Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Weddings and Funerals

My maternal grandma died in 1992. She had been sick for about a year, with leukemia. While her death was not unexpected, that still doesn’t mean you’re ever ready to lose someone you love.

She died on a Thursday, and family poured in from all over the southeast part of the country over the weekend, until at last it was the morning of her funeral. We all enjoyed seeing one another again; it seems like the only time the extended family gets together is for a wedding or a funeral. Why is that?

Right before it was time to leave her and Grandpa’s house to go to the church, all the family was there. I scooted into the bathroom real quick, just before time to leave. Sat down, did my business, stood up to get everything straightened back down ----- and got the chain on my charm bracelet tangled in my panty hose. The charm bracelet was on my right wrist, and I’m right-handed, so I didn’t have much luck untangling it with my awkward left hand. I didn’t want to just jerk because I knew that would rip a big hole in my panty hose (this was back in the day, when women actually *wore* panty hose with dresses) so I did the only logical thing I could do.

Yelled for my sister to come help me.

She then yelled for my mom, who then yelled for two of my aunts, and before you know it, we had five or six grown women in the bathroom, laughing hysterically at the sight of me, hunched over in the bathroom with my panty hose and underwear around my knees, tangled up in my charm bracelet.

It felt good, that day, to laugh. Especially after so many days of feeling sad.

Jenny and Tre’ gave us a great gift as they shared Catie’s journey, struggles and triumphs with the rest of us these past three years. Sunday at the visitation and Monday at the funeral, they also gave us the gift of laughter at a difficult time. Monday was truly a celebration of Catie’s life, and it felt good to enjoy those memories, and enjoy the company of friends, with their blessing.

There were twenty cancer moms and dads, who had come from all over Georgia, at the visitation Sunday evening. Afterwards, we went out to dinner together. We chatted, we laughed, we remembered Catie, a speech was made, and we toasted to her and Jenny and Tre’. I hope when I die, that the people who care about me can come together and enjoy one another’s company and laugh … there can be no better legacy than leaving a smile on the faces of those left behind. We all cried, too, but mostly this weekend, we smiled when we thought of Catie.

If Jenny and Tre’s aim for the Celebration of Life Service on Monday morning was to honor Catie, and evoke the memories of her that brought all of us the most joy, well, they were certainly successful. The photos were beautiful, the video montage was heart warming, and in almost every picture, Catie was smiling and laughing. Sometimes hysterically. And so we smiled and laughed as we remembered her.

My favorite comment from the service was when Catie’s Aunt Nikki spoke of her, and reminded us that, “Catie’s life isn’t over …. It’s just happening in a different place.” What a wonderful thought, and one that made me happy.

The grace and composure evidenced by her parents was amazing. Jenny stood and spoke of her sweet, sweet daughter, something many wouldn’t have the strength to do. Tre’ played a tribute to Catie on his trumpet. Although we joked with him later that his new nickname is “Sweet Lips” …. Let me tell you, I’ve never heard applause at a funeral, but after his playing, we applauded.

Another touching moment for me was at the graveside service, when Jenny and Tre’ opened a box, and released a dozen (two?) monarch butterflies into the air at the cemetery. It was such a perfect tribute to a wonderful little girl, watching those beautiful butterflies flutter up into the nearby trees.

It was healing for me personally, and I hope for the others, to remember and honor Catie in such a positive way. I hope, most of all, that it was healing for her family. They were so kind to welcome and include all of us cancer parents, and even invited us to the church for the family lunch afterwards.

And because it wouldn’t be a true event without a Kristie-moment, I can tell you that Catie’s great-grandma, who sat at our table at the luncheon, asked me when my baby was due in front of everyone. Now, her mind was sharp as a tack and she could hear everything, but she is 86 years old so I’m telling myself that obviously her vision is failing. Why else would she have asked that? It couldn’t have anything to do with the huge, overflowing plate I had just brought back from the dessert buffet, would it? :)

I share these details with you because so many of you have been kind enough to ask about Catie and share your comments. I’ve gotten private e-mails, as well. You didn’t have to know Catie and her family personally to care about them, and that’s been evident in all the guestbook signatures on her site. I’m sure your kind notes have brought much comfort to Jenny and Tre’. Thank you for doing that.

