Celebrating Life and Death

I went home to Pennsylvania this past weekend. It wasn’t for the reasons that I wanted, but I try to find a blessing in every moment of life. Things just happened to come together to make a sad occasion a happy one as well.

The Reason We Were in Pennsylvania

My daughter and I traveled home to Pennsylvania to attend my Uncle Edwin’s funeral and to be there to offer my Aunt Darlene some moral support. My Aunt Darlene is one kick ass woman. She’s been through so much in her life, but she never lets anything get her down. She dusts herself off, picks herself up, and she carries on like a trooper. I’m not so sure that this is going to be one of those times that she’ll be able to bounce back quickly from however. She has a long grieving process to go through, and I just pray that God is with her through it all and gives her the strength to carry on each day.

The Grieving Process

We buried my Uncle Edwin on Saturday at Schuylkill Memorial Park, right near my grandparents. I know that he’ll be welcomed with open arms by them and that they will watch over him and keep him safe until Aunt Darlene is reunited with him once again. His service was beautiful. My Uncle Edwin was a truck driver, and he had a group of guys who just loved him to pieces. It was rather touching to see these big burly guys crying and hugging my Aunt Darlene, all 5 feet of her. It broke my heart watching one after the other place a little something or other in Uncle Edwin’s casket to take with him.

Uncle Edwin's Truck

This is his truck. It led the funeral procession. The teddy bear (which was Uncle Edwin’s nickname) was given to Aunt Darlene, and I’m sure she will cherish it always. After the funeral, the driver blasted the horn to send Uncle Edwin off, and it reminded me of Dave’s funeral and how we wished that his truck had been there to send him off. Just made me start crying all over again.

After Uncle Edwin’s funeral, Dad was sweet enough to stop at mom and Dave’s gravesite and give April and I a moment with them. I held my daughter tight as she cried tears she’s held back for so long. She was only about 4 years old when her Nana passed away, but she remembers and she grieves for the relationship that never had time to grow and blossom. She was the apple of mom’s eye though from the day she was born. The sun rose and set with April as far as mom was concerned, and I wanted her to know that.

My First Father’s Day Gift in 47 Years

April and I arrived Friday evening around 11:30 p.m. and Dad and Linda were waiting on the front porch for us. It was so good to see them both again, just the circumstances surrounding our visit sucked. Dad got us all settled and made sure that we had everything we needed for the evening and for the morning. It was good to just relax for a moment and laugh and joke. Dad was talking with April about something, and I motioned for Linda to follow me into the bedroom for a moment. I showed her the watch that I had to give to Dad for Father’s Day. I also explained that, since my mom kept us apart all those years ago when I was growing up, and then when I was out on my own we kind of lost touch, I’d never had the chance to give Dad a Father’s Day gift. This was the first gift I had ever given to him in the 47 years that I’ve been on this earth. She said he would love it, so I took a deep breath and went back into the kitchen.

I walked up to dad, and I handed him the box, and told him I was sorry that it had taken 47 years, but I wanted him to have this for Father’s Day, or something along those lines. I was crying and trying desperately to sound normal. He opened it up and began to tear up as well. Turns out, Dad collects watches just like hubby does. He loved it, and he told me that when he passes, he wants to be buried with it. That just started a whole other flood of tears and I hugged him as though my life depended on it and didn’t let go.

I’m going to make sure that I don’t miss any special moments ever again with my father. He’s one in a million.

My 1st Father's Day Gift to My Dad in 47 Years

After Dad and Linda left and went home, April and I settled in for the night to try to get some sleep. She was able to fall asleep with no problems. Me? Not so lucky. From 1am to 5:15am I just tossed and turned, stared at the wall, stared at the ceiling, and finally decided to just give up and get up and start the day. I snuck outside to have a cigarette and watch the sun come up. It was absolutely beautiful – listening to the birds chirping, the owls talking back and forth to each other, and the sun breaking over the tops of the trees.

Sunrise in Pennsylvania

I miss those kinds of mornings. The quiet stillness before the rest of the world is awake. Oh sure, I could catch a beautiful sunrise in Virginia if I had a mind to get up that early in the morning, but with a parkway right outside our back door, and the highway just a ways past that, it is never quiet. Not to mention the rescue squad is zooming back and forth on the parkway at all hours of the day and night. It’s just not the same as home. I’m actually glad for that. It makes going home and getting the chance to enjoy these mornings and relive what it was like growing up in Pennsylvania all that more special.

