(I started this post 2 weeks ago, then said thunderstorm took out the computer.)
It's a little after 3pm on Sunday. There's a load of clothes in the washer, one in the dryer, and about 3 in the baskets, waiting to be folded. Tandi, worn out by 5 days at the boarder's, is sprawled on the sofa, one eyeball occasionally following me about the room, but primarily snoring away. J-Man is sleeping in the recliner, his head propped on his right fist. I'll bet he'll be awakened by the pins-and-needles sensation soon. All the plants are finally watered, and of course, the summer afternoon rainshower has started, thunder rumbling and echoing around the mountains. It seems like a normal day, but it's surreal following an extraordinary week.
One week ago today, my nephew Garrett succumbed to complications from the injuries acquired in the April 27 tornados in Alabama. One week ago today, he left this earth to be with his wife Jennifer, and his brother Brandon, who also died 10 years ago this week. One week ago today, my other nephew became an only child, and his children became the only grandchildren my brother and sister-in-love will ever have. Odd to think of death in these terms.
Tues. Jack and I left for Birmingham, to stay with Frank and Janell for a few days. DD was already there, staying with the other nephew and his family. I was prepared to stay at a motel, giving my brother and his wife space to grieve, but they would have none of it. My sister-in-love should have been born under the sign of Cancer, not Leo, because she loves cooking for and tending to a house full of people. Hers is a back-door house, where only deliverymen ring the front doorbell. Everyone else enters through the kitchen, and close friends as well as family know where the spare key is kept.
The viewing was at the funeral home Wed. night, scheduled from 5-8 pm, with family coming a half hour early. When they opened the doors, the line was already down the hall, through the foyer, and out to the parking lot, and it was 9pm before everyone had come through and the doors were closed. Co-workers of Garrett and Jennifer came, as did co-workers of Frank and Janell, old friends, in-laws of family members; nurses who'd cared for Garrett came, and even the wife of the primary ICU physician left her 3-week-old infant to come and convey to my brother and his wife just how much Garrett and his family had meant to her husband. I got to meet Jennifer's parents for the first time, hugged family members I haven't seen in over 40 years, and saw friends from elementary school. It's different when you continue to live in the town where you grew up.
My brother, who has a wonderful voice, sang at yet another son's funeral. He sang the same song he did at Jennifer's funeral. I don't know how he did it. The chapel was standing room only. There was a brief graveside ceremony, with both Jennifer's parents and Garrett's parents releasing doves who joined a flock of others and flew home. Garrett was buried next to where Jenn had been buried 3 1/2 weeks before.
When we got back to the house, friends had already brought chicken, mac and cheese, slaw, baked beans, rolls--Southern food for sure. More friends came bringing more food, pizza, desserts, drinks. At one point, there were 6 little ones, ranging from 14 months to 6 years, a couple of teens, and 28 adults in the house. Guys clustered in front of the big screen TV and some sports event, women swapped birth stories and family gossip, babies were passed from one's hip to another's, barefooted kids ran the circle of rooms, and the kitchen table demographics shifted constantly. My sister's oldest girl had brought several family photo albums she found at her mom's, which prompted my sister-in-love to pull hers out. We laughed over big hair, sideburns, plaid tennis shoes ("Mom, why'd you let me wear those???), little girls in Easter dresses and little boys in short pants, Christmases past.
At one point, looking around at it all, my daughter dissolved in tears. "They should be here." She was right. It could have been any family gathering--Independence day, a birthday, Thanksgiving. It was a renewing of friendships, relationships, family ties.
In the midst of death, it was a celebration of Life.