In January 2009, I traveled to Idaho for the funeral of my Grandma Hardenbrook. It was a painful but joyous time as I and my family members looked back at her life, cried a lot, and laughed even more. Tim and the kids were unable to come with me, and I missed their presence and the lost opportunity to be present for the memories and the finality of the burial. I especially wished my children could have participated in that. For long-distance family relationships, my kids may go months or even a year without seeing grandparents and great-grandparents. Elisa and Wilkin grieved when she died and know they will see her again in heaven, but there is a benefit in participating in the funeral. When my mom's dad then passed away in June, I again traveled without my husband and kids. I wondered what Elisa and Wilkin were missing by not being able to participate.
On Sunday, Elisa's best friend had rushed with her family to be at the side of her great-grandmother as she took her last breaths. When I shared this with Elisa, a tender-hearted nine-year-old, tears sprang to her eyes in compassion and sorrow for her friend. She also knew Mildred - she had been at Taylor's house a few times when Elisa visited - but Elisa's tears were for Taylor. When I offered her the chance to travel to the funeral with me, she quickly nodded her head, unable to speak.
I know the emotions are still fresh for me, just 15 months after Grandma Hardenbrook's funeral, but I feel like this might be a very meaningful experience for my daughter as well. As she is physically present for Taylor today, she can also experience the finality of this funeral and grieve for her own beloved great-grandma and great-grandpa.
I will feel the emotions afresh, too. Having experienced loss oneself makes one better equipped to help those who are going through it. My friend Marcia very wisely stated yesterday, "There's nothing like losing a parent. All of a sudden, you're an orphan." She had that shared experience with Gracie - Mildred's daughter and Taylor's grandmother - that I (thankfully) do not have. Today, I will be in Clintwood, Virginia to honor Mildred for my friends Gracie and Tony and Rhyanna and Brian, and Elisa will honor her best friend's great-grandmother.