Before too long, the bunnies made an appearance and were waiting for their morning carrots. Dad told me about them but I honestly did not expect them to show up right at the porch, close enough to almost reach out and touch them. I crept back into the house and got the carrots out of the bottom drawer that Dad had already sliced up for them, and headed outside to feed them.

Dad's Bunnies Munching Carrots

Just one more thing to endear home to my heart, you know?

After the Funeral

Once the funeral was over and we had laid Uncle Edwin to rest next to my grandparents, Homer and Doris, we went back to my Aunt Darlene’s house for some light refreshments.

Homer and Doris Lechleitner, RIP Grammy and Pappy

Kenny Darlene Homer and Doris Lechleitner

This is a photo that was taken during my Grammy and Pappy’s 75th wedding anniversary I believe. From left to right is my Dad, Kenny, my Aunt Darlene, my Pappy and my Grammy.

Farm Country, New Ringgold, PA

One of the things I love about being home is seeing the farms and the mountains. This is a gorgeous dairy farm on the way to my Aunt Darlene’s house, actually right down the street from her. After we stopped in for coffee and cake, April and I talked with Aunt Darlene for a bit, and she showed us the bruises from the accident. No wonder her little self was having trouble moving around. I thought that it was just because of her sadness, but the poor thing was literally black and blue all across her stomach, across her chest and shoulders from where the seatbelt had snatched her in tight and kept her safe during the accident.

All too soon it was time to say our goodbyes. I hugged her, and told her that I would call and check up on her, and then April and I said our goodbyes to my dad and Linda with promises to call and let them know that we arrived home safe and sound.

The Blue Mountains, New Ringgold, PA

My beloved Blue Mountains. I love getting a chance to go home and see these majestic mountains no matter which direction you turn. It doesn’t feel like home until I can see those mountains.

We stopped in to see my sister, Danielle, after we left Aunt Darlene’s – but not before we took a slight detour and stopped at the old Burger King where I used to work and ordered up some real food. The place is still the same as it was 29 years ago. The only thing that has changed are the uniforms and the faces behind the drive thru window!

My little man, Shane, was off on a fishing trip with his Dad so I didn’t get to see him. I did get to see my loveable, gorgeous nieces though, Vanessa, Jae-Lynn and Jasmine and got to meet the newest addition to my sister’s family – Baby!

Baby, the Pug

That little smoosh face is the cutest little thing ever! I totally envy my sister! I picked her up the minute I got out of the car and she started snorting in my ear and rooting in my hair giving kisses. Yeah, she totally has me wrapped around her little paw! Before too long however, it was time to leave and head out to April’s grandmother’s house, Cora, and visit with her before we finally got on the road to head home.

I have not seen Cora in years, literally. I think the last time that I did see her was almost 13 years ago. She hasn’t changed much at all, and hugging her again brought back a flood of memories from when her son and I were married and would come home to visit from North Carolina.

As usual, Cora’s neighbors still have their horses, and I had a chance to chat with one of them. This little cutie came up to the fence to have a chat. When I asked him what he was looking for and I suggested carrots, he shook his head up and down. I sadly told him I was sorry, that I didn’t have any carrots to feed him today, and he did this:

Why You No Bring Me Carrots?

The nerve of some horses, right? We had a nice little visit with Cora, got caught up on what she’s been doing, and her and April cemented some plans about the 4th of July long weekend and a visit from her and Chris. I’m glad she’s getting a chance to visit with her/our family as often as she does. She needs that connection to family I had early on in my childhood with my aunts and uncles and grandparents. I think it is good for the soul.

In Conclusion and a Thank You

So, even though our reason for visiting my beloved home state was a sad one, we were able to turn it into a happy occasion. An occasion that celebrated life, and family, and connections that tied us to each other, either by blood or by marriage. It was a trip that needed to be made, and one that turned out to be a blessing after all. I want to thank the blogging friends who made it possible for me to make that trip home, they know who they are, and thank them for giving me that time with my family to grieve, to laugh, to cry, to celebrate life, to celebrate our unwavering love for each other – no matter what.

You gave me a gift I shall not soon forget.

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1 Comment

  1. Heartwrenching but a very inspirational story, may the Lord comfort you and your family Ma'am.

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