Thursday, August 19, 2010

Crosses, Stones, Tiles... & A Story!

I am really surprised at how fast the work place has you back to the grind after someone near and dear to you passes away. In case you are wondering I was given three days off. Seems a bit harsh and cold to me personally but that is corporate reality. If I had not been a part time employee I wouldn't have had enough time off to cover the the day of his funeral which fell four days out from his passing. You really need a week at minimum to get through the business of all the planning, the showings, the funeral, and time to be with your family and friends who surround you during the first initial days. Not to mention, you need time to process and begin coping with your new sad reality before you can become a part of your normal day to day routine again. But that's just my opinion. I would have taken a full month off if Spectrum Health would have allowed it.

The day I returned to work was very hard to say the least. I was working in a total state of shock, I had a hard time not letting my mind and emotions get the best of me, and I was still crying at the drop of a hat. I couldn't seem to get it together no matter how hard I tried. Everyone was talking to me about my Dad and asking personal questions. They wanted to know how I was doing, how my Mom was, how the rest of my family was, if he had been sick, if we thought his death was heart related, and if I need anything. They were also constantly reminding me of how my Dad and Elise were together in Heaven which made me cry all the harder now that I am left to grieve for them both. Having just made it through a full grief cycle, which takes approximately two and a half years, I am exhausted by the reality I am now starting it all over again. Drained by my own sadness, the only thing I wanted to do was leave work. I am thankful that my wonderful boss, Patti, had me in a very nice assignment for the day and I was able to get out of the operating room when I need to dry my eyes. By the time three-o-clock rolled around I was more than happy I was free to leave, pick Ava up, and head home.

I pretty much cried the whole way to Ava's daycare. The floodgates were wide open and knowing my time was limited before I had to put my happy face on for Ava I let myself breakdown. Tears streamed down my cheeks. I think there is something cleansing and healing to a good hard cry. By the time I made it to AppleTree I was a little red in the face but no one said a word to me about my blotchy skin and smeared makeup. I was greeted with a hug at the door and I was reminded that everyone there were praying for me and my family. I just love AppleTree and the way they care for Ava and our family. They are all such good people with big hearts. I headed to Ava's classroom and hearing her call me ma-ma brought a smile to my face. I gave her a big hug and kiss, gathered up her belongings, and we were finally on our way home.

When I pulled into the driveway and opened up the garage door I was face to face with a nameless wood cross. I knew it was for my Dad but his name had not yet been placed on it. I wish I had taken a picture of it in this state but in these moments taking pictures isn't the first thought running through your mind. Tasting my tears once more I just sat in the car staring at it... thinking... I can't believe it's over. My Dad is gone and his story has ended. This is the cross that will mark his resting place until a proper headstone can be ordered. I knew it was Rob's handywork. It was beautiful. It literally took my breath away. It looked exactly like the cross my Dad had made for Elise. I remember thinking in this moment how much I loved Rob, how happy I am he is my husband, how in moments like this he can be truly thoughtful, how he was also hurting over the loss of my father, and how this cross was a loving tribute to their relationship. It was an expression of love and grief. It was perfect!

Here is a photo of my Dad and Rob in Rusk Cemetery after they placed the cross to mark Elise's resting place. It was my Dad's idea to make her a cross until her headstone would arrive. He made her cross out of the wood material he used to make the sheep fence in our nursery. He said, "There... now she has Grandpa's fence in the form of a cross." I cried then and I am tearing up now just thinking back to this moment. My Dad was always good at being there for you in these moments. Something I will miss about him dearly.

Here's a picture of my Dad's cross in the cemetery. It really looked nice. When I thanked Rob for making it he said, "I felt like I owed your Dad a cross. He made one for Elise all on his own so it felt like it was my job to make one for him." Rob used the wood he had left over from finishing our garage. He used stenciles to personalize it. He dug the hole for this cross himself on the day we laid my Dad to rest three weeks after he passed away. It was very touching to see.

Here is a picture of my little Ava girl on a cemetery visit. I like the view of the cemetery. It's really pretty and peaceful there. We usually visit twice a week on Wednesday and Sunday. We bring new flowers, water for the big pots, and batteries to make sure the candles are still glowing bright. A tradition I started for Elise after coming across a poem called Candles in the night. It's really a great poem that I can share with you later. I love driving by in the evening and seeing a little light by their places. "I use the candles beacon to connect us in the night." I love that my daughter, Elise, and Dad are together here on Earth and in Heaven.

I believe every headstone has a story. Do you? I realize that not everyone spends as much time in cemeteries as I do but the next time you are there just look around. You will see so much LOVE, history, art, and if the cemetery is old enough the evolution of headstones. A headstone is so much more than a head marker it represents who the person was and what the person meant to their families. So there should be a lot of careful thought put into getting one.

It was a honor to be a part of helping my Mom select the headstone that will mark both my Dad's and her resting place in Rusk Cemetery. Don't worry I have reminded her on several occasions that every night at approximately 8pm Ava and I pray she will live to see 100 great, healthy, and happy years. I don't think praying to God for a minimum of 43 more wonderful years with her is too much to ask for all things considered.