And thank you to my friends from Atlanta/Moultrie, whose caring and compassion, along with the generosity of Jenny and Tre’, turned this into an uplifting gathering. Spending time with all of you was the most beneficial thing for my spirit. But since most of our kids are young, we’re not waiting on a wedding to get together again. That could take years.

And in the meantime, we’ve got more laughing and smiling to do.

Good-bye, Catie-bug.


Deb and Jim 680 said...

Another good one Kristie. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your experiences of Catie's beautiful celebration of life. And I agree about the wedding comment life is too short to wait for weddings or funerals to meet up with loved ones. Hope the kiddos and everyone in GA are doing okay.

Love from Long Island,
Babylon, New York

Anonymous said...

That was a great entry. I also love the entry on Friday... althought it took me a long time to get through it because I had to keep stopping from crying from the beautiful song.

I didn't know Jenny and Tre well, but had met them coincidentally, and had the joy of witnessing Catie's sweet smile and the love of that amazing family. I have been following her site ever since.

Thank you so much for your words describing the celebration... I almost feel like I was there. Which I was, in my heart.

I hope Kendrie is handling Catie's passing ok and you are all feeling the love and support of the Caringbridge crew and your internet friends.

All my best,
Darcie Wallace

P.S. I guess I need to get a Google/Blogger account because I tried signing before and it didn't like me as "anonymous". :)

clara zimmerman said...

Thank you for sharing Catie's celebration, Kristie. You all have been on my mind so much in the last few days. I hope Jenny will be able to get some rest before they welcome the new baby. I imagine it has been hard remembering to take care of herself in her grief. Catie's celebration sounds like it was so dear. Fly Catie! My best to the Escoe family. Clara Zimmerman

Kristin Hicks said...

Tears have been flowing since Catie's death for me. So senseless for children to die.

I'm so glad you were able to be there with your friends and I'm glad that the family was able to have such a beautiful day for their darling daughter.

Kristin in NC

Rena Tovey said...

Kristie, Thanks so much for taking the time to share with us Catie's celebration service. I hope that everyone has found comfort in knowing that she is in the most wonderful place now. Fly sweet Catie fly.

kim said...

Awwww, Kristie, that is just beautiful. Although I only know all of you through Caringbridge, I had a feeling that Jenny and Tre' would do things just as you described. Oh, I just...you know...wanna smile, laugh and cry all at the same time. Family and friends, in all their forms--THAT'S what it's all about! Thanks for sharing with us. And let's hope it's a long time before there's a wedding--unless that little hooligan from Brayden's class gets going again before his time. JUST JOKING!!!! Strong emotion turns my sense of humor more bizarre than usual....

Take care!

Eunice Johnson said...

Kristie - your tribute to Catie on Friday was beautiful - I used a box of kleenex to get through the entry. Also your entry about her celebration of life was wonderful - Catie was a very special little girl who seems to have touched many people. Take care and have a great day - your children sound delightful!

Tammy said...

what a great tribute with the butterflies. it gave me warm goosebumps.
How nice that you got to go to it and pay respects.

If you want to do something fun on your blog, see mine...i tagged you!
Tammy in VA

Jenny S said...

Your description of "two beautiful children received in heaven, healed and perfect" brought tears to my eyes. My thoughts and prayers are with Catie and Donovan's families, but they are also with you - a woman with one of the biggest hearts around.

Jenny S
TOSS Member and Mom

Shannon said...

Reading what you say often brings a smile to me. Although I only followed Catie through her site, I was always impressed by her smile and spirit...Thank you for reminding us that life is sweet and no matter what, we must remember...


Anonymous said...

You have such a gift for writing, reflecting, and detailing LIFE! What a pivilege it is to call you my friend.

Thank you for the laughter among the tears this weekend. You're the best.

Jen W :)

Pamela Earley said...

Great description of everything - as usual.

I would like to ask you and your followers to leave some kind and caring words for a family just entering the cancer world. Unfortunately, this is the families second entry into the cancer ward as little Matthew's cousin died a few years ago from cancer as well. Matthew's website is http://tonyc.com/blogs/matthew/

I will leave this in Kendrie's guestbook as well.

