Monday, August 1, 2016
Just last week at 2:45am, I received the call from the nursing home that I'd known was coming. I had left there at 8 p.m. the night before and I knew...I knew it was coming. My father in law had passed. The nurse on duty was kind and soft spoken...she explained that my mother in law was able to be at his side as he took his last breath. Still on the phone with her, attempting to gather myself and my things to head over to the nursing home, the conversation switched to the hard questions.
"Is it okay with you if we call for the funeral home to come and retrieve the body?" When I responded with a quiet yes, she said "Well, some families do choose to come and view the body first"....and the words "please don't make me do this again" that were in my head, apparently had escaped my lips. I realized then I'd said them out loud. I quickly explained that it had only been eleven months since going through this with my own husband and quite frankly, I'm still not over that shock and trauma. She told me I could wait to come as she thought my mother in law was okay for now...but then something clicked in my brain. My mother in law....had just said good bye to her husband of almost 69 years. This was no longer about me.
I drove to the nursing home and sat with my mother in law until the funeral director arrived. When he got there, he sat with us for over an hour, just talking about Loyal...who he was...what he did for a living...asking my mother in law how they met and other questions about their life together. At the end of that conversation, he explained what was to happen next...he would bringing in his own wheeled cot and would transfer Loyal to that before taking him away. He held my mother in law's hand and promised her he would take good care of her husband. As they wheeled in the cot, I noticed there was a black bag on top and all I could think of was keeping my mother in law distracted so that she could not see that. As we sat there talking quietly while they worked, I glanced up and what I saw then... literally took my breath away. No longer a cot with a black bag, but instead, my father in law...a WWII veteran...would be leaving draped in a flag. This is where I became a sobbing mess...overcome with tears at such a beautiful and respectful moment. What an incredible gift I received that morning...that this...this will be my last memory of him.
Had I chosen to be selfish and waited to go....I would've had no idea that this...this is protocol. I would've missed it. I made them stop before going out the door so that I could snap this photo to share with my family.
Later that day, sharing this photo with son Aaron, he commented how even not actually seeing it person...but imagining how that must've looked.....down that silent corridor....out the front door in the still of the quiet morning...to the waiting car. What a beautiful sight that must've been as well.
Posted by Penny Barnes at 9:33 AM