A Week Without Pictures

Since Kye has been born I’ve really had a lot of issues with death and the idea of dying. For awhile I thought my “death issue” was related to becoming a new parent and that somehow that made death more real for me, and therefore more scary too. I now feel like God was preparing me for what was to come and I am so thankful for all the time I spent exploring the ideas of death and coming to my own conclusions.

Around the same time that death was on my mind Ashley had me read The Shack. I’d heard of it before and new it was a religious book and since I’m not super into that kind of thing I never picked it up. I’m SO thankful that she had me borrow it and it has seriously changed my life and my spirituality (I will eventually write a post about it on its own). I’m still not done with it yet but one of the main things that I love that it said is that EVERYTHING from God is GOOD and if something isn’t good then it’s not from God. We ALL know that death is itself from God and therefore it must be good. I was talking to Ashley about this idea and she said something that brought me complete closure with my death fears and really took my spirituality to another level. She pointed out that God wants us to be HAPPY to be going to Heaven and that society is what has made death scary and a “bad” thing, not God! That really clicked with me because it made me think about how I feel about boobs (I know, random). Since I’ve been nursing it’s annoying that breasts are “private parts” and I always catch myself wondering why it is that way and I realize that GOD meant them to be feeding machines, not something we cover and hide, but that SOCIETY made them a sexual desirable thing to be hidden from the common eye. So annoying! But death is the same way, God wants us to look forward to death and being with Him, society wants us to fear death and dread it.

On Wednesday of last week my grandmother started taking morphine as she had COPD (basically she couldn’t breathe without oxygen) and she was starting to be in pain. On Thursday I had a feeling I should go ahead and go through all the pictures on my computer and put together the ones of Nana. Friday my computer crashed and my mom called and said that we should probably head to Melbourne to see Nana one last time.

We debated about leaving Friday night but decided to wait until Saturday morning so we could get everything packed and have a good nights rest. I had a really hard time packing for the trip as I knew whatever clothes I packed would probably be what I would be wearing the last time I ever saw Nana. I couldn’t imagine how it would be seeing her and spending time with her and especially saying goodbye to her. It was A LOT to handle and I broke down very hard in the middle of my tiny closet.

Saturday morning we hit the road right after Kye’s 7 am feeding. We’d been driving for about 45 minutes when my mom called and said Nana passed away. She went EXACTLY the way she wanted to go. In her home, by herself (her nurse was nearby), and peacefully. The nurse told her she was calling the family to come over and Nana told her that she was ready to go and didn’t want to wait. The nurse said out of all the times she’s been with someone during their last moments that Nana’s was one of only two of the most peaceful passings she’s ever witnessed.

We continued to hurry to Melbourne as even though we wouldn’t get to say goodbye to Nana, we wanted to be there to support and comfort my mom. When my grandfather died 5 years ago I was young and selfish and couldn’t handle going to his funeral so I didn’t and I feel SO much guilt about that. Yeah I couldn’t handle it for myself but my mom NEEDED me and I wasn’t there for her. Since Nana has been going downhill the past couple of years I promised myself that I would be there 100% for my mom throughout the whole thing.

When we got to Melbourne we went to Nana’s house and a lot of the family was there. They had waited to take Nana from her bed until we got there to see her. I wasn’t too pumped about seeing her. I’ve only seen one other person after they died and it was a random guy at a viewing and I had a REALLY hard time with it. I didn’t even know him and I started crying! I knew I needed to see Nana because it would help me deal with it. I am a BIG denial person and that’s how I’ve always dealt with hard things but with Nana I really wanted to work through the emotions and deal with her death head on.

Right when I walked in the room I turned to walk back out again. Seeing her laying in that bed was so hard. She was SO tiny. Seeing her little dog, Jake, who wouldn’t leave the room was so so sad. Then sitting next to her and looking at her was when I broke down. Mom had fixed her hair and put makeup on her as Nana wouldn’t have wanted to be seen as anything less than her best. She looked like herself but her mouth was wide open. I couldn’t stop staring at it. They told us that it’s what naturally happens and that the jaw locks and it would have to be broken to get the mouth shut.

I was at a loss for words and all I could think to say was “I’m sorry” over and over but I didn’t say that because what did I have to be sorry for? She was ready to go to Heaven and she went out exactly how she wanted to. I’m not sorry for her! I may be sorry for the rest of us who will miss her so much but she’s happy, she’s right where she should be. I told her how much I loved her, how much I’ve always admired her, and promised her that I’d take care of Mom. I couldn’t bring myself to touch her so I simply moved her hair a little bit then said a prayer where I prayed that I can inherit all of her good qualities before I got myself together and walked out. I haven’t cried as hard again since I left that room.

I’m really shocked that I’ve held it together so well and have been so strong but I truly feel it’s what Nana would want. She was a strong woman herself, she was excited to meet the Lord (she said on Friday that she got her hair done nice for her God), and she was a woman who was big on appearances and I know she wouldn’t want me sobbing and making a scene.

