Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Fulfillment of a Wish

Very recently, I wrote a post about a wish my mom had.  She always wanted her daughter (who had died at 28 hours old) to be buried with her when she died. I always remember her telling me how the baby would be moved from a very large city cemetery and placed in her grave at her feet.  A couple of years ago, Mom had told Dad that she thought it would be too expensive so she thought it would be fine to leave the baby where she was. 
Well, as my family well knows, telling me not to do something is the same as giving me an engraved invitation to do it. (A trait that gets me into trouble sometimes.)  Today, I'm honored to be writing about the completion of Mom's wish, and I hope she forgives my disobedience ;o) 
On Thursday, Sept 16 2010, we brought our sister Debra's sweet little body to her new, and final, resting place.  She is now buried with our mother, right where she belongs.  I'd like to tell as much of this story as I can, in pictures.
The guest of honor arrived in the back of my Suburban.  I loved being able to drive her little body home to Mom.

Beautiful little cherubs surrounded her casket.

Daddy finally carrying his little girl to be with her mama.
Putting the princess on a pedestal
Some well deserved flowers
Dad spoke about the bittersweet nature of the day.
Tim gave a beautiful prayer.
One of the most heartbreaking stories of Debra's death was one told of the morticians closing the casket and Mom realizing that she had not put a blanket on her baby.  She stood there unable to remedy a very motherly instinct of keeping your baby warm.  She had not thought beforehand to bring a blanket.  Although she knew it wasn't rational, she would find herself worried that the baby was cold.  The rest of her life, if she ever heard of a friend or family member losing a baby, she made sure that they had something with which to cover their precious one.  Usually, it was a beautiful blanket she had lovingly made herself.
This is one of Mom's handmade blankets.

Well Mom, we covered her...She is no longer cold.

Lots of family attended.
Think they're related??

My lil' Mr. Mason
Grandpa got lots of hugs

The groundskeepers lower the little casket.

Finally, their bodies rest together.

My sweet little Amanda visiting Grandma and Aunt Debra

The day marked the end of a journey that started in 1968.  It was emotional, spiritual, and healing.  Being able to do this for Mom has been such a labor of love, one shared by my entire family.  I know she and Debra have been close by.  I have no doubt that they are running around the heavens, laughing and enjoying being together in their spiritual state.  Now they also rest together in their physical state. 

What a gift they have given us, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Faulty Phone?

On Thursday, we had made all the arrangements to have Debra re-interred with our Mother.  I have great photos to share but they are not in my possession yet so I'm going to split the events of the day in to two parts...
I have to start the story by telling you that I procured a new phone from t-mobile just a couple of days prior to burial day.  The day before the burial was planned, my little niece, Londyn, got some water on my phone.  We immediately dried it out and it seemed no worse for wear. The next day I would realize that Londyn may have had a little help from the other side when spilling that water.   I continued to use the phone, stress free all Wednesday night and Thursday morning.  At 11:00am, I had plans to go to Goff Mortuary to clean Debra's little casket before her graveside service later that day.  No sooner did I get in my car than my phone stopped working.  Completely. Stopped. Working.  No one could dial in, I couldn't dial out, no texting, NOTHING.  So, I chalk it up to possible water damage and start planning to go get a new phone after the services. 
I got to the mortuary and Dad was already there waiting for me.  I went to work trying to clean Debra's beautiful, yet old, casket.
As Dad sat and supervised (some things never change), we were able to have a great conversation.  We talked about Mom, my kids, his feelings and hopes for my future, and how he felt his daughters were coping with Mom's death.  In my entire 45 years, I don't think I've ever had a conversation with my dad that was longer than two minutes.  This conversation lasted almost two hours.  He didn't leave, he didn't change the subject, he didn't pace the floor, he didn't try to pawn the conversation off on to someone else.  As I cleaned, we just talked.  I wish I had it recorded because one day, he will be gone too and I'd love to have that one on tape...

The front all cleaned up!  We found engraved cherubs on the outside.  It was beautiful!

And here's the back all cleaned up.  There were more cherubs...
After I was satisfied that it was as clean as I could get it, we loaded the little casket carrying my baby sister, into my Suburban.  I had to run a few errands before the graveside service so I got to take her with me.  I joked with family that I was "Driving Miss Debby".  Still, my mobile phone would not work...
I finished my errands, took the baby to the cemetery and we had a beautiful graveside service, which I will post about in the next day or so.  As I left the cemetery, ready to head across the street to the t-mobile store, my phone rang.  Yep, just started ringing after 6 hours of complete silence.  It was Stacey, she had forgotten that my phone wasn't working and just dialed out of habit.  Surprised and shocked, I told her that I needed to check my phone and call a few numbers.  Sure enough, every number worked just fine!
I'd call it a coincidence but, I don't believe in coincidence.  I think that little Debby wanted me to be completely focused for the day and she REALLY wanted me to talk to Dad.
Thanks Debra!  You were right to mess with my phone, and I'm sure you and Mom are laughing about that little prank!  I will cherish the time spent with Dad at your insistence.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mom's 42 Year Wish

Many years ago, 42 to be exact, my mother gave birth to a baby girl who only lived for 28 hours.  Her name was Debra Lynn.  I was only 3 and a half when she was born but her little life always had a profound effect on me.  I remember so much about that time...Mom leaving to give birth but returning from the hospital without a baby, a tiny casket, a beautiful white dress, bonnet, and socks, tiny knees, an old woman in a mortuary. 

