The Texas Service
We spent the past five days in Texas. There is so much to be said about Simon’s service, the support of his hometown, and about the healing process. I’ll recap the trip chronologically because that seems the least daunting right now.
The flight out on Thursday was mediocre. Flying with little kids isn’t fun unless you have perfectly behaved children. I’m happy for you if you do. That’s not the case with me. Thankfully, I had my parents, my brother, my sister-in-law, two Nintendo DS consoles, a backpack of snacks, and three busy bags to help. When we arrived in Dallas, the rental car agent asked what brought us to town. I told him the truth and we got our cars upgraded. I’m not looking for sympathy but hey, I’ll take it if it comes in the form of two brand new minivans with DVD players, satellite radio, and leather seating. Those minivans eased the pain of the three hour drive to Atlanta, TX.
On Friday, our children were taken out for a day of fun – our son spent hours running around with his cousins and our daughters were taken into Texarkana by my family. My brother, four of Simon’s close friends, and I piled into one of the pimped out minivans for a day of shenanigans. We ate barbecue at a local restaurant (where we, of course, ran into family and friends because that’s how small towns operate), shopped around town, and dropped by the funeral home because they requested a recent, nice picture of Simon. That was quite the task. Simon wasn’t one to stay still very long for pictures and if he did, it was usually a blurry shot, profile shot, or he was holding something less than appropriate – a gun, a beer etc. We found one of us from a wedding and had to zoom and crop the heck out of it but ended up with a funeral home approved headshot.
Friday night was visitation for family and friends at the funeral home. Even though it was closed, seeing the casket was very emotional for me. It was beautiful and agonizing. Oak. Just like our tree. I couldn’t stay in the chapel without totally losing it so I hung around in the foyer. Our loyal crew of friends stayed nearby the whole time in case I needed to be rescued from unhelpful people or whisked away to the hotel for ugly crying. Neither came to fruition. It was an evening of warmth, kind words, and love. We continued the conversations at Simon’s childhood home late into the night with many familiar faces.
Then, Saturday morning. The funeral and graveside. I was lacking any motivation to get ready. I’m a woman of many words but don’t know how to describe the feeling of preparing to go bury the person you have built your life with. We were nearly to the church when we got held up by one of the longest trains I’ve seen – fair to say it was Simon telling me to take a deep breath. Our older two children went to the service. A counselor had suggested they make cards for their dad to place on the coffin. Due to their ages, they need to have a tangible way to participate. They cried most of the service and it was so hard for me to not just scoop them up and run out of there. We spend our lives as mothers trying to protect our kids from hurt and now they were sitting just feet away from their father that they will only have faint memories of. The service was incredibly touching, though. Hundreds of people came. An explicit gospel message was shared. Decisions to follow Christ were made. I’ll be sharing one of the eulogies in an upcoming post.
One of the pastors at the service stated, “Without love, there is no grief.” That resonated with so many of us. That’s a risk we all take with love, the potential for loss and grief. But the reward of having love, being loved, sharing love…outweighs that risk.
After the service, we followed the procession to the local cemetery. The counselor suggested giving the kids the option of attending. I described what the cemetery was and how graveside services work. They chose to stay back and play with cousins. I wanted to do that too. Once we arrived at the plot, time seemed to be dragging. There were so many cars needing to park, it was hot, and impatience was settling in. Just then, what do we all hear? A loud train whistle. At that moment, it was not a coincidence. I laughed out loud.
Family and out of town guests gathered at the church for a potluck afterwards. You have never seen such an epic spread. One way of showing love is through food and fellowship. The smiles were plentiful, many children were running around, and the day began to feel normal again.
We spent the rest of the afternoon at Simon’s childhood home reminiscing and eating more food. Simon’s dad took us all over to experience his new hobby – raising goats. Our daughter was ready to move back to Texas that moment.
As dusk approached, some of Simon’s friends suggested we head to the cabin they were staying in. A family friend had offered his vacation/hunting cabin just over the border in Arkansas for anyone traveling in for the services. About a dozen of us caravaned over. It was one of the best decisions I made all week. The cabin was exquisite – three stories tall with a wrap around porch on a hill surrounded by 100 acres. There was music. There was intentional conversation. There were guns. There were fireworks. There was food. And it was all enjoyed responsibly with our dearest friends. It was a safe, healing place. I felt wrapped in love and support. Simon’s absence was felt but we could also feel the resilience of the human spirit. He would have wanted us to be right where we were. I felt joy for the first time in over seven weeks.
That magical night wasn’t quite the end of the trip. We still had to fly back which was less than glamorous. I may or may not have given all the kids Dimetapp for my sanity on the return flight. We were delayed due to weather and I was emotionally spent when I crumpled into my empty bed in California.
But today is a new day. Each day has the potential to be a little (or a lot) better than the previous.