The rest of the day was a blur. We had planned earlier in the week to go to Vero Beach (an hour drive) on Saturday with Nana to my aunt’s church so my other aunt (my uncle’s wife) could officially become Catholic. Even though Nana died, everyone thought we should still go through with it as it is what she would want. So we did that and all gathered for dinner that night. It was a nice day with my family and I’m so proud of my mom and how well she held it all together during such a tough time.

On Sunday our ENTIRE family (Nana had 6 kids and 14, I think, grand kids) met at The Cove where Mom and Nana ate breakfast every Sunday after church. It was so neat all of us being together. And hard too. Hard for Mom to know that she’d never go there with Nana again. Even the staff knew Nana and were sad that she is gone. We spent a LONG time there all catching up and eating~then we all went back to Nana’s. It was a long day with lots of talking and planning and Monday was much of the same thing. Since she wanted to be cremated we wouldn’t be having a viewing and the funeral couldn’t be until Wednesday.

Since Zach and I had only packed enough for us and Kye for Saturday and Sunday (as we just planned on visiting with Nana then going back home) we had Mrs. Charlotte go through our house and pack clothes for the week and the funeral for us then she drove them all the way to Gainesville so my brother could bring it all with him on Sunday when he drove down for the day to be with the family.

Tuesday was a big work day for the family. All the siblings gathered together at Nana’s and we went through all her belongings to decide what would go to whom. I was there with my cousin Jonathan to help them anyway we could and by the end of the day I, of course, had pretty much taken control of the whole thing. I was mentally prepared for it to be a HORRIBLE day filled with tears and sadness but instead it was a day of laughter and fun. Everyone got along so well and didn’t fight over one thing. If two or more people wanted something we drew cards and the highest one got the item. While it was A LOT of work I’m so glad I got to be part of it as it made me feel so close to my family and I think I made Nana proud.

Going through her clothes was a little hard as I could remember when she wore her outfits. I’m so thankful that we are the same size as I have several of her things that I totally plan on wearing. I just think Nana would love for her 24 year old granddaughter to be wearing her clothes and to get complimented on them! I think it’ll be so neat when I say, “it was my grandmothers!”

My brother and Chrissy came to town Tuesday night and stayed Wednesday night as well. Wednesday I felt sick to my stomach as I got ready for the funeral. It was a full Catholic mass with a time set aside for people to say something if they wanted to. I wasn’t too pumped to speak but I knew I needed to as I’d regret it if I didn’t. The funeral was so pretty and went so smoothly. I was thankful to the Parker’s and to my Dad and Audrey as they all sent beautiful flowers to the church for us! Nana’s six children walked her ashes down the aisle and that was hard for Mom. I tried not to look at the urn and when I did I reminded myself that it’s not her anymore. She’s not here, not in that body. Those ashes are a representation of the person who she once was but her actual soul is in Heaven. It made it much less sad thinking of that.

The pictures I put together on Thursday along with others people found were made into a sideshow (my cousin Jonathan and I put it together) and they played on the screen. It was neat to see her through the years but hard to think about the last picture we took together at the family picnic and how we wouldn’t ever get a picture together again. The priest spoke about Nana and how we shouldn’t cry but should be happy for her that she’s in Heaven and I totally agree with that. I was so proud of my family that day. My SUPER quiet cousin Susi did a reading and was so beautiful. My cousin Ben was so strong as he read another mega long reading. My cousin Josh spoke about Nana and the life lessons she taught him and he mentioned how we all drank Yoo Hoo’s every time we went to her house. My mom did SUCH a good job talking about her mom, the things she learned from her and how Nana would say that anyone who helped her was “her angel” and that now Nana is our angel!

My cousin Meghan had called me that morning and asked if she could speak with me and of course I said she could. Nana would have LOVED that as we used to be so close growing up but have naturally grown apart over the years. I spoke first and talked about Nana’s style and how much I love it when people say I dress like her when most people wouldn’t typically think it’s a compliment to dress like their grandma. I mentioned that I got my vanity from her but that I think her vanity is what helped her live for so long and that she will always be remembered the way she wanted to be: beautiful, put together, and (most importantly) classy. After Meghan spoke I read a poem about death and how she isn’t really dead but can be seen in little things in our daily lives. The poem kinda freaked me out but it was what Nana wanted read at her funeral so I’m glad I could do that for her.

I barely cried once during the funeral as I knew I needed to be strong for everyone else. The only time I really could have lost it was when the priest read a random psalm he picked out and it ended up being the verse that the song “As The Deer” is written from and that song was our song at our wedding.

My brother had a really difficult time during the funeral and I’m glad we all were there to comfort him. When they had us bring up the gifts they had ALL the great-grandchildren and grandchildren walk them up the aisle and luckily Kye woke up just in time from his nap! Everyone commented that it was so moving to see so many children walk down the aisle and it was such a good feeling to be part of such an amazing family.

