This is a followup to the previous post.
It’s been a month since our niece Angel was murdered. The trip back to hubby’s hometown for the funeral was surreal. We took Babyboy- how could we be without him for 5 days? And yet the care of him- the need for diaper changes, mundane conversations about when was his last bottle, what should he eat, etc.- these necessary attentions kept us grounded. Even as Angel’s photo was on the front page of the newspaper on the kitchen table; even as details of her murder were recounted on the evening news; even as we and the people around us dissolved into tears, we could not give in to either imagination or grief, because we had to be there for Babyboy.
Angel’s parents showed an extraordinary strength throughout those days, always on a mission to deal with the next logistical issue, from the police, to the reporters, to the funeral home, to the lawyer’s, to the florist’s, and back home to host an endless stream of grieving family and friends. They never collapsed in pain and sadness, never lost control and screamed and lashed out, or curled up in desolate isolation, as many parents of a murdered child might do. As I would probably do if anything happened to Babyboy.
Angel was especially popular and well-loved; her friends drove and flew in from all over the country- even Hawaii- for her funeral. She was a highly regarded ICU nurse who loved her job; former patients came to pay respects. There were several memorial services organized by Angel’s friends and colleagues, even before the wake and funeral were held. Her parents decided that they would attend every moment of every memorial service, to honor the good intentions of Angels’ many mourners. They even attended a memorial service held in the forest where her body was found. Angels’ wake started at 1 pm and didn’t end until every single person who came and waited in line was able to kneel in front of her casket; Angel’s parents greeted all of them, through 9 pm that night. In short, they were heroic. Even the funeral home director commented that he had never seen anything like it.
What probably helped them was what helped us- the care of a child. They also have to be there now for their granddaughter, Sunshine, effectively orphaned when her father lost his mind. They are not only tending her everyday care, but are also mindful that she is the one being Angel loved more than any other, and that her future now depends on them. And with that love came strength, and with that strength, they personally took care of every detail of the funeral planning; they dealt with all the grim logistics; they met every mourner with grace and comfort; her father even gave the eulogy. To watch my hubby’s brother and sister-in-law was to be humbled, because I know I would never be able to hold it together like that, if my child was taken from me.
Angel’s father spoke at the funeral Mass, in front of an overflowing cathedral. He cleaned his glasses and said they were overwhelmed and grateful for the support and kindness of so many people. He talked about how we need to remember Angel for who she was, and learn from that: someone who was independent and intelligent and always an optimist; who loved her job and not only didn’t complain about it, but always spoke positively about her work; who loved her friends and treated them as family, who loved her family and treated them as friends; who smiled all the time.
It was an exhausting five days, draining. It was a very long drive there and back with a one-year-old. It was very hard to go into work the morning after we arrived home. It’s taken a few weeks to begin to feel normal, though we have, by necessity, resumed normal life. We had a big birthday party for Babyboy. We’ve had social occasions with my family and our neighbors. We’ve had doctor’s and dentists’ appointments. I’ve had to catch up with mountains of work. But I couldn’t write a word until today.
Why today? Not sure- we had a very pleasant day, a warm and sunny Saturday, Babyboy was especially happy and cute, and we felt especially relaxed. It was a normal everyday day, and it was beautiful, and I am so grateful for that.
I carry a prayer card from Angel’s funeral in my purse; I pull it out to look at her photo and read the words sometimes. It always calms my mind; puts my perspective back into focus. What matters is suddenly clear. Sometimes I tell Angel I’m so sorry; sometimes I tell her she’s a really cool person and we miss her; most of the time it makes me smile and I can go on with my day:
To the living, I am gone
To the sorrowful, I will never return
To the angry, they were cheated
But to the joyful, I am at peace
To the faithful, I never left
I cannot speak, but I can listen
I cannot be seen, but I can be heard…..
In those times that you gently remember me,
I am not gone