No Parent Should Attend Their Child’s Funeral…

Originally posted on CaringBridge~Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Friday I woke again in tears before my eyes even opened. It only took seconds for reality to hit me the moment I woke up. Bill attended Rusty’s funeral without me. I was not in any shape to attend his funeral. I do not remember lunch or dinner. I have no idea or memory of that day’s events.

That evening we all went to the funeral home for the private viewing. When I walked in, I was overcome with an out-of-body experience. It was me and I was there, but it wasn’t me and I was watching myself go through the motions. I walked into the chapel, and the first thing I saw was Heather lying in the casket. It was an unreal moment as I walked closer to see her. She looked beautiful like a princess sleeping. At times I expected to see her chest move like she was breathing. I held her hand and talked to her. It was so hard to let go. I know it was only her shell, but I loved that “shell” a lot. To me that was Heather—but her spirit and soul were gone, so the “shell” really wasn’t her. She always said that no woman was ever completely dressed until she had her perfume on. I had brought a bottle of Victoria’s Secret Very Sexy with me and sprayed her all over. It was her scent, and it smelled like flowers and Heather.

When Heather was about sixteen years old, she took a stuffed bear of mine. She told me she just wanted him for a few days, and he ended becoming her favorite bear. She named him Edison, from his tag since he was made in Edison, New Jersey. I would tease her about taking him back. A few years later, Heather found another Edison and bought him for me. We called him the fake Edison. I placed the fake Edison and a TY Beanie Heather Bunny in the casket with her. Her hands were placed one on top of the other, and she was holding a single white rose.

The next thing I did was I began to look at all the beautiful flowers all in pinks and whites. The casket spray and the two others we had purchased were arranged with the biggest most stunningly beautiful roses I had ever seen. I began to read the cards to see who all the flowers were from. I was overwhelmed at how many arrangements were there. Next to Heather’s casket was the beautiful woven tapestry. It was remarkable. It looked just like the photo of her that we had picked out.

Our closest family and friends came to pay their respects. It was a time for us to really come to grips with the fact that Heather was dead. It was an evening of hugs, tears, and laughter. We had final words with Christian, and we left. I had one more day of “screwing on my smile” for the world to see. I just needed to survive the funeral.

I woke Saturday morning numb and with tears in my eyes yet again. The day had come, the day that I dreaded more than anything, the final time to see my baby girl before she was only left in my pictures and memories. I dragged myself out of bed and began to get ready for the day.

Before we left, we had received four different floral arrangements delivered to the house. They were beautiful, but I did not feel like trying to take them to the funeral. The house was beginning to look like a flower shop. It would look that way even more when we brought all the other flowers home.

I put my dress on that I wore at the ball ( the huge princess celebration after she finished chemo treatments), put a very small amount of makeup on, brushed my hair, and put my tiara on. I was as ready as I was ever going to be. I walked out of my room and began to go downstairs. I felt very fluttery inside like I was going to really lose it and not be able

to collect myself for days. I still had one of Heather’s prescriptions for Ativan in pill form, and I took one. This was usually used for anxiety. I then went downstairs. Bill and Jenn came with me, and Wendy and Violet came a bit later. I think we stopped on the way at McDonald’s and got a cheeseburger, but I cannot be sure that happened. I have no memory until I arrived at the church.

The white hearse was parked in front of the church when we arrived. Heather’s casket was placed off to the right side of the foyer in the church, and there were fake plants around her. This discretely allowed guests that wanted to see her could, but if people did not want to view her they did not have too. I looked at the photo table, the remembrance table and it all looked amazing, as if I had done it myself. The podium had a single rose in a vase, the registry book, and the two programs and all looked very good as well. The front of the sanctuary displayed all the flowers and the tapestry there. They had left a space for the casket to go during the service.

I placed the two boxes of TY Beanie Heather Bunnies behind the desk for afterward and then went to go look at Heather. She looked peaceful, but different, and did not seem like herself to me this time. The butterflies hit my stomach, and I walked away before I began to cry and would not be able to stop. I brought her Edison bear with me to hold on to during the day. The guests began to arrive, and I visited with many of them.

All too suddenly it was time to begin. Our family gathered around Heather’s casket to say our final good-byes. I touched her and said good-bye. When someone who was late came to get a look and touched her, I was put off and had to touch her one more time. I had to be the last one to touch her, period! The casket was closed and moved as the pallbearers were given instructions.

As the song “Forever Love” by Reba began, the casket was slowly rolled into the sanctuary as our family followed behind. I was right behind the casket. I honestly do not remember seeing anything but the casket during the walk in. The song was written about a couple, but it seemed to me to be a love song between a mother and her child.