I was really happy to take her to Patten Monument Company and help her select a stone that is perfect for both of them. Having been down this road almost three years ago I felt I was a good person to help her complete this unpleasant task. It is the last thing you do to memorialize your loved one and completes all of the arrangements you have made for them which is emotionally draining. I was surprised at how many new options are available in just a short period of time since Rob and I picked out Elise's stone. I have to say that even as much as I love Elise's stone I would probably pick out something completely different if I were to do it over again. But since I will not be buying her a new stone I priced out getting a photo tile of her to be placed on her stone. At the time of picking out her stone I didn't realize this was an option. But what a great custom feature to offer families! The gentleman helping my Mom and I quoted me $500 dollars for the size I was interested in having done. I was relieved it wasn't so expensive that I would never be able to get one for her stone. However, I also knew I didn't have a spare $500 in checking to get it on this very day. So I placed it on my back burner where it has been for the past two plus years and went about looking at stones for my parents.

The process for selecting your stone pretty much goes as followed. You walk around the gallery and look at display stones. You see different color stones composed of both natural and man made rock. You see very unique shapes like hearts, teardrops, ovals, and custom designs. There are single or double stone sizes, flat or raised, vertical or slanted. You can add anything on them from custom angels made of concrete, to brass name plates, to vases. There are also examples of sandblasted designs and Italian photo tiles to see. The show room is just a small glimpse of what the choices really are so you are also given catalogues to look at. This time around I was able to see the workshop attached to the showroom. I was in awe some of the custom stones because they were truly breathtaking. The people who are employed there are real artists! My favorite was one of a child who looked to be about six months old. The stone was a polished black vertical heart on a rectangular base with the baby's photo glazed over top of the polish that was crystal clear. Amazing!!! There was a scripture etched on the front and a poem etched on the back along with the usual name information. I can't even imagine how much money some of the custom orders must be. All I can say is wow, amazing, beautiful, and breathtaking!

The gentleman who was helping my mom and I also happened to be the salesman who helped Rob and I with Elise's stone. It was nice dealing with a familiar face. After a lot of looking around and asking questions my Mom had it narrowed down to two different stone styles with all of the options she wanted which included being a vertical stone, on a base, with a vase. She was interested in getting them priced out and then maybe comparing the price with online options. The salesman priced out both of the stone styles that she liked and then she made her final choice between the two. The salesman said that if she ordered the stone right then and put half down he would throw in a surprise. My mom looked at me a little puzzled. She was purchasing a headstone her her husband and was clearly not interested in surpises. That aside I said that Rob and I were really happy with their service and that if I were her I would just purchase the stone and be done. I think dealing with people in person is usually better than online purchasing when you are talking about buying such a personal item. I knew Patten would do a beautiful job based on the workmanship we viewed in the showroom.

My Mom decided that she did want to purchase this stone and with that decision all the paperwork began being drawn up. The salesman asked her if she was ready for the surpise. We look at eachother and said yes out of sheer curiosity. It was then that we were told Patten was going to honor Elise with her Italian photo tile. They were going to pay for it in full! Tears of joy... Yes, we cried tears of joy! What an amazing gift to receive. I feel like it is the last gift in a round about way I will receive on behalf of my Dad. Thanks Patten and thanks Dad.

My Dad's stone and Elise's tile arrived two weeks ago. My Dad's stone didn't arrive without a little tale all in itself. We were waiting for Patten to call us and tell us that they were ready to deliver. They told us on the day of purchase that we were to place the flags they gave us in the ground where my Dad and Elise were resting to make it easier for them to find in the cemetery. We didn't receive a phone call so we never placed the flags. My Mom and I received a notice in the mail that they had been delivered. So when we went to the cemetery to see the stone and tile it was a bit of a shocker my Dad's stone was delivered to the wrong location in the cemetery. For a second it was upsetting and then it was funny. HA! How does that happen? My Dad always said he didn't want anyone crying over his grave. Nice try Dad but headstone mishap or not... We know where you are! Within ten minuts of me calling the cemetery saxton it was corrected. My Dad's stone is beautiful as is Elise's photo tile.

I love how polished the black stone is... you can see your reflection in it! My Dad would really like that the stone is simple, their last name is bold, and that we picked a deer sceen for him and Calla Lillies for my Mom just like she carried on their wedding day. It's perfect and very fitting for the two of them to share!

Here is a photo of Elise's stone with the tile in place. It's just the right size for her stone. They had to sandblast a hole in the backside of it so they could set the tile into her stone making it perfectly flush.

This is the tile up close. I love that my hands are surrounding my sweet girl! This is such a great picture of Elise and really captures all of her tiny features.

Last but not least this is to precious not to share. Ava is really interested in babies these days. She has to give them kisses when she sees them. So it is no surprise to me that seeing Elise's picture on her stone has her in kiss mode. She knows it is her siser "baby" Elise. She gives her a kiss and then touches her heart. I just love that she has a connection to Elise even if it is just sweet and simple.

I would like to leave you with a poem. I love poetry and the way it can really speak to your heart. This is one I found after my Dad past away and it is the perfect ending to this post. Enjoy.

I Am Free

Don't grieve for me, for now I'm free;
I'm following the path God laid for me.
I took His hand when I heard Him call,
I turned my back and I left it all.
I could not stay another day
To laugh, to love, to work, or play.
Tasks left undone must stay that way.
I found that place at the close of day.
If my parting has left a void,
Then fill it with remembered joy
A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss
Ah, yes, these things I, too, will miss.
Be not burdened with times of sorrow;
I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow.
My life's been full; I savored much
Good friends, good times, a loved one's touch.
Perhaps my time seemed all too brief;
Don't lengthen it now with undue grief.
Lift up your heart and share with me
God wanted me now; He set me free.

Author Unknown

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