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tough times and long days

This one is for Jules and Deidra and Jenn. Just because.

 

August 11th, 2011 was Jada’s funeral. My little sister’s funeral. Every time I repeated that phrase in my head it felt fake. The same as telling myself I could fly, or that I was a millionaire. Jada’s funeral. It’s not even something I’d taken the time to think about. I ‘d imagined her wedding several times, but never her funeral. No one in my family is old enough to necessitate thinking about death, funerals, graves, and headstones. But that was what filled up my day last Thursday.

The morning felt like a wedding—every family member and a large majority of our Florida friends were in Utah to be supportive. We woke up early (well…some of us never slept) and went to work doing our hair and smoothing our dresses and trying to choke down toast. I ripped off my hospital bands. And I played pretend with Aria.

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I worry she may have not known it was a game, that the whole funeral wasn’t just a game of pretend. Because I certainly felt that way at times.

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After we were all ready we met at my aunt’s house. I was in a good mood. I was happy. Mother was happy. No one was even crying. A good way to start the day.

We even spent a bit of time rounding up escaped bunnies while dressed in our Sunday best.

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The visitation was quite enjoyable. I saw so many people that I loved. I’d anticipated that my cheeks would grow sore from smiling, that my arms would grow tired of hugging friends and family, that my feet would grow weary of standing in my heels. I was wrong on all counts.

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It was probably the most joyful hour of the funeral, standing there seeing old friends and meeting new ones. There were a significant amount of people there that I didn’t even know; they just knew my grandparents or had merely heard of our situation and wanted to be there for us. It is both humbling and touching to have complete strangers throw their arms around you and express their love and concern for you. (Okay I guess that’s not true in all cases…sometimes that could actually be creepy. But it wasn’t.)

This was the fun part—seeing people, saying hi, being happy and friendly and not dealing with emotions or anything deeper than being grateful.

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Unfortunately, this was a day of emotions. Ones that I had to deal with eventually. I realized later that I spent that first hour suppressing emotion. To be honest, I was so concentrated on keeping my composure that I don’t remember everyone who came. I don’t remember what I said to everyone. I remember trying to be polite and friendly, and I remember that there were SO many people there that I haven’t seen in a while. My favorite part was that a large majority of the funeral attendees were blog readers. Which meant more compliments, more encouragement to keep writing. People I hadn’t even met that had taken the time to read my blog and then spent their Thursday morning at a funeral for a girl they never knew. It was astounding how many people were there to be supportive.

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Knowing that I would see all those people—most of which I haven’t seen in a while—I knew what was coming. The standard “ohhh I haven’t seen you since you were this big!”--my favorite. I love the way they say it with shock and wonder, as though it really was some miracle that I’d managed to grow a few inches in the last fifteen years. Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t mind hearing it. In fact, I find myself saying it to my little cousins sometimes…before I remember that I shouldn’t. It’s just awkward. I never know what the proper response is. One of these days I’m going to come up with a clever, witty response. Then I will use it to turn the awkwardness right back around and leave them with nothing to say in response. Ha!

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Eventually the clock pushed its way to 11:00 and all non-family members were excused from the room. All of the sudden my body went tense and panicky. My emotions were caught in my throat. Not like I wanted to cry; more like I wanted to burst into a fit of hysterical giggles or run a few marathons. I hate being overwhelmed by emotion, being incapacitated by the way my subconscious thinks I should feel. So I latched on to Jace and drug my feet into the service.

DSC_0686Jace’s fist is clenched because he is slowly losing feeling in his arm. Sorry, bro.

I made it all the way to my seat—and through most of the service—sans tears.

My head was swimming; the whole thing was unreal. I didn’t want it to feel real. It was like there was a bubble around my brain, protecting me from pain, from reality, making everything fictitious. The whole thing could have easily been a dream. It’s pretty incredible the way the mind works when it’s under severe stress. Things just bounced off of my little protective brain bubble. Which was good. The mental blockage needed to be there. I couldn’t look at the casket and think about Jada’s body being in there. If I did then my little bubble was threatened; it was in danger of popping, leaving me unprotected and vulnerable, surely to be overwhelmed by an incapacitating grief.

