Friday, October 30, 2015

Sunshine and Shadows

I knew this past week was going to be a pretty tough week with Stacey's funeral coming up and I wasn't sure how I was going to survive it.  Monday started out the week with my birthday and for the first time in over 35 years, I wasn't able to talk to Stacey.  That was tough, knowing all day that I wouldn't be hearing from her.
On Wednesday I went to see my therapist because I knew I was going to need help surviving this week.  She asked me what is was that I needed.  I told her that with Stacey I was always happy to be in her shadow, to be in the background and just watch as the rest of the world noticed her and not me.  I realized that for once, I wanted to be noticed, I wanted people to realize that I was important to her.  I wasn't sure how something like that would happen as I really didn't think most of the people in her life had ever really noticed me.  Then at the Visitation when Stacey's sister-in-law, Laurie, noticed us and spent time talking with us, as well as Stacey's two brothers, that made me feel recognized as a part of Stacey's life.  Stacey's daughter, Taylor, went out of her way to make sure I knew about the funeral which meant so much to me!  But, it was when I saw Stacey's mom (she called me "my Renae"), that it hit me, that the important people in Stacey's life already knew that I was important to her (and them as well, I realized) and that was all the acknowledgement that I needed.
My therapist had suggested that I take something with me to focus on, that would help me remember to feel and not close up.  I chose a simple elastic bracelet that has a bead that says "breathe" on it (as you know, that is my word).  When I first put it on before flying to Utah, it was snug and tight on my wrist.  By the end of the weekend it was crazy loose as I had rubbed and twisted it so much that I pretty much destroyed it.  But it served its purpose!
Jenny, Brooke, me & my sister, Corinne
I really have to thank a few people that really helped me survive Stacey's funeral.  My cousin Karen, who let me stay with her and is truly a balm to my soul.  My friend Jenny, who drove me to the visitation and funeral.  I did my best to feel my feelings, to let them flow, but at the end, the sadness was coming faster and harder than I could control and I was trying to hold most of my feelings in when suddenly I found myself unable to breathe.  Jenny got me out of the church where I could cry freely and pull myself back together.  Her support was immeasurable.  My sister Corinne, who showed up to the funeral without my even asking her to be there for me, took care of me the rest of the day.  I had always been the caretaker in our family, but I haven't been strong enough to do it for years and I definitely wasn't strong enough to take care of myself during this funeral and she was really there for me.  I will always be so grateful for her loving care that day!
As we were at the cemetery, I was watching everyone after the ceremony talking and hugging.  The sun was shining on Stacey's coffin (they did say during her funeral that her color was sunshine, which, to me, was proof right there) and I was standing in the shade of a big tree.  I thought, here I am, in her shadow again, and I am okay with that.  I stood by myself for a long time, just feeling the cool breeze, watching all the people that loved her stay near her, unwilling to leave her.  Her mom came up and hugged me and I told her how I was just standing in the background, in her shadow again and how okay I was with that.  She said, "weren't we all," which made us both smile.  How you can feel peace in a moment like that I will never understand, but I did.  I knew I had to say goodbye and leave, but I didn't want to.  I cried as my sister finally took my hand and lead me away.
I felt like I was saying goodbye, but Stacey knew otherwise.  She showed me that she cared in a very simple way.  During the funeral her parents spoke about when she was 3 and how they had used a hair dryer on her.  This was one of the old style with the head piece that had a hose coming out of the side and connected to the hair dryer machine.  It was such a cute story and made everyone smile!  During the luncheon afterwards, I brought out some pictures and notes from Stacey that I took to Utah with me.  I was sitting with her sisters-in-law and we were looking through everything when we saw a card that she had sent to me on my 35th birthday (27 years ago) with a picture on it that stopped us in our tracks.  On this card was a picture of one of those old hair dryers just like what her parents had talked about during the funeral.  We couldn't believe it.  Her sister-in-law showed it to her parents as well as the rest of her family and they too were surprised (the picture above is me with her mom and that card).  Her parents hadn't planned on sharing that story, but they did.  I had wanted to bring something of Stacey with me and for whatever reason I grabbed the bag of our notes to each other.  Only Stacey would have known the connection of the story and the card.  Her simple message was beyond simple, I felt like she was telling me that I was still important to her, it also brought joy, peace, love and the knowledge that she is still nearby to all of us. 
I'm not sure that I found "closure" as people like to say, but I did share several days with those who love Stacey.  We shared her silliness together and felt the pain of her loss together.  Her family showed their strength and commitment to the knowledge of the Plan of Salvation and of being with her again.  They were all exhausted, but still genuinely loving and comforting to those who attended the celebrations of Stacey's life with them.  To them I wish to thank for sharing her and their lives with me, I will ever be so grateful that they were willing to let me be the tag-a-long in her life!  And to Stacey, most of all, thank you so much for letting me be your shadow, you will always be my sunshine!

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