Pastor Steve began to talk about Heather’s life and our memories of her. He did an excellent job and I know it was hard for him to do since he had watched her grow from a kid to a teen. Right after he spoke, the slide show of photos was shown. We began at the beginning, with her birth, and ended with a beautiful photo of Aunt Missy holding Princess Pea for the first time. The two songs we chose for the photos showcasing Heather’s life were Celine Dion’s “Miracle” and Amy Grant’s “I Can Only Imagine.” Heather had sung “Imagine” at her Grandma Coombe’s funeral in 2005, and she sang it beautifully.

Then it was time for us girls to get up and speak. Pastor Steve looked at me, and I gave him a yes nod and made my way to the stage. I talked about my memories and how proud I was to be her mother. I ended by saying: “In closing, the greatest joy of my life was being honored to be your mother. It was one of the reasons why I was put on the planet. So, my precious little dolly love, you be good, remember what I always taught you, mind your manners and be polite. Oh yes, by the way . . . I expect to see you waiting at the gate for me and you better not be late . . .PS. Don’t tell Jenn and Wendy, but did I ever tell you . . . you’re my favorite, and I love you the mostest?” The PS at the end was a joke; we all watched Reba, the TV show. In one of the episodes, she tells each one of her kids privately “Did I ever tell you, you’re my favorite.” It was always a joke for me, and all the girls—to tell them in my best Reba impersonation that each one of them was my favorite. The “I love you the mostest” is from a Reba movie—Forever Love. I always told the girls I love them the mostest.

Alan Jackson’s “Sissy Song” was played for a moment of silent reflection as Jenn and Wendy finished reading their thoughts about Heather. Pastor Jim then got up and spoke about God, faith, and that Heather had been a born again believer. I just remember I sat there staring at Heather’s casket and the flowers, trying to figure out how this had become my world. It still did not make any sense to me.

The pallbearers were signaled, and Josh Turner’s song “Me and God” began as they wheeled her casket from the sanctuary into the foyer. The family followed with me once again right behind the casket. The doors were closed to keep the guests in the sanctuary until we were finished with final good-byes. The pallbearers stopped and placed their roses on top of the casket. The family walked slowly behind as her casket was wheeled to the parking lot. I stood and watched as the guys carried my daughter’s casket and placed it into the hearse. The door was shut, and it all was over.

I numbly walked back inside the foyer to stand, greet, and talk to the guests who were there. Christian had gotten the two boxes of TY Beanie Heather Bunnies for me and was close by making sure I was okay. It just happened that Bill was on one side of the foyer and I was on the opposite side. Several people left gifts and cards that Christian and his staff collected for us. I did okay standing there for the next hour getting hugged and hugged and hugged. I was about finished for the day though. As the last of the guests left, it was just family and a few close friends who remained, and we invited them to the family dinner.

It was cleanup time, and just like a wedding or any other party, the host family ends up with this task. We also had all the flowers to deal with. We were not going straight home so I had arranged for a dear neighbor to take the flowers to their house for me. I packed up the photos and all Heather’s mementos. It was very surreal to know I was packing up the things we brought to Heather’s funeral. What a day it had been.

It was my thought that to make it easy for everyone to find something to eat that a buffet would be the best idea. We all met at the Buffet for dinner. I saw all the other people look at me walk in with my formal dress and tiara. They had no clue where we had just come from. I sat down and just stared. I had no idea what to do next. Diane sat next to me and gently took my arm and said, “Let’s get something to eat.” It was good she was there because I was not functioning at that moment. After I ate, I made sure I made it around to all the people there to thank them for their love and support.

It was time to go home. All I felt was empty, hollow, and exhausted. I felt like I had not slept in years. My eyes hurt from all the tears. I never knew my body could cry so many tears. I figured I would dehydrate soon.

I went to the neighbors, and they helped bring all the flowers to my house. It was so wonderful to have all the flowers around. I had them in every room of the house. I spent time making sure they all had plenty of water. I guess we watched TV, and I honestly have no idea how the rest of the evening ended. I just felt a huge relief that the day was over.

“Nothing is worse than having you child
Take their last breath laying in your arms.”
~Unknown Author~

PHOTO~The above photo was taken by my husband, Bill. He doesn’t know why he took it, but it is everything words can’t say. The Pallbearers had stopped to place their roses on the casket. They all are related to Heather. Christian is standing next to me always protecting

2 thoughts on “No Parent Should Attend Their Child’s Funeral…

  1. Tiffanie Burton

    I remember that day. That was the first (and only to this day) funeral I’ve ever been to. I remember, stupidly, asking you how you were doing and you responding with “I took a pill so I feel ok”. Looking back I regret asking that… I was young and had no concept of the depth of loss you felt. I remember looking at Heather in the corner and the tables with her pictures and things, her life basically. As a young 20 year old I had no concept of death… especially one of a child. When I look at my daughter I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like if I lost her and I hope I never will. Thank you for sharing your story… it always reminds me to love hard and to be unapologetic about it. RIP Heather❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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