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I could feel those waves of grief around me, but I held them at bay. I really didn’t even cry when I spoke, much to my surprise. I was grateful that I got to read a letter from Alyssa instead of speaking for myself. Reading a letter necessitated dry eyes, and due to that added incentive, I almost managed to not cry. The hard part came at the end of the letter when I was finally able to look up. The first thing I saw was my dad, sitting apart from our family, no light or happiness in his face, with his head in his hands. That image brought stabs of pain--the first real ones of the day--and caused me to choke up, barely getting out the rest of my words. I was grateful for my family sitting there next to me; Kenyan lacing her fingers through mine, my mom’s hand on my arm, Jace being my bodyguard, and Aria…stealing my mints.

The real tears--more commonly known as uncontrollable sobs--started after the service, when the casket had been loaded into the hearse. Dear little Jace, my stoic, perpetually dry-eyed brother loaded his best friend into the black hole gaping at us from the rear of the car. He was sobbing when he turned around to give me a hug. And that was it for me. I cried and cried and left all my tears on the jacket of his new suit.

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After a good cry we dried our eyes and piled into cars and led the procession to the cemetery.

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It was more fun than I imagined. Like a giant party. A giant traveling party.

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That one little tear session was enough crying for me. Really. After that little burst of emotion I was perfectly fine being happy. I resumed the mindset of celebrating little Jada’s life. I think I did a pretty good job of it too.

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I sincerely do not remember when this picture was taken. I don’t know who I was waving at. But this is completely fitting. It’s how I felt and I’m sure Jada would have loved that I treated her funeral procession like a parade. She was probably proudest right then.

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Arriving at the cemetery was a little hard. Mostly because Jace was showing emotion again—acceptable, but so unusual that it was unnerving.

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I love that boy so much. It tore my heart to see so much raw pain on his face, the way his shoulders were slumped, the weight he carried, the sadness that filled his countenance. He does not deserve this pain.

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The graveside service was lovely.

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It was peaceful. I only sobbed for a few minutes. We (the family) got these luscious blue suede-covered chairs to sit on underneath the shade. It was ridiculously hot. I started crying (not because it was hot…because I was sad) and found myself being comforted by at least four different people. I really love when people play with my hair and scratch my back (who doesn’t?), so to have four hands participating at once was quite nice. Too bad it didn’t last long.

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My little cousins did the best job of cheering me up, though. Sweet little faces that were trying to grasp the concept of death, of the frailty of mortality. Comments were made like “Jada’s in the box, mom! I see her!” and one beautiful little girl coming up to me and excitedly proclaiming “I didn’t die!!!” The mothers were trying to quiet their kids but really, I felt the same way. Happy to be alive. And I welcomed anything that made me laugh the way these little ones did.

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After the services were all finished everyone wanted to hang out and take pictures. I was a little reluctant—I wanted to get back in the air conditioning where the luncheon was. Typical. Despite the heat, it was wonderful seeing so many people sharing my peace and happiness and not crying.

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DSC_0819Please do not ask me what is going on with the two boys. Quite frankly, I don’t know. Except that the boy on the end is married to the girl on the other end. That’s all I know.

Eventually we went back to the luncheon where I spent very little time eating and a large amount of time running around barefoot saying hi to everyone, trying to have a real—but concise—conversation with as many people as I could. Again, it felt like a wedding.

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I was able to have a semi-real conversation with these two possessive, bossy, goons:

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They rapidly shot up to the top of the list of People That I Really Like. Hopefully my life will pan out in a way that will allow me to spend time with them. Or live with them. Or something.

There was another noteworthy person there—ladies and gentleman, meet my biggest supporter, my most loyal fan:

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She’s really pretty too. Dang, Jada chose the best people to be her friends.

At the end of it all I was exhausted and my eyes were puffy and droopy and I was relieved that I have this family around me forever. They’re pretty great.

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Especially my mom. Love her.

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No, really.

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I was really ready to go home and sleep after that. What a ridiculous idea. My family doesn’t sleep. Ever. Instead we drove to Salt Lake and went adventuring with most of the Florida folk.

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Despite my over exhaustion and aching feet I felt content hanging out with Jada’s friends and terrorizing the poor conservative state of Utah.

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We do things a little differently in South Florida.

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summer 2011 319

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Can you believe all these people flew out for the funeral?

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They even brought their parents with them!

