I woke up on Saturday morning. Mornings are the hardest. It hits me all over again before I even open my tear stained emerald eyes. When my feet hit the floor my husband won’t be there. He won’t be sleeping in our warm bed. He won’t be tending to one of our small children. He won’t be in the bathroom or the kitchen. He won’t be in the loft playing PlayStation or roaming the house yelling at someone on the phone or in the living room watching sports on tv. Most mornings he woke up earlier than me and went up to the third floor to work. He won’t even be there now. He won’t be there ever again. I can’t just take a few steps and get my favorite morning hug and kiss and conversation. I can no longer ask him if he needs anything or if he’s eaten. I have one less person to say “I love you” to. One less person to make me smile.
After crying and checking my phone I forced myself out of bed like forcing on a pair of pants that are two sizes too small. I took a shower and started getting ready for the day. In the closet I intentionally avoided black. I tried a few options on and threw the rejects on the messy bed. I never make the bed. He didn’t care about that. One small reason we were perfect for each other. I chose to leave on one dress that looked okay. Quarter length tan lace sleeves with a coral skirt just past the knees. It fit me better than it had in years. He would be proud and tell me I looked pretty. I took a deep breath and walked to the bedroom door to open it and head downstairs where the people where. No more time for hiding. Whether I wanted to hide or not.
My baby girl was down there playing with Grandma. I stopped her and stole a hug and kiss before dressing her. Yep! She looked freaking fantastic in that short white dress with gold accents and strappy sandals. Totally styling for an eighteen month old and of course completely adorable. It complemented her dark hair and cuban skin perfectly, but then again, everything does. I took off the dress and she happily went back to her carefree frolicking. I then turned my attention to my sister-in-law who I hadn’t seen yet. We embraced and shed some tears. I was so glad she was there. Her and both my brothers came in at four that morning. Someone from my church picked them up at the airport and dropped them off there at my house. People are so amazingly kind.
Back upstairs makeup was applied. The waterproof kind for obvious reasons. I used a few of my own products plus foundation from my mom and mascara that my BFF Heather had brought me the day before. Though everyone else, myself included, said I looked beautiful he would have said I used too much. He liked to see my flaws. He loved me exactly how I was. He still loves me. That I’m certain of and it makes me smile. Maybe I don’t have one less person to make me smile. That’s how it is. Ups and downs and round and round. My emotions and moods are all over the place. My brain malfunctions. I’m learning not to be so hard on myself cause it doesn’t help and I can’t handle anymore hardness.
My nails were a mess and I had over an hour left so I cleaned them up and put on some fresh Jamberry wraps. Gold sparkles and coral with polka-dots. I pretended the polka-dots where sprinkles in honer of my lover. He had a thing for sprinkles. A gift arrived. Two humongous boxes filled with paper goods and Kleenexes. Amongst the practical laid a tiny black box. My dad opened it. It was a necklace. A shiny silver heart with the words “Till We Meet Again” engraved in it. I started crying again. Crying a lot. I showed everyone and they all hugged me and cried with me. I told my mom I wanted to wear it but it didn’t go with my outfit. She laughed and said that it didn’t matter in the least. My brother put it on me. I never wanted to take it off. I didn’t want to have to wear it at all.
Wanting to display pictures in the church I gathered every framed piece of perfection I had, pulling them off of walls and off of shelves. The stack was huge but we loaded it all into the cars. It was a good thing we had two. Heather loaned us the second one, always anticipating my needs. Hurry, hurry! I was glad I told everyone we needed to leave half an hour before we actually needed to as we left right in time. In the car I drowned out my thoughts and feelings by singing along to the religious songs playing softly in the background from a CD that my husband and I always listened to on the way to church. I’ll be listening to that with just the kids now each week and thinking about him. I might need to invest in some of that waterproof makeup for Sundays.
A forced deep breath and I entered the church. Hannah from the funeral home was there to tell me what to do. She helped me set up the pictures. I took off my shoes as I was running around because they were already hurting my feet. Daniel would have laughed at me and told me that I should have bought new shoes. I thought about just leaving them off but decided to be a big girl and put them back on. It was time to join everyone in the viewing room. Once there I gave hugs and roamed around awkwardly. I avoided the white elephant. The white body. The dead body of my husband. I held my babies. Other people help my babies. One of my favorite things was seeing the smiles stretch across the faces of all those who interacted with my babies. Those sweet miracles. Living pieces of their daddy.
Patrick was there. The first person I remember embracing in that room full of despair and hope. He smelled good. He had flown in from Utah just to pay his respects and be with our family. Family is how Daniel viewed him even though they had only meet in person once. They worked for the same company years ago and Daniel was in charge of training him. They talked on the phone for hours every single day. This kind friend drove Daniel home from a work convention when he couldn’t drive himself due to illness. This kind friend stayed up till four in the morning on many occasions talking my anxiety ridden husband off of cliffs and being bossed around and yelled at while playing PlayStation live. It meant so much to me that he was there.
