On Sunday, April 15th I told everyone in our morning service that Donna’s mom had passed away the night before. After the service, where I experienced extravagant love as people prayed for us, hugged on us, wept for us and shoved U.S. dollars into my hand, I was escorted out the door by a friend. Thanks to a couple other friends, Nathan flew home from N. Ireland to go with us. We jumped in the car, drove home, loaded the car and we took off for Ohio.
At Bangor we stopped for gas and the snow started falling. We drove through a snowstorm ‘til we were just outside of Boston and stopped for the night. The elderly clerk at the Days Inn reminded me of Herman Munster so I liked him immediately.
Got up early and back on the road. Snow, and lots of it, was forecasted so we made the decision to keep driving south until we were out of it.
Late Monday we were in southern Pennsylvania and it was still snowing. The only break we got from the snow came when we went through a tunnel in a mountain. If we were at home I’d never go out on roads like these and there I was going 75 m.p.h. on what could have been cross country ski trails.
At that point we decided, “head west, young man” was the way to go. We text messaged family in Ohio who went on the internet and reserved a room for us in eastern Ohio. The weather had put us 6 hours behind schedule.
We arrive at the Holiday Inn. Donna pried my hands off of the steering wheel and I went in to discover that they had no hot water. Sigh. They did, however, give us a reduced rate on the room. We took it.
We wake up and turns out it’s spring in Ohio. I open the door of the hotel to load up and birds are singing, the sky is blue, the grass green and leaves are coming out on the trees. Most importantly – no snow.
We load the car and we drive. We get to Cincinnati a few hours later and land at my sister-in-law’s. No one answers the door so we hang out on the porch and enjoy the sunshine. Eventually we get in the house and all of Donna’s sibs arrive and we come to terms with why we’re all there.
Later in the day we meet with the pastor who is ‘officiating’ at the funeral. He walks the family through memories of mom. Stories are shared, tears shed and awkward moments abound.
The death of a loved one seems to bring out some of the very best in us and at the very same time; some of the worst.
The wake. We arrive before everyone else. It was the first time that Donna and I and our kids get to be with her mom’s body. This was an incredibly hard time. It was such a strange context for all of us to be together in and for her body to be with us but for her to be gone.
Before the night ended I learned that some times we don’t approve of crying but we do approve of anger and sometimes instead of crying we blow up at people we shouldn’t but get the emotional release we need. Of course someone gets hurt in this approach.
The funeral. Awkward. Tears. Surreal. Donna went to the washroom just before the service and they ended up starting before she came back to the room. Dave, the pastor, was excellent. The service, short. The graveside service was indoors as the sky appropriately opened up and the rain pounded down. Heaven wept with us.
Later in the day, after the rain and tears subsided we all went back to the graveside and placed flowers.
Family time. We try to plan out a quick trip to visit my parents who live about 5 hours and one more time zone away. Not as easy as it sounds.
We go to Donna’s folk’s house and begin the process of cleaning, sorting and organizing. This will require many more trips. We discover boxes in a back closet with mementos, one for Donna and one for each of her sibs. The girls shed a lot more tears before we call it a day.
We decide we won’t leave until after church on Sunday. Donna’s dad wants to go and we want to take him.
We go to the mall for some shop-therapy. I get ill at the gigantic Jesus junk store in the mall (after I have Donna buy a book on sale by Shane Clairbourne for me) and then the boys and I cut out so we can go to church at a place called Crossroads. We get lost on the way and end up in Kentucky. This is my gift.
At the service my teenage boys say, “why would anyone go to church anywhere else?” If we lived in Cinci I’d have to find another way to earn a living because Crossroads is where we’d be for church. Got to see/hear and chat with Dave Wolfenberger whose name should be known by everyone for the music he makes.
After the service we head back to be with family but on the way stop in at Half-Price Books. I pick up a copy of John Green’s, Looking For Alaska for, well, half-price.
Then we head to the Nursing home and spend time with Donna’s dad and hang out with the family.
We’re at the church Donna attended when she was younger. Saw all the spots where she used to skip the service and go smoke with friends. The kids are very interested in this part of the tour.
Donna’s Dad fell asleep when the preach started up and woke up just as it ended. Not a bad way to do church. Great music, refreshing nap. He enjoyed it all and it meant a lot to him to be there. We took him back to Donna’s sister’s place and then we headed off for 48 hours in Illinois at my parent’s.
Part two to follow. Regular blogging resumes this week.