I didn't go and say goodbye. I couldn't. I was in and out of the hospital. I offered to bring food. I let exhausted family members nap in my bed because my house is closest to the hospital. They knew I cared. He knew I loved him. I didn't need to say goodbye. Besides, I look at this as a very temporary thing. I know where he went and I fully plan to be there myself some day.
My pain and tears have been more for family then for myself. I hate to see them hurt. Even though the situations are nothing alike and you can't compare grief to grief I know all too well the pain of loss and the grief process. I hope this makes me more sensitive and caring.
The calling hours were long. I couldn't believe at the end of the first hour it had only been ONE hour. It felt like 12. But more than that I couldn't believe the people. SOOOOO many people came. Most of them didn't just come and run for the door, they STAYED. We had a firemen's service the last hour. I really wished I had counted them but there must have been 60 or more firemen in full dress uniform. Two by two they would pause in front of the casket and salute. These men weren't required to be there. They gave up their night, time with their families, shined their shoes, and went out into the cold to be a support to our family.
The funeral was done very nicely. I smiled more then fought tears. The things that were said jogged precious memories and some brought laughter. He was brought to the church and to the cemetary in the fire departmen's investigation truck. A unit he had served on for countless years. As the casket was brought from the church there was a line of uniform firemen standing at attention. The procession included another piece of fire equipment and multiple chief trucks, all with lights on. All in a line we slowly drove past his house where a flag draped tractor sat in the front yard, down the road a bit, and past a line up of the farm's tractors with the giant cat loader holding an american flag from it's extended bucket. Oh, the ache in my heart as we accompained him around the barn one last time. I'll admit, the tears flowed here. A massive flag hung between the two silos and flapped in the wind. Back out to the road and heading towards the cemetary we drove past the fire station he had been a member of for 50 years. The firehouse itself was decorated with the black and purple banners signifying a fallen member. The company's ladder truck was extended to the fullest with a flag flapping from the top. The engine was pulled out where we would drive right past, lights flashing, and two firemen stood at attention, one on either side of his fire gear. As we drove the fire chiefs dropped out of line one by one to stop traffic at every intersection.
The grave side service was cold! It was kept to the shorter side but was a wonderful way to wrap up the events from the previous days. Together as family and friends we stood huddled against the cold and said one final goodbye before his casket was lowered into the ground. I took a yellow rose and briefly touched the casket. It was a casual goodbye of sorts, more of a see you soon.
Over those few days I heard him referred to in many ways. All true. He was a farmer, a hardworker, husband, father, good neighbor, advocate for farming, kind and patient, a jokester, the list went on and on. But, for me, he was and always will be just Gramp.
Thank you so much to all of the extended family, fire family, friends, and aquaintances. I know first hand words are no good at a time like this. You did one better. You SHOWED your love. Everything from the line of tractors, to the fire department escort, to the farm themed flower arrangements. It was all perfect. A show of love and support. We know he was loved, we know we are loved and that he is waiting and that's what will get us through.