My mom and sister took me to the casket before I realized what they were doing. Daniel wasn’t in it but his body looked good. They had shaved his face. That face I’ve looked at a million times. That face that so often made me laugh. That face that made me feel safe and loved and important. I pray that his face will forever be ingrained in my memory. That face, laying there in the casket had one tiny random hair still upon it. They missed a hair, just like he always did. That made me smile again until my eyes wondered to his hands. I couldn’t stop them. I saw his hands and almost lost it. Oh how I will miss those small and stocky hands. His chubby fingers will be entwined with mine no more. In the hospital just moments after he died I grabbed those hands and held on tight. They felt normal like any second now he would use them to squeeze me back. His chest, any second, would move, should more. But neither happened. He didn’t squeeze my hand. He didn’t breathe. I couldn’t believe it. I buried my face and wept with grief. Nothing and no one else mattered. Then the fear overcame me. I’d never been so scared in my life and I hope with every fiber of my being that I never will be again. Looking at his lifeless body in that hospital room was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Take the biggest number in the world and times it by that. It was harder than steel. Harder than diamond. Hard, hard, fucking hard. If ever I wanted a control Z button that was the time, to say the least.
The flowers look great on that grey casket. They were bigger than I expected with lots of green and three blue hydrangeas for me and the babies right in the center. His white temple clothes were perfect for the occasion. My sister wrapped her arms around me. She did that a lot that day. Her skinny little arms held me together. More hugs. More glances at the casket. I witnessed his brothers embrace while looking at his body. A few days before Daniel’s family had come to my house. While there his father noticed one of his hats. A black and orange Orioles cap. He asked if he could have it. It was my favorite of my husband’s hats and it made me sad to see it go but I could clearly tell how much it meant to his father and I’m glad I said yes. I watched as his father, standing at the casket, took that Orioles cap off his own head and placed it on his son. The look on his face, the peace I saw. It was priceless.
A prayer was said and then it was time. They lined us all up. Me in front, right behind the grey box, holding my oldest in my arms. I stood up straight, wiped my eyes and walked. The room was filled with people. Friends and acquaintances. People who knew him well and people who didn’t. That’s how he was. He had a way with people. A way of making people happy. I’ll miss that. I hope to be able to be more like him in this way and so many others. Some people caught my attention and I smiled at them. I gave a small wave to a few. To the lady that gave me the necklace I clutched my heart. I sat. We all sat and it started. My makeup held up surprisingly well. Perfectly actually, not a speck out of place. The service was perfect too. Evey single part of it touched my heart. Every single person involved did a fabulous job. I was very impressed. His brothers both said a few words directly to him like he was there, like he was listening. I believe he was. I believe he was smiling and cheering every time the word “repentance” was said. I believe he was proud of me for pulling it off and keeping it together. The songs were my favorite part. I agonized over which to choose and felt silly but in the end I picked the absolute best ones I could have which made me feel justified. I cried the hardest during each of those songs. The primary children, including the ones he taught every week, sang so sweetly and innocently. My sister-in-law sang like an angel, her only instrument being her beautiful voice. She sang with an incredible amount of emotion but didn’t cry. She was amazing. The most gorgeous song I’d ever heard. I doubt I’ll hear a better one in this lifetime. I am so grateful for everyone who helped and participated and attended.
During the closing prayer I wiped all the many, many tears from my face with the Kleenexes my brother had given me. Got to look pretty! Then it was time to leave. I stood up and went first following Hannah and my husband. Patrick was right behind me and I just had to get a hug. Daniel’s family who I’ve enjoyed being around and growing closer to, have turned me into a huger. I didn’t care about holding things up. I’m learning not to care so much about trivial things. I’m learning to do what I want regardless of worry. After a couple more hugs I was out the door. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see everyone. I wish I could have hugged and talked to them all. I didn’t even know who all was there. But Daniel knows and he’s grateful. I bet he even believes me now. Believes what I always told him, that people like him. That his annoyance is overshadowed by his coolness.
I was shoved in the car and away we drove following the hearse which was following the police. Traffic was stopped to let us pull out onto the main road and my dad was amazed. It was pretty cool! As cars on both sides of the road slowed down or pulled over and I saw the flashing lights leading the way I couldn’t help but feel like a queen. I did several princess waves not worrying that it was inappropriate because I knew Daniel would be laughing and glad that I was enjoying the ride. I clapped and banged the ceiling of the car as we ran a red light. Our car was full of excitement and joy! We will see him again. He wants us to be happy. He is happy up there in Heaven so it’s only fair.
