This past week my family and I said goodbye to one of the most beloved members of our family- Poppy.
It was a difficult few days, but also a great few days. Evelyn was able to meet family members she had never seen before including her great aunts and her great uncle, her second cousins and their significant others, and my brother and sister-in-law. As a family we shared stories of Poppy and learned things about his children (yea, Mom, I’m talking about you) that we never knew and perhaps didn’t want to know…
All in all, we shared so many laughs, buckets of tears, and lots of memories. Its hard to remember all the stories our family told each other because there were so many, but this much is true- Poppy was an amazing man who would come up to you and shake your hand whether he knew you or not. He took a genuine interest in you and cherished every relationship he had. He loved his parties, his golf, and his cocktails. Most importantly though, he loved his family and he showed that every.single.day.
I was asked by my family to do a eulogy at Poppy’s wake. I was honored yet I didn’t know how to sum up Poppy in a few minutes. In the end, I decided to speak using my previous blog post as a backdrop, while adding in some stories that were talked about over the days prior. Although Poppy was my last living grandparent, I never did a eulogy before. I was mildly freaking out. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get through it without sobbing. Afterall, I am my father’s daughter and like him I cry when the National Anthem plays. As predicted, I was a mess. I don’t think I got through the first sentence before I started crying. It was difficult, but I was so happy that I was able to honor Poppy in that way.
I have to say though, going through these past few days was so much harder without my husband. Yes, I went to all my other grandparents’ funerals alone but this time it was different. When I got word about Poppy passing, I immediately knew that this was going to be another thing that this deployment was taking away from me- my rock. I needed his support. I needed his hugs. I needed him to hold my hand. I needed to be able to look out into the sea of people at the wake and see his face to let me know it was ok. But he wasn’t there and honestly, it sucked. Majorly.
Speaking in front of those people, bawling my eyes out, mourning the loss of Poppy, and not having him to lean on was terrible. It bit the big one. But the hardest part was the burial. Poppy was a distinguished Navy pilot who flew for over 20 years in both World War II and the Korean War. Needless to say, he had a military burial. This was the absolute hardest thing for me to go through without him there. I knew it was going to be. I have gone to one other military funeral back when I was in high school. I did not know the Marine, but I attended the funeral with my dad. It was the beginning of the Iraq war and my brother was deployed. I lost it. It was so heart-wrenching. I cried for this young man, whose mother stood by his casket, and I didn’t even know his name. So I knew that watching this all over again, with my husband being deployed, would be impossible.
As we walked over to the burial site I told my sister-in-law that this was going to be very hard for me because of the military aspect. As an Army wife, I knew she understood why- it was so much more than just burying and saying goodbye to my grandfather. It was knowing that this could one day be me standing there, watching this happen as my husband is laid to rest. It was the stark and harsh realization that the next funeral I attend could be his. It was seeing that flag, hearing the guns and the Taps, and watching my brother salute. It was watching the folded flag being handed to my uncle and praying that I would never have to hold that flag in my hands. I cried so very hard during the burial to the point where my knees buckled beneath me. My mom had to hold me up. It was awful.
I know my sister-in-law understands better than anyone else how I was feeling at that moment. I heard her cry out when the guns went off- and my brother is home. As a military wife, its hard to watch these ceremonies. And honestly, its hard to explain why its so hard. It just…is.
The crappy thing is that I feel terrible for feeling this way at my grandfather’s funeral. I feel as though I am taking away from his remembrance. But I’m not. Its the exact opposite. In fact, it is more of a privilege to watch the ceremony, knowing that Poppy was honored in the way he deserved. I hope as my family reads this that they don’t feel as though I have taken away from mourning the loss of Poppy. It was unexpected, tragic, and so very difficult. However, the difficulty of dealing with his death was compounded by the absence of my husband.
Poppy is going to be missed so very much. His death was so unexpected. He was healthy and happy. Its going to be hard going to all the family functions without him there. He was the life of the party. The pain our family is feeling is softened by the fact that he brought us all together for the celebration of his life. And as my uncle said, one thing is true- he taught us how to live and to love, and that will shine on us forever. We miss you and love you, Poppy.