Making Peace with Goodbye

Girls. There are five girls in this family when we all get together. That’s a lot of girl. All under 7 years old. I walked upstairs to them all jumping on the bed and laughing. I turned corners and they were attached to uncle David’s leg or were being tossed in the air by uncle John. Later in the evening they took turns climbing up Aunt Susan and sliding down her legs as she sat in her black dress. She hadn’t had time to change from the funeral.

I wonder why I feel compelled to write down what happened today. Then I think about the girls. And the one amazing little boy. The youngest of this group of cousins is the boy. I think about the details that maybe they will never know. Unless we grown ups remember and share. So I thought if I could write down a few moments from today they won’t be forgotten. I hope that will be the case.

It was crisp and cold out today. But beautiful. The leaves are so vivid right now. There is color everywhere. It’s amazing. And, of course, I can’t help but think it’s appropriate for saying goodbye to such a vivid life. We arrived at the house mid morning. I feel the air thick with sadness and an empty spot in the heart of the house. And yet, there is so much love and laughter too. The children who can’t help but be these bright spots of intense life. This is just what they do and how they live every day. And we all realize too that it is just what Catherine would want them to be doing. Laughing, running, jumping on the bed, doing art projects together in the living room. She would be so happy watching them be children. She was the epitome of proud grandmother.

So the grown ups, we play with the kids, make lots of food, talk, wonder and worry about Bob. I think too we all have moments of taking huge deep breathes. Gulps of air. Feeling like we are lost, drowning in sadness and still loving the happiness of these children all at the same time.

There is getting ready. Which involves all the chaos one would expect with 6 kids and a houseful of adults. Ups and downs stairs, doors shutting, hair clips put in place. And one pair of tights that just won’t get all the way pulled up. As a girl I know this to be most irritating. I vote for just taking them off, which happens. (; 

We 3 moms, the matriarchs that we are now, all exchange knowing glances at the one of us that offers to pour wine. There is a steeling of nerves and some genuine laughter as we drink up. Knowing again we would meet with Catherine’s approval here.

Then, lots of kids trading seats and going with each others parents in cars on the way to the church. All of us worrying about hauling 6 children under age 7 into a quiet church. We let the girls run outside. We show them the organ and the balcony in the church while we gulp more air and try to hold ourselves together.

Catherine’s service was something she wrote herself. Somewhat unusual in a church service. Leave it to Catherine to turn tradition on it’s head. What she has written is about the feeling and the connection in her spirituality. The love of family and friends that she wanted us all to share in. There was the first hymn and at some point in here it hit me, this is the goodbye. This is the tradition. The end. After this, life will go on for everyone, as it should. But this is our chance to just sit and feel and listen to what she wanted us to hear. To celebrate what we had in her and still have in each other. Judith talked about what Catherine meant to us and why. How connected she was with spirituality and humanity as whole. How a random man in Bangladesh came up and wanted not her money, but her blessing. That is just the effect Catherine had on people.

David stood up and walked with his daughter Corinne holding his hand to the front of the church to give his eulogy. He explained how Corinne offered to hold his hand and come with up with him because he told her he was nervous. How though he at first thought maybe that was a bad idea, he then realized how much his mother would love it. So Corinne stood there with him while he talked. About how his mom fell through the ceiling while working on his loft bedroom and got right back up. About her amazing pizza. About her walking through New York and getting left behind. When they went back to find her she was looking up. She laughed and told them, “Don’t forget to look up”. He reminded us of how Catherine always wanted everyone she knew to get as much as they could out of life each day. To live with a fullness and appreciation for every little part of life. I know this to be one reason I loved her so much. I have always felt the same way. There are so very many things to experience in this world. There is so much wonder. She and I shared that wonder.

When John came up with how two girls in tow he spoke about his anger. How he realizes all of these children will never get to know her except through us. I have thought the same thing. And I am glad that he is honest in sharing how angry and sad he is. He also shares how amazing his father is. How dedicated he was in his care of Catherine. I watch Bob and wonder how he is doing this. I am falling apart.

Then there is a more chaos. People everywhere. Girls running through the church. We help them get snacks and drinks. We talk and hug friends who have known Catherine for many years. I overhear stories and watch lots of tears.

Tonight at the house was hilarity. Food. Wine. Connectedness. Stories. All the good stuff.

As I sit here and write this though it is long after the chaos of the day has ended. I realize the really hard part is what’s coming next. The day to day life without her. The celebration we just had was wonderful in some ways even though it was hard. There was all this love coming from all the family and friends surrounding us today.

But, now. Now it is quiet. And the quiet is the hardest part. The part where I can’t pick up the phone and call Catherine. I can’t ask her my questions. Can’t share my thoughts. I can only face each day holding onto the memories and feelings. Knowing I want to share Catherine with my daughter and her other grandchildren. Wanting to teach them how to embrace life like Catherine did. But also knowing how hard it will be to face each day without her in this world.

I don’t want to stop writing this. To wrap up my thoughts and give them finality symbolizes an ending. Any ending right now feels emotionally overwhelming. If I keep talking about her then I keep her with me, right?

I get what people do now. And why. The way they hold onto anything that keeps them connected to a lost loved one. It’s somehow in our nature to do so. But Catherine, well, she managed to make peace with saying goodbye to us all. Everyday I must face trying to make that peace myself.