Friday, August 12, 2011

Saying Goodbye

On July 25, exactly 15 years after we said goodbye to my Grandpa, we said goodbye to my aunt Elaine.  She was born was down syndrome.  It was recommended by the doctors that she be institutionalized.  The family was told she would never walk, talk, be potty trained, be able to care for herself...etc.  My grandparents, who were leaders in this revolution in Iowa, knew it would be BEST to keep Elaine at home.  She did walk and talk.  Learned to cook and clean.  Took care of herself to the best of her ability and became the heart of the family.  Her death is a LOSS to all of us.  She is soooo missed.

The days before her death I sat in a small town hospital, along with other members of the family, taking turns holding her hand, talking to her and smiling at her.  It is a stretch to think that she knew we were there or that we brought her any comfort, BUT there is that remote chance and that is what got us through that time.  We watched her take her last breath at 12:45 am.  We stood there looking.  Tears running down all our faces.  We were frozen.  We didn't want to leave her.

Elaine had a beautiful, albeit long, Catholic mass with my grandparents good friend Fr. Ed presiding.  One of my aunts gave the readings...2Timothy 4:7 "I have fought the good fight.  I have completed the race.  I have kept the faith."  How she managed to say it without breaking down I will never know.  Another aunt had us praying for saints and the sick.  How she managed to say it without breaking down I, again, will never know.  Fr. Ed talked about visiting grandma and grandpa and saying to Elaine, "How is my little sweetheart?"  And Elaine smiling back at him with the biggest, widest smile in the world.  He said it without tears but I swear to you there wasn't a dry eye in the pews. 

The oldest nieces/nephews from each of the families were given parts to read for Elaine's eulogy.  Isn't that a horrible word?  I stood up there reading..."Elaine Cecelia was born to....Elaine always emphasized Cecelia because....Elaine loved her big sister so much...Elaine's biggest brother was her protector while Elaine's other brother was more daring...Elaine's relationship with so and so was hard to explain but Elaine knew so and so had her back..."  Then my cousin got up, "...while it was recommended at 3 months that Elaine be institutionalized....the doctors soon realized and actually recommended that Elaine stay with the family...the strides she has made....moved to the house.....special friend Brian..."  Then another cousin, "Love is patient, love is kind....It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."  The three of us held it together while there was not a dry eye in the pews.  We walked out of the church, following Elaine's casket singing On Eagle's Wings.  We stood in the back of the church, a circle around Elaine's casket holding hands.  Not wanting to let her go.

We drove in the rain the 16 miles to the cemetery where Elaine would lay to rest beside Grandma and Grandpa. Fr. Ed gave a short but nice service.  Each of the nieces and nephews received a flower for Elaine.  One by one we laid them on her casket...our last gift to the aunt who had actually been our gift.

We all stood there looking at her casket, arms wrapped around each other, not wanting to leave her.  Somehow we managed to leave and all met up down town.  A nice glass of wine, a good meal and great company followed the hours after.  We laughed, caught up on each other and vowed to get together more.

We laid Elaine to rest on a Thursday.  We left that afternoon to go home after an exhausting week and actually felt at peace.

Yesterday while I was cleaning my purse I found a crumpled up piece of paper.  I opened it up and a flood of memories came to me.  While I was sitting there talking to Lainy-Bug, singing her songs Grandpa used to sing to us all, telling her stories of the kids, telling her how much we all love her and that it is OK to get in the car and go home and to make sure she gives grandma and grandpa a hug and kiss from me, I continually read a saying that was hanging on the wall.  It was cross stitched and beautiful.  I wrote it down and stuck it in my purse. 
"Sometimes when a light goes out of our lives
And we are left in the darkenss
And we do not know which way to go,
We must put our hand
Into the hand of God and ask Him to lead us---
And if we let our lives become
A prayer until we are strong enough
to stand under the weight of our own thoughts again,
Somehow even the most difficult hours are bearable"
And you know what?  They are.

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