Ok I know what you're thinking, "She's REALLY going to blog about the funeral of her niece? Has she no boundaries? No class? No tact?" And the answer is, "Yes." But wait, this is my blog and part of the reason for my blog is to journal our lives and like it or not this is a part of our life. And believe me I don't like it, not one bit.
While it was among the most heartbreaking, emotional weeks of my life, because I was in the company of my awesome family we still had our moments of laughter, our reminder that life will still go on and even though our hearts are broken we can still find the sunshine in the rain (cliche anyone?).
Where to begin? How about on our journey there last Tuesday? Heidi and I had decided to head down there, me leaving Iowa to pick her and her 2 babies up outside of Kansas City and then continuing on to TN. The husbands and the rest of the kids would follow once we knew more. It was about 30 minutes after I left my house as I was passing Osceola, IA that I got the call from Hilary. The one telling me we hadn't come soon enough, that Kaydence was gone. It's still kind of a blur, I just remember feeling numb, like surely it wasn't real, like I still needed to get there and see for myself. I pulled over at a rest area to get my bearings and to call GI Joe. I decided to continue on as no doubt, Hilary needed us now more than ever. I arrived at Heidi's house, south of Kansas City, helped her finish packing, loaded up her kids (my adorable, niece Savannah and nephew Jonah) and off we went. We drove and drove and drove. Between Maggie the GPS stressing me out with her constant nagging and Heidi not being a very reliable navigator, we somehow missed our exit in St Louis and ended up driving right thru the hood of STL. We were surrounded by bars on windows, homeless people, and people of color participating in what looked like illegal activities. Luckily, having been black myself ('92-'94) I cranked up the Snoop Dogg, threw up a few gang signs and we made it on our way without incident. We stopped for a drive thru dinner somewhere after we went thru St Louis. With bellies full, caffeine injected, we felt confident about the rest of our journey. About an hour after we ate Savannah started whining, crying and being really unhappy, mumbling something about her tummy hurting. We stopped at a gas station in the middle of nowhere Missouri so that Heidi could feed Jonah and then we could switch drivers. We parked and I went in the gas station. When I came out Heidi was in the passenger seat feeding Jonah and Savannah was standing in front of her, when all of a sudden she looked right at me then at Heidi and then PROJECTILE VOMITED ALL OVER Heidi, Jonah and my Princess Mobile. Awesome. It was disgusting. Apparently in the few years my kids have outgrown the baby/toddler stages I've lost all tolerance for bodily function mishaps as I thought i was next. I ran inside to rob the bathroom of as many paper towels as I could get my hands on then handed them to Heidi, all while covering my mouth and nose. She wiped up what she could and then got out to survey the damage done to her, Savannah, and Jonah. It wasn't pretty my friends. I went to the trunk and got out fresh clothes for the kids and took Jonah in to change him. Of course being a gas station/Burger King combo store in the middle of podunk, MO the restrooms had no changing tables so I had to squat on the floor, and balance Jonah on my lap to change him. And that's when I realized I'm way too old for this baby stuff. He's pretty sweet though and it wasn't his fault he was covered in his sister's vomit so I got him changed. Finally, about 45 minutes later everyone was clean enough (including the PMobile) to continue on our way. And we had something to laugh about.
We arrived at Hilary's at 2:30 Wednesday morning, I had left my house at 10:00 am Tuesday morning, do the math that's 16.5 hours, I must really love my sister. Yes, yes I do. She had told us that our agenda Wednesday involved a trip to the cemetery to pick out Kaydence's plot. The only highlight of that trip was the rate of speed at which the groundskeeper drove his truck thru the cemetery expecting us to follow him to the open plots. We're talking Mario Andretti here. His need for speed lightened up the situation just a little bit. He took us to one area called Baby Land. The 4 of us agreed it was a horrible, horrible place and asked for the other option. He led us to a nice, newer section of the cemetery where she could have an upright tombstone and a tree shading her spot. Perfect.
Here are some other points of interest from this week:
*When crisis strikes, us Arnold girls do what comes natural...GO SHOPPING. It's called retail therapy. Don't judge, we all deal different ways. Sidenote: Evie (our wonderful stepmom) loathes shopping but even she went with us. We had to find something to wear for the visitation and funeral. You know because nothing in any of our closets seemed appropriate, and mostly because we needed the distraction. We shopped the afternoon away and Evie hung in there with us, not complaining at all. The only time she complained is when I ran a red light, oh and when I lost my cell phone in a dressing room. Oops. :)
*While we were out shopping, my Dad hung out with Micah and Savannah at the house. He had talked to Evie at one point and told her that the church had dropped off a bunch of chicken for us to eat. Naturally, after 4 hours of shopping we were all famished so hurried back to the house to have some chicken. Dad had taken the kids somewhere to play so he wasn't there and the chicken was nowhere to be found. We were gnawing on our arms we were so hungry, while looking everywhere for the chicken. Finally, Evie got Dad on the phone and asked where all this chicken was that he said was there. His response? "I put it on outside on the deck, on the grill," in a tone that suggested we were imbeciles for not having looked there. Seriously.
