In my head, the aftermath looked like a scene from a natural disaster. The people and place gets rocked by the chaos of the disaster, just to be left standing in the middle of what feels like a chaotic wilderness of nothing.
There are few things from that day and the days to follow that I can’t remember verbatim. From the time I got the email as I was shutting down my computer at work asking ‘have you heard from Jos today?’ To the phone calls made within that half hour waiting for my bus to go home, to me knowing that the next call coming through was going to bad. I knew it before I knew it, shit, I had already played it out in my head, I was getting off the bus to meet my mom at the hospital, because I assumed she was going to call back saying there was a message on the answering machine that she had been in an accident. The bus was pulling out as she called back and it’s as if the conversation played out in my head minutes prior, except she called frantic that she wasn’t breathing. I ran off the bus, planning to meet them, just to find out it wasn’t needed.
I was the last one to get there that night by the time I got a ride back. When I got there all of my family and then some were there, including her, as they hadn’t come to get her yet. I remember feeling a sigh of relief when my mom said she didn’t want me to go in because she didn’t want me to see her like that. And then there was the guilt the next day for not seeing her, for not laying with her, for not getting in more kisses and hugs when I had the chance. For being selfish, like I always was, for relying on someone to tell me what to do, for being afraid of what I’d see, afraid of it being real.
My dad was in Montana on his first mule hunting trip so we had to wait until he could get home. I can’t imagine what that day must’ve felt like for him, feeling a million miles away, unable to get a flight out sooner, walking around aimlessly feeling even more hopeless then we did actually being there, surrounded by everyone. I remember walking to the car to meet with the funeral home and saying to my fiance, “Is this really happening? We’re going to make funeral arrangements? Is this our life, is this for real?” And him responding, “yes, I’m so sorry”.
The funeral was on a Sunday, it was November – colder then hell, raining and sleeting. The family had visitation prior and I just wanted to hog her! There just wasn’t enough time to fit in every single I love you, I’m sorry, kiss and hug for all the times I chose not too. We were told due to the amount of people lined up, we needed to begin earlier and I remember being pissed. Pissed because I didn’t care who was standing in the freezing rain, this was all we had left with her, tomorrow she would gone forever, we needed this time – we deserved this time! The next 6+ hours consisted of hugging and talking to about 1100 people, one of the largest wakes they had hosted to date. It was overwhelming to see the amount of people that came through, from old to young alike. But I couldn’t help but think, do you see this Josie?! Did you have any idea how many people your choice has affected? I wish you knew, why did it have to be this way in order for you to see it? Those hours consisted of going through the motions, being introduced to people, hugging, and saying thank you for coming, but oddly enough, not all that much crying. As I would look out beyond the people’s shoulders that were standing in front of me, seeing no end in site to the line, there would be certain random faces that would just trigger a melt down. But all in all, as we stood on the other side, we held our shit together pretty well!
The funeral was worse for me, once again we weren’t able to get additional time with her like we’d planned due to the number of people packed in the church. And once again, I was pissed because I didn’t give a shit – this was it – this was the last time of any physical contact with her, even if it was in this form. As I bent over to kiss her and hold her hand and try and squeeze in the last of apologies and I love yous, I managed to lose a contact through the tears. This was less then ideal being that I was doing the eulogy! The closing of the casket was about enough to make all of us hit our knees as we knew this was it. The remainder of the service I concentrated on trying to hold it together so I could make it through the eulogy, I knew if one tear fell while I was up there, it’d be game over and I wouldn’t be able to finish it. I did – I delivered and I felt I owed her that. As we exited they played Eagles Wings, one of my favorite hymns and that’s when I lost it, following the casket out to the hearse, but it was worse watching them lower her in the ground. I remember being told the services are more for everyone else to come and mourn the loss and pay respects to the family, then it is for the family. It isn’t until after that, do you get a glimpse of what our new reality is about to look like. We learned how much truth was behind that statement.
Fortunate is an understatement of what were when it came to family, friends and community support. I mean, besides the fact that the wake alone consisted of 1100 people, the amount of people that remembered long after that was still so impressive. People were stopping by a few months after, always calling and asking what they do or how they could help – the response was so humbling in so many ways. Looking back, it’s overwhelming to think how fortunate we were and are! The simple gestures of hand written cards with poems and nice letters, not even just then, but for birthdays and anniversaries to follow – that people remembered! Things that are so hard to appreciate at the time, but that speak volumes in so many ways, that we often forget as the time passes. Not many can say that and I feel fortunate that we can.
But despite the tremendous support surrounding us, there was still this calm after the storm – when the world around you starts going back to their hustle and bustle and you’re forced to have to sit with it and really swallow and digest it. It was in the quiet that it really started to settle, the pain began settling both physically and mentally and the sobering truth spoke volumes. It was learning how to recalibrate our days of going back to work and into society with this….heaviness. To know eyes are on you, not knowing what to say, and if they did say anything, it didn’t matter anyways, because nothing took away the pain. Nothing even put a dent in it. It was hard to appreciate those that expressed their condolences because I was so numb, that and it was the fear of breaking down. It was such a toss up at first, one day it’s as if I was offended if someone didn’t say anything and then other days I’d pray they wouldn’t because I wouldn’t be able to contain the tears! To attempt to focus on the task sitting in front of me was next to impossible because the only thing I could think about was her. Where I went wrong, how I didn’t see it, how the rest of the world gets to pick up and move forward and how I have no clue what or where in the hell to go from here. Who am I? What is my life? Is this real or am I still in a nightmare? When will I wake up? There were no amount of words or actions that were going to change the outcome or bring me any type of peace. It was nice and it was humbling, don’t get me wrong, but at the time, I couldn’t appreciate it.
The destruction that came afterwards, the kind that settled in with the stillness and quiet – this new ‘norm’ – this new ‘reality’ – this new what the fuuuuuuuck?! It’s as if you’re looking at your life through an outside lens saying “what’s happening, where are you, did the plot in the story change – get out of this!” ha And to think, on so many levels – it was only just the beginning.
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