And that continued for another hour as we continued to fellowship and be rocks for each other.
I'll admit, I didn't each much in the "family lounge". The food I ate amounted to the equivalent of half a grilled cheese sandwich. When you're grieving...eating feels overrated or useless. Or just a waste of time. That's how I felt that day. Instead, I decided to stay in the main room and wait for people to arrive, and try to smile and be joyful that Maamaa wasn't suffering anymore.
Let me tell you what, that is so hard to do.
And then my best friend got there. Praise God.
I'd never been more grateful to see her in my entire life! I took her through the "tour" after a few minutes of small talk. I managed to stay mostly strong, without really losing it, although a couple tears escaped. But that was why Jenny came, to be there for me when I couldn't hold it in.
After a little bit, Lizzie came! Two of my best friends, there with me during my darkest day. And I can't thank them enough for spending their Sunday afternoon with me, a very sad me. A very tired me. A very "not myself" me.
About a half an hour before the actual funeral began, two other dear friends from church arrived, Josh and DJ. Again, I can't even begin to express the gratitude and appreciation I felt at that moment. I feel like I owe them so much. Their presence spoke volumes to my dad.
As the minutes ticked by, it was hard to focus on my friends and the random conversations we were having. Instead, I would stare at the casket and all else would fade away. I could feel myself slipping into a less-Angelica state...and more into an emotional wreck.
The clock reached 2pm. People gravitated to seats in front of the casket. And the waterworks began. Not loud and obnoxious sobs (thank goodness!), but fast and steady streams down both my cheeks. I'm sure that I soaked my mom's shirt with my tears. I couldn't stop. I knew this was the end. I knew that this was the last I was going to see Maamaa in the flesh until I got to heaven. And I didn't want it to end.
All the girls in the family, save my grandmother and my mom's cousin, stood and sang "In The Garden". Somehow I managed to sing along without sounding like a frog. Somehow we all managed...
I don't really remember much else about the service, except that the pastor made everyone laugh from the start by saying Maamaa's first words upon entering heaven were probably "They took my keys" (which is probably true), and Grandma got up and told stories and managed to keep her composure fairly well.
And then suddenly, they shooed everyone else out for the funeral parade, and left the family alone in the room. Just us and Maamaa...and the funeral director. We all reluctantly circled the casket, no one wanting to make the first move to say goodbye. I moved toward my eldest cousin and put my arm around his shoulders, crying silently. The sound of tissues crumpling and people sniffling was overwhelming.
I don't really remember what in particular triggered this, but I started sobbing harder and louder, like a cross between hiccuping and choking on my own tears. My cousin put his arm around me and let me cry, or sob, as it was. My mother moved forward, put her hands on my great grandmothers and kissed her forehead. One of my younger cousins followed suit. I stood there, wiping snot on my sweater sleeve, staring at Maamaa. Everything in me screamed to protest, to demand that the doctors come back and fix her...that someone give her life again. But I knew how juvenile that was, how ridiculous. I didn't want to be labeled the mental freak who upset her Maamaa's funeral by charging the casket screaming for her great grandmother to wake up. Although trust me, it was tempting.
Instead, I let go of my cousin and stiffly shuffled forward, toward Maamaa. I reached out and touched her folded hands. I have never felt someone so cold before in my life. I almost jerked away, but instead leaned forward and gave her one, final kiss on the forehead. Then I turned around to see my cousin Meg taking a step towards me. I walked a couple steps and we looked at each other, before practically collapsing onto each other in sobs.
I don't know what happened behind me until the funeral director spoke up, asking if we needed more time or were ready to close the casket. I had to control myself to keep from glaring at the funeral director. I wanted to yell at her to shut up and go away, or something. I just didn't want to leave Maamaa. I couldn't! I just couldn't...
Mom finally spoke up, after a couple minutes of verbal silence. "I think we should close it."
I don't think I've ever felt so heartbroken in my life...no matter what the circumstance was. I cast a glance I my mother before burrowing my face in my cousin's shoulder again. We started moving toward the door. My legs just moved with everyone else; they were no longer a part of me. I felt numb. I felt cold. I felt alone, even among all those people. I guess that's what grief does to you.
One of my younger cousins latched onto my waist and we awkwardly shuffled out side by side into the cold, cloudy, damp day. Once we exited the funeral home, my eyes started searching for Josh, DJ, and Jenny. I looked for them; needing them. Only a few feet from our car, I saw Jenny's silhouette waving at me in the van next to our car. I looked at her and then looked back down and squeezed my cousin tighter. I heard the van door open and saw Jenny jump out and run for me. I let my cousin go and ran to meet Jenny, burying my face into and sobbing hysterically. I could feel my whole body shaking uncontrollably. It took every ounce of energy I had left in my body to keep myself from completely giving out. I never wanted to let her go.
Once at the cemetery, I didn't want to leave Jenny's side. I didn't want her to leave. Ever. The men in our family stood in two, black lines at the back of the funeral car, waiting for their cue to pull the casket and set it next to my great grandfather, who died before I was born. The funeral director pull two roses from the giant flower arrangement on top of the casket and handed one to my great uncle and one to my grandmother.
And then, just like that, everything was over. "You all may come get a flower from the covering," the funeral director told us. Like a zombie, I followed my family and pulled a single, pink rose. I clutched it tight and turned to see DJ, Jenny, and Josh standing in a little half circle, waiting for me. I shuffled towards them and embraced them, never wanting to let them go. It took all my will power to stop myself from giving out and completely collapsing onto them. I didn't want them to leave; I didn't want to leave. I didn't want to walk away from Maamaa's grave. I still wish I didn't.
This post took me over a week to actually compose. Lots of tears were shed. I hope that all my emotional rambling makes sense to you.