The thing I remember most though was Mom telling me that when she died, the baby was to be moved from the cemetery where she had been initially placed and buried at her feet.  In Mom's last years, she decided that it would be too expensive and told my father to just leave the baby where she was.  Knowing that it really was what she wanted, I began making arrangements to have the baby moved just as soon as it became evident that Mom's time on this earth was short.  The idea was to have Mom and Debra buried together on the same day.  Mom died sooner than expected and the plan didn't work out.
It took two months but on Monday of this week, the process began of having Debra transferred from one cemetery to the other.
The Sexton supervising the first shovelful

What a learning experience this has been for me.  I didn't know what I was getting into prior to the day when I informed the mortuary of the plan.  What I found out was interesting, confusing, bureaucratic, and somewhat crazy.  Did you know that a cemetery is not licensed to do a disinterment?  Yep, they can put you in the ground but are not licensed to dig you up.  They could only dig until they found the tip of the casket and then they turned the duties over to us.  Now, we aren't licensed either so we had to bring along with us an undertaker who was licensed.  Here is where I have to give my sincerest thanks to Goff Mortuary for all their help.  They truly went above and beyond for our family and we will never be able to repay their kindness.  Thanks to their presence at the cemetery, we, the siblings of Debra Lynn, were able to get right down in the hole and dig to get her out.  It became one of the most sacred, beautiful days I have ever spent with my brothers and sisters.

Waiting and watching as the backhoe carefully digs.

The first corners of the tiny fiberglass vault appeared and the cemetery turned the job of digging over to us,
Tim and I were the first to have shovels in our hands.
We all took our turns which made the digging easy.
Finally, we could see the entire fiberglass vault and it was time to loosen and lift.
Sandy (top) and me lifting our sister.
It really wasn't heavy, I think it weighed about 10 lbs.

We were not sure what condition the casket would be in so when I placed on the grass, fully intact, a sigh of relief went up...along with some cheers!
And the hugs were passed around.
Figuring out how to remove the outer vault
Her little casket finally exposed.
We looked inside the casket and what we found is too personal and beautiful to share on a public blog.  I will however, show her darling little socks that sit exactly where her tiny feet were placed 42 years ago.

I'm sure Mom was looking on as this picture was taken.  Finally, all of her children (and a couple of grandchildren for good measure) were physically in the same place at the same time.  This had never happened before.

It was only fitting that Dad should carry his baby daughter away from what had been her resting place.  I can imagine him, when he was much younger, carrying this very casket.  It would have been in pristine condition, bright white with shiny golden hinges and knobs.  The grief must have been palpable as he and Mom would place that casket, which carried the body of their sixth child, in the ground. 
Today,  Dad will carry her one more time.  This time it will be to place her permanently with the love of his life...His beautiful wife, Gayle Marie.
***Post edit...
After writing this post, my dad made the comment to me that carrying Debra out of the cemetery was the first time he had ever held his little girl.  At the time of her burial, one of the funeral directors was the one to carry her from the limousine to her grave.   It seems that back when Debra died, it wasn't customary to allow parents to be "hands on" with their dying/dead babies.  Something about trying to spare them pain...
I'm so glad that we have evolved to the point that we not only let parents hold their babies, but that they are encouraged to dress them, visit with them, have photographs taken if they wish,  or do whatever they need to get some tangible evidence of the baby's existence.  I can't imagine holding my baby for the first time in a decades old casket.   But, at least Dad got to hold her...Mom never did.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Congratulations to my sister Jeanna and her new hubby Roger!!!

Mr and Mrs Smith
Saturday night, my sister got married after 5 years of being single.  I think she got a good guy...I KNOW he got a great lady!!  It was a beautiful wedding, she was a stunning bride, he was a handsome groom and the entourage looked fabulous!  The only way the night could have been better is if our mother had been there...
Me and my family walking up the isle (I'll post a better pic when I have one)

Just us girls
Ummmm, do I really want to do this?
Well Jeanna, it's a little late for that question...Deep breaths, all will be well!
First kiss as husband and wife
Put a ring on it Roger!!!!
Jeanna surprised Roger with the ring he thought he wasn't going to get for a while.  Our jeweler put a rush on it and was able to finish it just in time!  Thanks Ken!!!
He was so shocked that it brought tears to his eyes...

Welcome to the family Roger! 
(I'm still her BFF though...just in case you forgot!)