I have endured this grieving journey for eight plus years, I have changed and so has my grief. I am better now on some days and other days are not so good. Every day, week, month, year and season is different; and I have experienced different feelings and moods during these times.
I feel it would be good to go back in time to the beginning to share a few blogs that I feel are very helpful and maybe these would help someone that is new to the journey and found my blog.
Originally posted on CaringBridge~Tuesday, April 21st, 2009
I woke myself early the next morning alone, and the tears began to fall. Even before I opened my eyes, the nightmare that had become my reality hit me. Christian, our funeral director, called and we had an appointment at 10:00 am. He told me a few things that I needed to bring, which included full undergarments for Heather. I found this comforting to think that she would be fully clothed.
I numbly got dressed in the same clothes I had worn the day before. I just put them on without thinking. Not like they had an odor, but it was just not like me to wear the same clothes. I told Bill that we needed to make several visits today. I wanted to stop before we went to the funeral home and get fake nails for Heather’s fingers and toes. She would never ever be fully dressed without those. I also picked up several TY Beanie Heather Bunnies and wanted to stop by the hospital again. (Several days earlier, I had asked a friend to look for TY Beanie Heather Bunnies for me. They were able to find about ten of them.)
Bill and I stopped at a Walgreens just down the road from the funeral home. I picked out nails that had a clean French tip look to them. Then it was time to go meet with Chris. I was not sure what to expect, but I had a very good idea in my mind of what I wanted already for her funeral.
I carried the paper sack and Heather’s ball gown into the waiting area of the funeral home. Chris came to meet us and said very nicely he would take the things I had brought. With my instinctive “Momy” reaction, I turned away and told him I needed to explain everything to him before he took them. He was very kind and let me take my time. He told us how beautiful her gown was and all her treasures. He had another young man come take all of Heather’s items and escorted us into planning room.
The first question I asked was that I wanted to know if Heather was here. Christian told me yes, she was here and being taken care of, not to worry. We then began going over the details of what kind of funeral we wanted. I wanted a viewing, with Heather in a casket, and then have her cremated. Then it was all the little details like limos for the family, newspaper articles, pastors, and order of service. Then we came to the big decisions. He explained that we had to purchase a casket, and then it would be crushed and sold for scrap metal afterward. So Bill and I needed to pick a casket. We also needed to pick an urn to place Heather’s ashes in. All the examples were in the room, hanging on the wall. Chris excused himself to allow us time to decide.
I wanted a white casket to resemble a white princess coach. Heather’s funeral was going to be in grand princess style. This was the last party of sorts I would ever plan for her, and it was going to be a beautiful one. Bill and I both agreed on a casket that was white with gold handles. We felt it looked very princess like. Then we looked at the other wall that held all the urns. I found a beautiful little white one that had roses on the top of it. There were also memorial necklaces and treasure boxes that held a small amount of ashes to have them with you always. Too many choices, but I did not like any of them because none of them looked right.
When Christian came back into the room, he informed me I had picked an urn for a newborn baby. I had no clue as to the size the urn had to be. Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about the size of the box. I told him I didn’t like the necklaces or memory boxes, so he gave me two catalogs to take home and look at. That decision did not need to be made today. I had time. He also would take a fingerprint from Heather’s thumb. We could turn that into pendants later on.
Next came the flowers, and Christian told us he had a florist he worked with and had special packages available. It was easy to just buy it all there. One-stop shopping, so to speak. The prices of everything were so much that a few extra $10 here or there did not seem to matter. The package we got had the big casket spray and two standing sprays. One from her sisters Jenn and Wendy and one from Baby Violet. I wanted pink roses to be very beautiful and princess-like. Christian told me he would make sure that the flowers were beautiful.
Then we had to pick the funeral booklet that would be handed out to all the attendees and the guest registry book. The booklet that the funeral home had was okay but not anything like I wanted. I agreed to a folded half page from them, but I already had planned a “program” of my own. I did not care that I had to design, make, print, and put these together. Nothing was too small of a detail to be overlooked.
Finally we needed to pick the place to hold the funeral. Falconer Funeral Home had a chapel, but it was too small for the amount of people that would be attending Heather’s service. We did not have a home church at the time but had attended Trinity Baptist Church. Christian was familiar with it, and he would make all the arrangements for us. He would ask for the main sanctuary because when a young person dies, they tend to have a larger funeral.
We were only there for about an hour, but it felt like an eternity. We had several things we had to do during the week before the private viewing on Friday evening and the public viewing and funeral Saturday afternoon. Rusty’s (Bill’s brother in law died the day before Heather did) funeral would be Friday morning, so family would be flying in for that one and then stay for Heather’s funeral on Saturday. I chose to have her funeral in the afternoon because she was not a morning person.
Today was Tuesday, and we needed to pick a photo for a large woven tapestry that was a “gift” from the funeral home. We needed to figure out the photo and wording for the booklet from the funeral home. This was your traditional name, birthday, death date, etc. Next we needed to work on an announcement for the newspaper. This needed to be done by Wednesday to make it in Friday’s Republic newspaper. Then we choose to do a slide show and we needed to select seventy-five photos and two or three songs that would play during the slide show. Christian also suggested having a photo table and a personal stuff table at the funeral. On the personal stuff table would be items that belonged to Heather to describe her likes, dislikes, and personality. I also needed to figure out the music, and we needed to meet with the pastors to get the service worked out. I left there with my head spinning with all the things that needed to be done. I think this was done to keep the family busy for the first week leading up to the funeral.
Of course, there was the matter of payment. The initial costs were totaled, and then the rest would be added in when we got things finished. We were required to pay half down that day, and then we were to come in on Thursday to pay the final portions and make any last-minute decisions.
When we left, we stopped by Baywood Hospital, and we went right into ICU. I do not know now how we managed to do that. It seemed right and natural at the time. All the staff in ICU greeted us with hugs and sympathy. We saw Dr. Anthony and Dr. Zachariah and gave them both TY Beanie Heather Bunnies. We told them thank you for all their hard work. Monica was on duty and came to hug me. She said she had to come back in today and work her regular shift. The day shift nursing manager, Marilyn, showed us that housekeeping had cleaned Heather’s ICU room, but the hospital management decided to leave the curtain open but lights off and empty for twenty-four hours, done out of respect for Heather. I could not believe they did that, and I was overwhelmed with emotions.
We headed up to 6 South, and we were greeted by many of the nurses and aides there. Everyone told me there was only ever one Princess on 6 South and that was Heather. Next we went into radiology to see Dr. Chris. All I had to say at the check-in desk was that it was Heather’s parents, and the staff took us right back into the recovery room to wait for Chris. They told us how sorry they were and that the whole hospital was talking about Heather and how sorry they were. It made me feel like we had a family there. It would feel weird not to go to the hospital anymore.
We came home and thought we didn’t feel like eating, but we decided we should besides Jenn and Wendy were hungry. We went to Peter Piper Pizza for lack of feeling like going anyplace else. This was the first time I ordered food without Heather being a part of our party and I asked for five drink cups. “Wait, I needed four, wait, how many did I need now?” I honestly did not know at that moment. We ate our pizza and I guess it was good. The manager had seen us come in there for years and brought us a large cinnamon dessert pizza. He told us we all looked so sad, and he hoped this helped brighten our day. I had no idea what my face looked like to the world.
When I got home I wondered around and we tried to work on things. I was antsy but didn’t want to go anywhere. We would no longer be going to the hospital to kiss Heather good night. I took a sleeping pill and went to bed, feeling numb and empty.