As I mentioned in Part 2, the weekend leading up to my dad’s funeral was extremely long and the most trying of any days of my life. At least I thought so until Monday came.
We were scrambling all day gathering items to display, deciding what we felt was best to share about who my dad was and the things he loved. We gathered blankets and pictures. Lego’s, music, hats, jerseys, military items and family photos.
If we could have just picked up his entire office and brought it with us, I think we would have. We arrived at the funeral home early, so that we could set up before the viewing started. I have never had so much anxiety in my whole life. Flashbacks to the night they took my dad away, like traumatic flashbacks. My heart was pounding faster than I ever thought it could. I was scared and I wasn’t ready to see him again.
When we got there, I looked in the big room, and there my daddy was. He was resting inside his beautiful casket with the Marine emblem placed inside the top/opening of the casket. They had laid out an American flag beautifully over the end. We helped my dad choose his suit. He chose his light gray suit when he was still able to communicate with us. My mom said it was his favorite suit and he only got to wear it to work once. Same with his really nice yellow tie. That was his favorite too.
I walked up to my dad and just started crying. We had someone purchase a tie clip of the Captain America shield. It looked beautiful. He was also wearing his Marine Corp ring. I’ve never felt more proud of my dad than at that moment. He fought so hard. He fought through boot camp, all those days away from my mom. He fought the dumb trials of finding jobs, self-taught education, providing for a family, dumb cars, always taking the bus. My dad did so much for us.
But he fought most hard at his cancer battle. God blessed us with 2 extra years but my dad still fought. Whether he thought he would win or not, that didn’t matter to him. He was a fighter.
The viewing was beautiful, and so many wonderful people came to love and support our family during this difficult time. I chose to stand out by the slideshow, and display area to greet people as they came in. I’m not really sure why. I think I wanted to greet people so they weren’t just quietly waiting in line.
Tuesday morning was beautiful. It was cloudy and most likely going to rain. I packed up my clothes, jewelry and makeup to my moms house. All of us girls were getting ready there. Our AMAZING family friend (who also does our hair) came to give my sister a cut and color and was kind enough to let me jump in for one! I got dressed, straightened my hair, put on my high heels and last but not least, added my green ribbon and Captain America pin to my shirt. The entire morning and getting ready was kind of a blur and just happened so quickly as we gathered items to put on display for the guests coming to the viewing before the service.
Brady met me at the Church and it felt so good to have him there with me. We gathered in the Relief Society room and stayed there as a family and family and friends started coming in to greet us and give us hugs. Our extended family stayed in the room for the family prayer after the viewing. That is probably the hardest part of the entire day.
When it was time, the tears began to fall and they never stopped all day. My brother stood with my mom and I think we were all really grateful for that. The funeral director’s allowed all of us family members one last goodbye before closing the casket. I had already walked up and said my goodbye but my brother invited me in line and I just cried the whole way up to the casket. I cried when I hugged my mom, and I cried as I ran back to Brady. I couldn’t believe I was never going to see my dad’s face again.
It was so heartbreaking and it still is. I thought watching the funeral director’s take my dad away the night he passed was the worst experience, but when they closed that casket shut, my heart shattered into a million peaces. And I don’t say that lightly… I physically fell apart. My chest was tight and heavy. My breathing became harder and I probably didn’t cry anymore tears because I cried them all out!
The most AMAZING prayer was said by a dear family member and truly gave us comfort in that moment. The anxiety about going into the chapel rose in my heart. They took my dad out first and my mom followed. I felt bad leaving Brady behind but I quickly grabbed my moms hand and walked with her all the way to the front. I felt so bad that I didn’t get to see everyone who came, I really wanted to. My heart was so full of gratitude to see so many familiar faces and new ones there to love and support our family and show respect to my dad. He left a legacy bigger than we ever thought.
The service was beautiful. My dad’s brother spoke first, and he shared so many funny stories of when they were kids. So many things we’ve never heard of and surprised that my dad pestered his siblings so much!! We had a good laugh! My brother Jake spoke next and shared similar funny stories with all of us, and so many that my family remembered. He shared an amazing experience about finishing a Spartan Race and receiving a medal, and how it influenced his life regarding my dad. It was the perfect talk (I guess that’s what you call it). After which we had a beautiful musical number done by a work-friend of my dad’s and a few other musicians that accompanied her in singing. She sang “I Know That My Redeemer Lives!” and my heart exploded. That song seriously always gets me. It just tugs at my heart and strengthens my testimony every time I sing it.
I was up next to speak and my heart raced so fast. I don’t normally have anxiety when I speak in church, I actually like speaking. I used this post to go off of. At the very end I bore witness that Jesus is the Christ. That He lives and my Heavenly Father exists. I wanted my family, but especially my mom to know that this gospel is true. That we will be taken care of, that dad is not lost but he is on the other side of the veil. The Spirit bore witness to me during my testimony and it was so strong. It was a testimony I’d never given with that kind of spirit. After I spoke my dad’s best friend spoke and it was so great. He shared so many wonderful qualities about my dad, stories and just really uplifting things. He has been a huge rock for my dad and for my family and we just can’t thank him enough for all that he’s done for our family.
Finally, we sang that closing hymn. My mom and I just listened… it was too hard to sing. My little nephew Evan cried a little bit during the service, it was so tender. We each left the chapel to head to the cemetery for the graveside service. Brady and I were pretty much there before everyone else was, and we even stopped at my moms to grab my flats. It started raining at that point. Nothing too hard, just sprinkling. We love the smell of rain. Rain is our favorite thing.
We had the United States Marine Corp. there with us. They played taps and folded the flag on his casket and gave it to my mom. It was wonderful. The grave was dedicated by my uncle who was also a huge strength for my mom and dad. It was a bit windy and cold but it was beautiful. So many tears were shed, but so many hugs were given. It was a really sad day for all of us. The pallbearers laid their flowers on top of the casket and that was it. It was all over. My dad had lost the battle in his physical body.
I love my dad, so much. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. Walking around at work, memories of him working there with me, flood my mind. When I’m doing a photography session, I think about him, and how he would love hearing how my sessions went. I think about him whenever I’m not thinking about something. The pain, the grief, the heaviness floods my heart daily. Grieving is a strange thing and so different for each person. I’m doing really well most days, but every now and then I just need to stay home, in my bed and catch up on my Hulu shows.
The rest of my life I’ll be missing my dad. So many more milestones in my life, and in our family, that he won’t be there to celebrate. He is with me in Spirit and I have already had so many sacred and special experiences involving my dad. I know that he must be happy. He’s no longer yellow, in pain and is probably drinking all of the Monster and eating all of the Red Vines that he wants right now. But one thing for sure, I know that he is being a faithful servant to the Lord right now. He is teaching the gospel to those spirits who denied or have not yet received knowledge of the gospel. I’m sure his heart aches knowing that he’s not with us, but one thing’s for sure, my dad wanted nothing sad, nothing depressing about his death/funeral.
My dad would want us to move forward. Not move on, or let go, or forget about it. That he knew was impossible. Living each day without him is a challenge. As a family we are getting through it. I don’t want to speak for the rest of us but as for me, I’m doing good. I have a great job with the most kind and understanding management. I am loved and welcomed in our new ward, and being placed in Nursery makes all the Sunday’s so great! We love where we live, and that we’ve added little Lucille to our family. She brings so much joy and happiness. We are blessed and grateful.