I can’t hope to have a cohesive narrative from the last week, but I wanted to at least get some things jotted down before I forgot them.
Rich’s mom passed on Tuesday afternoon, February 18, 2014. We were all there around her hospital bed as was the pastor from church and the sweet ICU nurse. Rich’s dad tried to apologize for getting emotional and I told him, “Don’t you say you’re sorry or I’ll get grumpy with you. When I die, I expect people to cry. It’s sad and you’re supposed to cry.” He laughed and acquiesced.
Every funeral should have a four year old. Ian has done very well in handling Nana’s death, as I knew he would. We explained that she has died but that we’re going to a viewing and a funeral. We told him that the viewing would be our last chance to see her but it would just be her body. Several times he has asked, “What happened to her head?” to which I would then have to add, “No, her whole body, including her head.”
We went to the viewing and Ian stayed in my arms. I asked if he wanted to touch her and at first he was adamant that he didn’t. But after a few minutes he whispered, “Mommy, can we go touch Nana?” We walked over and he leaned in to pet her arm, stroke her hair and touch her face. We talked about how she was cold because she wasn’t alive anymore. We then had to have a lesson on why bodies are cold and how hearts pump blood to keep us warm. For the rest of the wake, he waffled between playing with his cousin, playing on my iPhone and walking over to visit Nana. Pretty standard stuff.
The next morning at breakfast, we went to Panera. While Granddad got his coffee and Daddy paid, Ian and I went to pick out a table. He casually told me, “We only need four chairs today because Nana is dead.” That then led to a brief discussion on how he didn’t want Nana to die and he misses her but eventually moved on to his spinach and bacon souffle.
We explained that Saturday was another day to remember Nana and we were going to the church to talk about her. Megan is a truly amazing friend because she drove three hours from Maryland that day to watch our kid for us during the service and reception. Her comments to us were:
The service had just started and the minister was giving the opening prayer. Ian looked up from his toys at the minister, studied him for a minute and then turned to me and said, “Why is he talking with his eyes closed?” “Well, he is praying – talking to God – and some people like to close their eyes when they talk to God,” I said. Ian turned to look at me with this frown on his face, “How do you know so much stuff about God?” It was all I could do not to snort audibly. I told him I was really not an expert on God, but I would be happy to tell him everything I know after the service was over. He found that to be an acceptable answer and went back to his toys. I’m glad he forgot about it later.
He was very concerned with you both being sad when you gave your remarks during the service. I assured him that you were both okay, just sad about Nana. As I told Genie, he LOVED the story about Nana making a WOOOHHOO noise when she heard Ian was on the way. He repeated that over and over, making the noise, and eventually made the noise whenever something happened that he liked when we were playing or just walking around. I’d love to know if he is still making that noise.
Anyway, by the time Lee got about half way through his remarks, Ian was looking glazed over. He got his blankie out and laid down on the bench with his head in my lap. I really thought he was going to doze off. Then Lee finished and Gerry went up to speak. Ian started frowning again, then squirmed up and sad (fairly loudly and rather crossly) “Why are people I don’t know talking about Nana?!” It was almost possessive, as if he was fine with you all talking about her, but now he had to sit there and listen to complete strangers who clearly didn’t even know his Nana! I explained to him that they knew his Nana before was born. He made several grumpy old man “Humph” noises and laid back down. It was really funny.
Again, thank you, Megan!
The reception was so nice. The weather was unusually warm and we all sat out in the sun while the kids ran around the playground. I dragged out some photo albums so that Gabrielle, Megan and I could peruse them. It pleases me that we could all sit together and share memories. I think someone told Rich that it was weird to see his ex-girlfriend, ex-wife and wife all together like that. Seems fine to me. We all had our time with Pat, in one way or another. Thank you, in particular, to Gabrielle for coming. I’m sorry that you didn’t get to spend time with the woman we did over the last six years.
It was time to leave the church and Ian called out across the parking lot, “can we PLEASE go to Target now?!” He’d been wanting a Gordon train for days and we kept telling him we didn’t have time to go yet. I turned to Rich’s dad and told him, “the world moves on, Granddad.”
That evening, tons of family came to the house to visit. Previously, all the Stryker men were begrudgingly saying that folks would insist on coming over and they guessed that would be okay. But then that evening, his dad turned to me and said, “This is so great. She would have loved this. I’m so glad everyone is here.”
Trish is amazing because she bridges both sides of the family as Pat’s step-sister and Tommy Stryker’s ex-wife. She’s everyone’s Aunt Trish. I also loved talking with Gerry. He spent so much time with the Stryker family and had so much love from Pat in particular, I’m sure he felt like a part of their family as much as his own. I commiserated with him that I also have a kid, Regan, who is mine even though other people raise her. It takes a village. They talked about Rich Sr and Pat buying their house and as they walked through the door, Gerry was right behind them turning on lights and pointing out the various rooms. When he balked at being called a stray by the minister, Rich Sr. said, “No, Gerry came with the house.” I also love that when Lee was born, Gerry stayed with them and did the laundry. Rich Sr said he knew he could go to work and everyone would be in good hands with Gerry there.
By Sunday morning, we were all worn out. We were rallying Ian to get dressed and he said, “Do we have to go talk about Nana again?!” When we told him we were just going to breakfast and wouldn’t be going anywhere to talk about Nana, he blurted out, “but we can still talk about Nana, right?” Of course we can. We can talk about her as much as you want.
You can read her obituary and see a slideshow of pictures through the funeral home’s website. The funeral home was very nice. I told my dad that he should have married a funeral director or at least had one as his assistant because they’re the only people I’ve seen who have to read minds for a living.
The minister said something in particular that I found very fitting. He read 1 Corinthians 13, which was engraved inside her wedding band. But later, he said that “real love is fierce.” Lee said that while his dad may have taught him how to fight, his mom taught him how to be a fighter. And in her way, she was both a lover and a fighter, until the very end. It shaped everything she did.
The greatest of these is love.