Thanks again.

Michelle Adams said...

Your own tribute of Catie is just beautiful. Thanks for sharing with us.

judi mitchell said...

Once again, your incredible gift for writing has moved me to tears. I think we all hope that when our time on earth is complete we will have accomplished what God wanted us to do with whatever spirtual gifts he provided to us. Clearly, Catie had done just that. Thank you for taking the time to give us a view of her celebration....

Sharon said...

Thank you for sharing with us. Your words eloquently paint a picture of the celebration of Catie's life that all of you experienced. I'm so glad Jenny and Tre' saw what an incredible impact their child made on so many lives.


Leeann said...

Catie's service sounds amazing. In a perfect world, you will never, ever go to another service for a child.

How's Blaine doing?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for updating Kristie. I was hoping you had an update since Jenny and Tre have not been able to write yet. I really appreciate it.

Thanks, Rene Sasser

Lisa said...

Prayers abound from me in Alpharetta....a "cyberfriend" but hopeful we will someday meet in person. Praying most especially for Catie's family, but also for you and yours as you walk your own journey of grief over the loss of your precious friend.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed seeing you in Savannah, despite the reason for so many of us to be together. Thank you for the beautiful tribute to Catie and sharing the wonderful pictures. I hope to see you again soon, and that we find many more reasons to laugh. I don't think that should be too hard with you and some of the others involved . . . ';)

Blessings, Julie Metz (a.k.a. the Pirate's Mama)

P.S. All I can say about the incident during dessert is "Bless her heart." I do think that sweet old gal was rather embarassed.

Rachel and Bob said...

Kristie, I've followed your life and the life of your family for such a long time, probably as long as I've followed Catie's. You couldn't have done a better job describing her Celebration. Thank you for sharing it with so many of us. Thank you, your words are such a wonderful gift and legacy. Just as Catie is for so many of us...

Dawn said...

Beautifully written as usual! Could you post the song titles you play? You have such great taste in music...most of the time. :)

Megan said...

I've been quite the lurker on this site and on Kendrie's original caringbridge site. You always crack me up, Kristie. Seriously. It was good to read today about laughter at funerals. I have a very close group of friends from college. We've been through everything together (though we're all only hovering at 30ish)...marriages, births, cancer, divorces, and a death of one of our own when we were all 20-23. The thing I remember most about that was the fun we had before, after, and during his funeral. Yes, we were childish and immature, but it just felt so good to celebrate our friend with laughter. Honestly, I can only hope that my funeral is half as hysterical. Anyway, I'm a peds oncology nurse, and I still say that the best (can you really call a funeral the "best"?) funerals are the ones with smiles and laughter. Though very, very sad, it sounds like Catie's funeral fits into that category. I'm so thankful you got to be a part of it. That's all for my sentimental jabbering. I really do love to read all that you write!

Patricia said...

Thanks, Kristie! That was a great tribute and especially wonderful for those of us who couldn't be there! My kiddos were sick so we went to the doctors and I made sure I held them tighter that day-and every day since last Friday. I keep whispering to my sweet 3 year old daughter that we need to loan her to Ms. Jenny so she can feel the sweet arms of a little girl around her again, but I know that wouldn't bring her heart peace. Only God can do that, and it seems she is in tune to the peace He gives. Thanks so much for sharing with us about what you experienced last weekend. It sure sounds like something Catie would have loved!

Amy from St. Pete said...

All I can say is, Wow!

scanmom said...

Kristie, thanks for sharing Caties service with us. She was beautiful and brave and strong and I know she's perfect and running around in heaven with long hair. Ellen mom of SammiJean

Sarah said...

Beautiful description.

Jenny just posted on caringbridge .... Baby Wilkins is going to be delivered TOMORROW at 12:30!

Kris Herbst said...

Thank you for sharing your memories of Catie and for painting a picture of her Celebration of Life. What a beautiful little soul in this world and the next. I have followed her CB site some these last few months and she was one that really captures your heart. My prayers are with her family.