And that's just what I got this weekend. As much sorrow as there was, there was double the joy! Confused? My kids love when I share a story with them. They say I'm very animated. I'm gonna try and write it out, so hopefully I'll be able to paint the picture with my words since you cannot see my hands waving around as I describe things.
Today I'll tell you about the main reason I headed north.
Early last week I got a call.. well.. lemme go back a little more. Say.. I dunno, a few yrs back. I met a girl, Karen, online and we instantly hit it off. The reason I cannot remember when we met is because it seems like I have known Karen for most of my life. I know a good bit of her life now.. and some of her past but I don't know her family. I don't know the family dynamics and all that jazz. That vital history that tells you how a person got to be where they are today.
Karen is that kind of person who will do anything for you. I mean.. she'll send you anything.. well, just because. Because that's the kind of person she is. I could tell instantly that she is very loyal to her friends and cares deeply about them. Soon I learned first hand how she works LOL She has sent me things over the years. Just because things. She sees this or that and it made her think of me and so.. well. she sent it. No big deal. She wanted to and she did. I'm forever thankful for those gifts which always seemed to come just at the right time. Thanks, Karen.
Then one time she came back home for a visit. She drove from North Louisiana to South Louisiana on her way to Texas and swung by and saw me! I was tickled!! I could see how much the kids loved her and how much she loved her kids. I already knew how much she loved her family - heck, she drove all the way from California to come home and see her family! What a woman!!
Even though we may not have talked or emailed or instant messaged for a few weeks.. we just pick up where we left off. She always had time to stop and listen to me moan or complain or share in a joy or celebration. She's a great listener. Everyone would tell me I was a great listener and I never understood what they meant. I mean.. I like to listen to people. I'm easy to talk to, etc. But I now know what they mean.
Karen shared me with the deep love she has for her dad. Oh yeah, she is a daddy's girl to the core! I could hear her smiling even when she TYPED about her daddy. And she'd tell me how much her daddy loved her children and how much they enjoyed spending time with him. What wonderful memories and what a special bond to help shape. We all know teens and preteens often don't want to be around family much less spend vacation time. But hers did. And by the pictures I saw they really, honestly enjoyed that time.
Karen's daddy got sick. Really sick. She came home to help her mother take him to the doctor in Florida. There he was diagnosed with Lewy Body Disease .
Time passed and it brought us to last week. Karen emailed to say her daddy had passed away. I knew she was going to be in the state. If the funeral was during the week there was no way I could go. I found out the services were to be over the weekend and I let Karen know I'd be headed north.
Packed my bags and early afternoon I hit the road. Checked into the hotel and headed to the funeral home.
When I walked in I could feel all eyes on me. YIKES! Looking around I didn't see anyone I knew. Hmm.. lemme meander around some. Everyone went back to talking, assuming I was supposed to be there and that I knew what I was doing.
Then I saw Karen. Aww.. Karen with her Sassy hair and outfit!! You know the girl drill - hugs and tears!! She showed me the display of items they had chosen to show bits and pieces of her dad's life. Some patches and drawings, a scrap book she made, things the grandkid's had given him, the clock he made, the medal, the flag. Then I saw the video. Little snippits of his life. The love he had for his family and the passion for living life was very evident.
She introduced me to her family and their spouses and their children, her mother, her best friend and her family, and close personal friends.. I was trying to remember who went with who and trying to remember names but the response was always the same. Karen would introduce me as her friend from down south and they would immediately smile and extend a hand or open arms for a hug. Some seemed surprised that I had drive that they considered "all that way" for a friend. My reply was how I truly felt. "It was the least I could do." And I meant it from the bottom of my heart. HOW do you show someone you care about them? How do you express it? Sometimes actions are louder than words.
Normally, I'm the type who loves to make people smile and keep them entertained. That day and the following day I was an observer. You can learn a lot about people from just watching. And so I did just that.
I stepped back and watched this family come to gripes with the fact that their Daddy, husband and rock was now gone. He was no longer in pain. He was free. Instead, they were left with the pain of his absence, trying to fill the gap he once filled, to never forget him and all he had done. Afterall, he had helped shape them. He had a hand in their lives.
I watched a son hold his mother. His arm a shield of protection as if to say "you are not alone. I am here for you" knowing that it just will never be same for her. I watched spouses cling to each other. Their grief so deep that a sqeeze of the hand was all that was needed. I watched siblings console each other, young and old. I saw teenaged siblings hold each other. A teenaged boy held his sister as she could no longer hold back her tears. He smoothed her hair and kissed her forehead as she cried her heart out. Best friends, arms entangled in the pew behind the children, trying to gain strength as they helped each other come to terms with the passing of one father and reliving the passing of the others' dad years back. You never forget. And another funeral is a reminder of what you've been through. A best friend knowing what the other was going to have to go through. Knowing the hard road and willing to be there to support her. I saw the widow face a day no one ever wants to face. She's a strong woman. I know she will be okay. I know she will be so lost. So empty. I sat behind two young girls with small children and watched them constantly wipe their tear-stained faces. Their young children were still and quiet. Unsure of what was really going on, but nobody had to tell tell them it was serious.
After the service they released balloons into the air. I hope they were able to release some of their grief with those balloons. Their daddy is living BIG in Heaven! He is with the Lord, watching over them and awaiting their arrival to join him.
In the meantime, I have no doubt that this family will continue their strong bond. And I found that strong bond often envelops complete strangers - myself. Karen's brother hugged me and said, "We were glad to have you."
And I was glad to be there, to witness where my friend comes from and how she became the woman, mom and friend she is today!
I love you, Karen. I hope you know now how much our friendship really means to me. I will continue to keep your family in my prayers.