Clearly we were a spectacle; as I was taking a picture of all these crazy kids a chubby Asian tourist man walked by and stopped right next to me. He whipped out his camera with a look of sheer delight on his face and snapped some pictures of the kids while giggling like a little girl. He was just tickled being in their presence. I told you, they’re awesome. Even the Asians know it.

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It was quite an exhausting day—mentally, emotionally, and physically. There was so much to deal with, so much to think about. My weary mind didn’t want to process any of it, but it tried any way. I was completely out of sorts—laughing when I should have cried and crying when I should have laughed. I was awkward and exhausted and had experienced such a broad spectrum of emotions that day—from bitter grief to lighthearted joy. It was the perfect day to be surrounded by people that love me no matter what kind of basket case I am. It was a good day overall, and I’d never been so desperate for sleep in my life. It was a blissful feeling to rest my head and close my swollen eyes. I got through it. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be. I am still happy to be where I am and still hopeful for a bright future.

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Especially if I get to spend it with these guys:

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Love you Jada. Miss you.

[Title from Sonny by New Found Glory]

13 comments:

  1. I don't know what to say right now except thanks for being so real and sharing your story. And that I love ya! I still think about Jada and your family all the time.

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  2. Wow. Beautifully said. I remember being happy at the viewing of my sister and seeing some suprised looks on my friend's faces like, "why is she happy?" "Has she lost her mind?"

    But you can't be sad every second of the day and there are moments of peace and moments of grief all intertwined. You portrayed that beautifully as usual.


    Bawling like a baby right now. Bridian you are amazing.

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  3. You are an amazing young woman. Though you don't know me i knew your sister. She was very lucky to have such a wonderful sister and family. I love reading your blogs and looking at your pictures. It makes me feel like i was there. Thank you so much for letting us all into your life.

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  4. I am so glad you write about stuff like this. It was so beatiful. I cried and cried. Your family is so strong and amazing! For those of us that never had the opportunity to know Jada, we missed out, but as we have had an opportunity to meet your family, we are blessed.

    Cathy SEil :)

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  5. Thank you for the beautiful writings and photos, it make us feel like we were there to share those moments with you. You and you family are in our thoughts and prayers. We love you - The Shoups

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  6. Possessive and bossy? You forgot ridiculously good looking and genuinely sarcastic... How dare you! Brid, please move in with me. This was amazing, you are amazing. And why are all of you so gorgeous, ALL THE TIME? I love you.

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  7. I am Tashas mother-in-law and I just wanted to tell you that you are a beautiful writer. I love the way you express yourself. Keep it up.

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  8. Thanks for sharing this Brid! Wish we could have been part of that Florida group! The Wilsons

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  9. Ayden here again, I just want to say that I was very mad about not being able to attend the fueneral, very, very mad. But I want to say, I wish I could have seen her one last time, I have some good memories that will never fade that are almost all about her. It surprised me, and drew tears from me when I heard the news that night. I just couldn't believe it. The one thought that ran through my head was "no, NO she can't be gone, I never got to say g, and if you goodbye" I was a very depressed kid the next few days. Miss her, and wish I could have seen her, I had several oppurtunites to go to Flordia, but my dad would never take me with him. Wishing you good luck settling in, and if you could contact me back, that would be great. Braeden Wilson

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  10. Brid, I was lucky enough to glad, and I was so suprised the whole time to see you laughing with your mom! You are such a talented writer and I love you so much!

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  11. Oh my darling friend! I adore you! I wish we could stay up all night talking in person instead of over the stupid phone. You are very very loved! This little comment box is not sufficient for me to tell you all the things I want you to know about all the good you bring to the world and to those grieving for your sweet Jada. I hate that you have to experience so much loss. I'm grateful you allow us so freely into your heart. I love you!
    Love,
    Laura

    p.s. Jack (4) remembers your family often in his prayers. He prays for your "broken hearts" & thanks Heavenly Father for "letting us have friends" like you. It's very tender. We love you guys!

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  12. p.p.s Don't worry...I'll let it go, but I'm still a little miffed and overprotective of you! I feel like writing a letter. And yeah...I know Karate.

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  13. I love that there's more smiling pictures in this funeral than crying ones. :) I wish I could have spent more time with you guys and gone to temple square!

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