*On Wednesday night, after Heidi had reached her wit's end being a single parent and still a day until her husband Terry came to relieve her we had the toilet incident of 2009. Savannah and Micah are just 3 months apart and typical 2 almost 3 year olds. They are so much fun, when they aren't wetting their pants or projectile vomiting all over my PMobile. :) Anyway, on Wednesday night 46 Memory game cards mysteriously turned up missing. We had played it earlier in the day but Savannah and Micah had decided to play again apparently. Heidi asked Savannah a couple of times where they were and Savannah turned around and very sassily exclaimed, "I. DON'T. KNOW." And then Hilary and I laughed with a pillow covering our faces until our sides hurt. Oh the attitude. Love it, when it's not Dakota giving it to me. Upon further investigation we discovered that both toilets in the house were backed up. Hmmmm...it didn't take long until the idea formed in our heads, 46 MEMORY CARDS+FLUSHED INTO THE TOILET=CLOGGED SEPTIC SYSTEM. Heidi briefly interrogated Savannah and she very guiltily admitted that yes, she had flushed the memory cards down the toilet and something about Micah having a part in it too. Being a typical girl, she couldn't go down without taking Micah with her. We got the toilets working again and began hoping for the best, that the cards would disintegrate quickly and not cause any more problems. A little while later, Hilary was picking up Micah's room and found the 46 Memory cards!!! So now the question remains, WHAT did they flush down the toilets, cuz you know it was SOMETHING! Aww toddlers, gotta love 'em.
*Hilary and Bryan are awesome and even before I got there to offer my input they had told their church they did NOT want ham sandwiches for the funeral dinner but instead a TACO DINNER. And tacos it was. And I reminded everyone this was how it was to be for my passing as well. Ole!
*They also picked out the prettiest casket I've ever seen in the most beautiful shade of bubble gum pink. I want a matching one when I go. It was gorgeous. It helped that it was such a pretty color of pink because it distracted from the unnaturally small size of it. Ever seen a baby casket? Awful, just awful. That image will forever be burned in my memory, so at least it's pink.
*The service was amazing. Bryan had written a song a few months back about Kaydence and their journey that he recorded and had played at the service. As if that weren't enough to help the Kleenex consumption, both grandpas spoke, a video of Kaydence's life was played, and their pastor, who was himself very attached to Kaydence gave a very uplifting message. Also, I drew the short straw among the family and was asked by Hilary to read Kaydence's verse at the service. Have I mentioned I'm horribly ugly when I cry? I am. But somehow I managed to get thru it, even though at times I couldn't see the words on the page from the tears blurring my eyes, but I did and it felt good to have a part in giving Kaydence a proper send off. Here's that verse, it's so powerful and so very Kaydence, "As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man that had been blind from birth. "Rabbi," his disciples asked him, "why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents' sins?" "It was not because of his sins or his parents' sins," Jesus answered. "THIS HAPPENED SO THE POWER OF GOD COULD BE SEEN IN HIM." John 9:1-3. See what I mean? Gives me goosebumps.
While it was a very sad time, it was also a very special time of being together. We haven't all (sisters, husbands, kids, parents) been in the same place together since before Kaydence was born, until this weekend. Sometimes just being together is just what the doctor ordered. OK and again don't judge but since we were all there we had family pictures taken by a friend of Hilary's in their backyard, puffy eyes and all. Hey, when opportunity knocks we answer. I think the pictures really capture who we are as a family at this very moment in time sadness, smiles, love, chubby faces (me) and all. I wouldn't change a thing, well except for the 10 pounds I need to lose.
On a serious note, thank you all for your thoughts, prayers, and kind words. They mean so much and have really been felt by our entire family. Please continue to keep HIlary, Bryan, and Micah in your thoughts and prayers as this is the really hard part, after everyone's left, getting used to the new normal without Kaydence. Lucky for them (and mostly me) I will be making a return visit in 2 weeks. Just last Monday, what seems like a lifetime ago, I had booked a flight down to see them because I was having withdrawals from my sweet niece and nephew, oh and sister too. That was BEFORE we got the news from hospice that Kaydence was on limited time. Alot changes in a week.
Moral of the story here is count your blessings, love them, hold them tight, and keep the faith. Because in the sorrow is where faith is found, to quote Bryan's aka Michael Buble's song.
Now excuse me while I go drown my sorrows in leftover Reese's Christmas trees. WHAT New Year's resolution?!?