At the graveside people shared stories. The sweet ones were nice, the funny ones were my favorite. His brother’s voice, “I love you little brother” will never leave my heart. I wanted to speak too and though I was nervous to do it, I knew Daniel would be disappointed in me if I didn’t and it gave me courage. I spoke of gratitude and love. The bishop said a few comforting words. My dad and Daniel’s dad followed my little Madie around making sure she didn’t get into trouble as she roamed around in all her cuteness. Baby Jonah was passed around and fought over. He spit up on several people that day but still he was loved like crazy. People placed flowers on the casket and said goodbye. People got in cars and started leaving. I didn’t want to leave with the casket above the ground. It didn’t feel right. I told my mom my feelings and she told Hannah who told the workers who stared the process. I walked away from the dwindling crowd and watched up close as my husband’s casket was lowered into the liner.
I gathered my babies in my arms and threw the three beautiful hydrangeas on top of my soul mate one at a time. My oldest waved her tiny little hand and said goodbye. She knows where her daddy is now, she knows he is happy. She knows we will all be okay and that we will all be together again. I cried. I prayed. I told him I loved him. Instead of turning around and walking away I kept watching as they put the lid on the liner and lowered the whole thing into the ground. The nice man who was doing it noticed me still watching and handed me some more flowers, two red roses for our two sweet babies. I completely missed (it’s harder than it looks) and laughed at myself as tears fell down my checks. I stood there for awhile just looking. I finally pulled myself away. I walked to the car and looked back at the open grave. I saw the dirt coming and held up my ride so I could see it land on top of those flowers, on top of my beloved best friend.
I didn’t wail, I didn’t even ball my eyes out. I felt peace. He wasn’t in there. He’s in my heart now. He’s looking over my shoulder. He’s holding my hand. He’s kissing our babies. The veil is thin. Heavenly Father’s plan in real and His love for us is strong and true. God knows I can’t live without my husband and I won’t. Yes, I’m looking forward to the day I see him again. I will run faster than a cheetah to be in his arms and squeeze the breath out of him and kiss him over and over again, all over. But in the meantime I will be at peace and know Daniel is watching out for us as he goes about all the important work he’s doing up there. I keep saying it but it’s true, he’s not really gone and that brings me more comfort than anything, even eating a batch of chocolate chip cookies the size of the Grand Canyon, ever could.
The ride back to the church was more solemn. Silent. We were all lost in our own thoughts. We arrived and entered the church one more time. We smelled the food and heard the laughter. People were relieved, lightened. I could feel it and it strengthened me, gave me the power to keep going. Everyone tells me I’m strong but it’s not all me. Your prayers reach Heaven and God gives me strength. Christ suffered all the pains of the world. He knows exactly how I feel. That gives me strength. Food gives me strength too. The food that night was amazing! The best meat I’ve ever tasted, creamy potatoes, sweet carrots and fluffy rolls. I even asked for the meat a few days later and got it delivered to my doorstep free of charge. I get everything I want these days. Everything except Daniel.
Outside it started to thunder and we took a peak. Heather had previously volunteered to take photos and now was the time. She herded us outside like cattle. Across the parking lot and in front of the temple. She pressed the little black button on her camera again and again. I hope most turned out okay. I hope I looked good. I hope my babies smiled. A small group of us hung out outside awhile. It was truly picturesque with the sky full of dark clouds, lightning lighting up the world just like Daniel did with his smile and his one-of-a kind sense of humor. Just like he did with his loudness and confidence. A breeze cooled us off. It was peaceful. The whole day I felt peace. One more deep breathe and we went back inside just in time. The heavens opened up and the rain came down. I love rain. I love storms. I have no doubt that Daniel had a hand in this natural wonder.
So many people helped me pull this whole day off. I thanked some of them and laughed with them. I showed the ladies my newborn since none of them had even seen him yet, he was so new. I wanted to stay. I wanted to talk and laugh and show off that sweet tiny baby some more but I had to leave. Life doesn’t wait. I said goodbye to those still there. Back at home we were exhausted but wanted, needed, to play a game. My brother Jason had to leave early the next morning at to go back home so we pulled ourselves to the table and played. Slap happy is always the best! I don’t remember who won the game. It didn’t matter. It was a beautiful, fun day. My brother held me tight as we embraced and said goodbye. I took a couple Tylenol PMs and laid in bed. Sleep came and the day was over. I survived. I’ll continue to survive. I’ll miss my husband every second of every day. I will have moments of anguish and moments of joy but I’ll survive. I have to survive. I have to see him again. That thought, that desire, will keep me going. As he would say, “Don’t cry for me Argentina”.