Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Funeral #1

The picture we had framed for the funeral.

Joshua was one year old when he died. It seemed silly to me to have funeral for a baby that no one knew but our little family and a few friends with whom we would visit the park and trade babysitting.

I thought we should have a simple funeral with our ward family in Texas and then a simple grave side ceremony with family in St. George. I mean who else would come to the funeral of a baby?

As the mother of new babies I always felt protective of my feelings. I loved them each so much I could scarce comprehend the depth in my own mind. Every smile and burp and coo enchanted me and drew me in even more. I loved those days. Slow days, small days, private days, just me and the baby wrapped in the unseen chains of supply and demand, happily giving and happily taking, nobody needing or wanting anything outside our home. I miss those days. Because my feelings were so intense and because I knew others didn't feel the same about my baby, those feelings became very private to me, even sacred. I think only Paul really knew.

I think I translated his birth and his death into similar situations in my head at least socialy. I was surprised at how self-conscious I felt about the whole idea of planning this funeral. Not because I thought I would do it wrong but because I wanted privacy, I felt very protective, I didn't think that it affected people outside my immediate sphere and at the same time I was really worried about putting people out or inconveniencing them with our tragedy. It seems absurd to me now but at the time I just couldn't believe that it would matter to anyone else.

My first indication that my thinking was flawed was when our Bishop at the time, Ryan Rydalch, came over to get the details for the funeral. He asked about what songs we would like to hear and who should speak. We told him what we wanted. Then he told us there was another matter. He said that the Commanding General of the 1st Cavalry Division wanted to come but because he was the the CG, if he attended, protocol said he should sit on the stand. That would also change the service from a church service to a military service.

We told him we wanted an LDS service. That put our poor bishop into the uncomfortable position of telling the CG, both Paul's and Ryan's boss's boss's boss's boss, that he couldn't come to the funeral. He did and the CG was obliging and could not have been more gracious about it.

Our mothers and Sara flew from Utah to be with us for the funeral. Jim DeMoss took Pauly to get a haircut and had a picture of Joshua framed for us. He made sure Paul's uniform was just right and helped with a zillion other details I asked of him. Ellen Kuehl bought me a beautiful dress. Women from all over Ft. Hood church sisters and army sisters brought in more food than we could eat. Flowers arrived from friends and family. Sara ordered the flowers for the casket. Dear friends dressed Joshua in white pajamas for burial. Paul and I stayed close to each other.

As we drove to the funeral, I still fully expected just a small group of dear friends to meet us at the church. Instead, as the church came into view, I gasped. There were so many cars that they were having to park on the road. I couldn't understand it. It looked like Stake Conference. I still could not believe that so many people cared.

The church was filled back to the stage with our ward family as well as soldiers and officers in their blues and greens. We sang I Am a Child of God and Come Come Ye Saints. Our dear friend Sherri Steed, the only person outside of our family who spent time with Josh, gave a beautiful eulogy that made me happy and made everyone smile. Bishop Rydalch spoke about families being forever and about the Plan of Salvation. The pallbearers were the men who had stood in the circle to give Joshua a name and a priesthood blessing when he was born.

After the closing prayer, the soldiers made quick work of the chairs in the gym. Tables were put up and spread with lovingly made food. Paul and I walked around and visited. People said the kindest things to us. "I've never been to a funeral I enjoyed before." "I didn't want it to end." "I will never forget this day." Although I was numb to much of the emotion, I knew how special the whole experience was.

It is one of my sweetest memories.