Six months ago today (about 3am eastern time) my 25 year old daughter passed from this life, my wife wrote an open letter and I’m sharing it here, now…
An open letter to whoever came up with the idea that having a funeral after a tragic loss was a really great idea: Your idea sucks.
Holding a funeral for a child immediately after they’ve passed away is a TERRIBLE idea.
6 months ago today, I lost my daughter. It’s not intentional that I’m writing this just about the hour that everything happened, it’s just that this is the same time each night I wake and relive it all wether I want to or not.
In the following hours after she passed, as I waited for my son’s to board their planes and friends and family made preparations to come to Georgia, my mind was only filled with reliving a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. That’s not for sympathy or dramatic pause. That’s my truth. I was running on automatic and making the difficult phone calls I needed to make. I was making sure the granddaughter was fed and dry and in my sight at all times, trying to make sure the youngest children were being fed and hugged when they needed to cry, but in my mind I was still in the middle of this huge emergency that didn’t seem to end. I couldn’t shut my eyes without seeing it & hearing it all over again. My mind was shutting down and my bruised & battered body began reacting to the stress and fear and shock in ways that nobody ever talks about. Stress ain’t pretty, let me tell you.
And then some ancient sadistic archaic etiquette dictates that this is the perfect time to go meet with the funereal director and talk about how you want to honor your kid.
I don’t want to honor my kid, I want to take a nap. I want to get in an airplane and go away. I don’t want to be here doing this.
I’m asked to write an obituary when I can’t put 2 coherent thoughts together. The best I could come up with is my daughter was unique and loved animals? Really? I’m harsh with myself yes, but I’m also critical of the person who came up with the idea that this was a good time to try to sum up 25 years in a single paragraph when I haven’t even begun to process what’s happened yet.
And so I did what I thought was best. I let my oldest child speak for me when my throat closed and my mind seized, and he stepped up and made hard, yet sensible calls that no brother should have to be put in the position to make.
And then people came, and there were more tears, and there was a flurry of arrivals and activities to keep my mind of the impending event for just a short time.
And suddenly, I’m here. I’m arriving at my daughter’s funeral. It’s so people-y inside, and I don’t do people. But they need me and I need to comfort them because everyone’s hurting so bad, so I comfort them and I make sure I speak to everyone and hug generously, because who knows when or if I’ll ever see half of these wonderful people again, and dammit, I could almost enjoy their company if I could just shut my mind off for 12 seconds and focus.
But I can’t.
And the funeral is over, and I’ve forgotten why we came here.
Oh? To say goodbye? Well that’s silly. I’m not ready for good bye. I’m still trying to figure out what the hell just happened.
And so there I was, getting ready to leave the funeral home clinging to my daughter urn and cringing inside my hollow chest. I’ve second guessed every decision I made, from the cremation to music choices every moment since. My biggest regret? I’m stuck with this terrible obituary for my daughter, because someone, probably a real shit head, a long time ago decided to make a rule that you need to do all this crap the minute your loved one passes away.
Kimberlee, you left us 6 months and a half hour ago, and I have felt each minute pass like an eternity. I love you so much, and I am still so mad at you for leaving just the same. You could make me laugh one minute and want to wring your neck the next. You made everyone feel special and you loved your friends fiercely. You had a million best friends, but when they were with you, in those moments, you were everyone’s best friend, and only those who knew you know what I’m talking about. I know, because some days you were my best friend too. Some days my only friend. And then you’d do something Kim-like and ohhhh I’d get SO mad. You got such a kick out of making your mother furious.
And it’s only now that I find can I take a breathe without that sharp pain threatening to steal it away from me. My mind is able to function, though admittedly on a somewhat simple level. I could write your obituary now that the shock has worn off some. If we had your funeral today, I could probably even manage to stand up and tell a few funny stories about Leggo’s up your nose or tripping on air, walking into walls, or how you’d cry all the way to Southern Illinois that you had to pee but yet absolutely refused to potty on the side of the road the entire 6 hour trip. I could have told the story about that one day at work the dog “pants’ed” you when you had gone commando, or the time Dad circled the airport for over an hour trying to pick you up in Jacksonville but you just kept letting him drive by because you didn’t have your glasses.
I could have put together a really cool collage that I’ve now had time to work on. I have no idea how people manage to throw one or a half dozen of those things together before a funeral. Every picture I dragged out stabbed me in the heart until I said ok, I’m tapping out. But now that I can look at them again without breaking down, well of course it’s too late.
I think back of the very last time I saw you, and I didn’t know then that it would be it. I thought it would be different. I thought I’d have one last time to be our one last time. But now I realize that even if I had gotten the opportunity, that I couldn’t have and I wouldn’t have said goodbye. Because 6 months later I still can’t do it.
It’s too late to undo anything. I can’t go back and change a thing.
I still think holding a funeral for your child just days after a loss like this is just the shittiest idea anyone’s ever come up with. I may never understand why people do it. Closure? I’m not sure you get that with these kinds of things. At least I know I’m no where close. That’s the kind of thing you do for Grandmother’s and Great Uncle’s and people who have lived long lifetimes and are more than ready for a great send off. Not for little girls who should be still leaving their wet towels on the floor and getting make up stains in the sink and eating your last donut or leaving purple hair dye on the back of the toilet lid. As I said, it’s been 6 months, (+ an hour and 15 minutes now) and there are still days I expect you to come flying up the steps after work and walk through the door with a cat in your arms and saying ‘Mom, isn’t this the most majestic creature you’ve ever seen in all your life?’ Because that’s who you were. Unique, and you loved animals.
Life can (and will) hit you hard… sometimes