I’m so proud of Zach as it was his first time EVER in any denominational church and he handled it all so well. Not only did he do a great job supporting the family and keeping any thoughts to himself that he must have had (I mean Catholic church is waaaaay different from Church of Christ!) but he even got up and said a PRAYER! It was so awesome and he spoke from the heart. He really loved Nana and she adored him so it was very moving that he got up and did that. I haven’t ever been prouder of him!

Before she died Nana purchased her resting place at the church. We immediately went there after the service. It was SO hot outside as it had just rained and it made it hard to really focus but the priest said a few words before they poured her ashes in her little spot. It’s really different as there is no marking of where her body is and her ashes were just poured into the ground. It truly was ashes to ashes…dust to dust…and I think that even further shows how Nana believed so fully that her soul was no longer in that body.

We had a reception afterwards where we did a yoohoo toast to Nana and then went to Nana’s house again after that. Zach and I both were tired and needed a break from SO much family so we left early and brought Kye back to Mom’s house to rest together. It was all so emotional and so many ups and downs and it felt good to be back at the house and just RELAX. When we got to Mom’s I saw something on the porch an figured it was flowers for Mom and it was a basket for ME!!! I was pumped! Katie had sent a basket of cookies (you know those cute cookie design things) and it said “to brighten your day.” And it did! It seriously couldn’t have been better timing!!! I’ve been so blessed to have such wonderful friends through this time. Katie has checked on me everyday and it’s so nice to know that she understands what I’m going through as she lost her grandfather last year. Ashley has also checked in and went over to freeze some of my breast milk for me, feed our cats, and take out the trash.

Thursday we decided we deserved a DAY OF FUN! I told the whole family that we all needed to have a fun day and we did! Mom watched Kye for the day (which was fun for her and a break for Zach and I) and we got breakfast with some of the family then went out on the boats. It was a blast being in the sun, the water, and especially spending quality time with all my cousins. All the time with the family this week really has been FUN and while I feel guilty saying that it is true. And I think that’s pretty normal. I talked to Katie about it and she said it’s how she felt too and that she didn’t really grieve until she got back home.

I am staying in Melbourne until Sunday (8 days!) so I guess we’ll see what happens once I get home but as of right now I just can’t see me having some big break down about Nana dying. I think I may cry because I miss her but I don’t even know about that because I know how lucky I was to get to spend as much time with her as I did. She didn’t even know if she’d live for my wedding and that was two years ago! I thought for sure she’d pass away before Kye was born and she got to see him three times! I feel so blessed that I had such a close relationship with her and that she lived as long as she did. Yes, I’ll miss her but no one can live forever so I’d miss her eventually ya know? And I just try to focus on the GOOD things and her LIFE not the sad things and her death.

It’s so strange to think that I’ve lived an entire week without taking a single picture. Before this week I took a least 20 pictures a week if not more. This is the first week of Kye’s life (and probably the last) that he doesn’t have a picture taken of him. While I want to remember this week and all the things that have happened I just can’t bring myself to snap a photo of it. Monday I plan to start Kye on veges so I know I’ll get over this whole not-taking-pictures-thing by then haha!

Overall I left with a feeling of pride from this week. I’m proud of my Mom for accepting Nana being in Heaven and for handling it so well. I’m proud of Kye for his wonderful behavior, especially during the funeral (never a peep!), and the joy he brings everyone around him in a time of sadness. I’m proud of myself for being soooo much stronger than I ever thought possible, for putting other people’s needs before my own, and for being the woman I know Nana expects me to be. But most of all I’m proud of Zach. He took care of Kye while I focused my attention on my family. He went WAY outside his comfort zone and went to Catholic Church. He said a beautiful prayer at the funeral when he’s not even a blood relative. He has been there beside me when I’ve been snappy from stress, overly tired from emotionally being drained, and far less than a perfect wife. I cried Wednesday on the way to the reception because I was overwhelmed with pride for my little family. My amazing husband and precious son make me the luckiest wife and mom in the world!

While I am sad that I will not see Nana again I am comforted knowing that she is in Heaven where she wanted to be and that I will meet her there again someday. I hope to continue to support my mom through the rest of this week and am eager to get back home to my bed, my routine, and my little life (filled with lots of blogging haha) on Sunday!


  1. Elizabeth
    August 22, 2009 / 12:32 am

    Emily, I am so sorry to hear about your loss. She is in a much better place now. I know she is so proud of the woman you have become and is so happy to have gotten to spend time with Kye. My grandmother passed away when I was 11 and I so wish she would of gotten the chance to meet Michael and especially Damian. You and my family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  2. Robyn
    August 23, 2009 / 12:09 pm

    I think that it is a horrible thing to lose a family member, but I'm glad that you guys have turned it around into the best situation possible. One of the greatest things about being a Christian is that, not only do you get to spend eternity with God, but you also get to spend eternity with your family in Christ! I'm glad that you are praising God in this time instead of dweling on the negative – that is a hard thing to do! We've been praying for you and your family and I hope that you've passed this positivity on to the rest of your family.

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