Sunday, August 16, 2009

And another funeral.....

Bill and I went away last Saturday to Beaver Mountain...a favorite place when the kids were little. I haven't been camping in years, no idea the last time. After two weeks of working, answering the phone for ATT customers with myriads of problems, large and small, and helping to plan the compassionate service and funeral luncheons for the families of the two children who'd died, I needed serious peace and quiet.

It was sad how happy Bill was about our little camping trip. We left Saturday at about 9 am and planned to get back around 2 pm Sunday and he planned for us to go fishing and hiking and riding the ATV around and wonderful lunches and dinner and breakfasts. He did everything, except pack my small bag. He was off Friday, so he got us all ready.

It was wonderful, manna to my soul. The lunch was wonderful---I made the burgers while he set up the tent and they were so good!

Our place on Beaver Mountain can only be accessed if you know it's there, you have to know the road is there because you can't see it from the turn-off point. It's a little valley, with a small stream and the most perfect camping spot. Our kids used to love to go there and of all the times we went there, Bill and I only fought once. Just like our usual messy fights that are actually fairly hilarious. I'll share later on that.

Besides cooking the burgers, all I did was lay on the folding lounge chair and read Jane Eyre. I wasn't up to fishing or hiking or ATV-ing the first day. He left me there and hiked up and caught five little fish that I cooked up crispy for our huge breakfast---bacon and fish and potatoes and eggs and pancakes and cantalope and hot chocolate! It had been very cold high up on Beaver Mountain. Bill froze for some reason and I made him go sit in the truck with the heater on before breakfast. We just sat in the truck and went back to sleep for an hour and got all warm before that wonderful breakfast.

We ended up just packing up and heading home. Not disappointed that we hadn't done all the things he planned. It was a perfect time for us and we don't have many of those.

We were heading out on the freeway and I checked my messages. There was one from my sister, Chris, telling me my niece, Stephanie, had been in an accident. That was all. I called her as soon as we had service and she broke the news that Stephanie had been killed.

She was 28, fresh out of rehab, in a halfway house, clean and sober for the longest period of her life when she died. My sister, Annie, has been---and will continue---to raise Stephanie's children. They had high hopes that Stephanie had finally overcome her demons and would someday be a real mother to the kids. They were reconciling as a family. She was dedicating herself to a Christ-like life, trying hard.

And she got on an ATV, rode around a curve, lost control and landed in such a way on a barbed wire fence that she bled to death in seconds. The surgical precision of the cut (she was wearing a helmet, we learned) convinces me that God had a hand in this death, which is such a comfort.

Bill and I just unpacked the camping stuff, got our ducks in a row with our jobs, visited the bank and left again for Casper, Wyoming, where the family lived. We drove it all in one day, the last hour, Bill kept nodding and so I drove. It's a long desolate drive.

My tiny little beautiful sister was the epitome of strength. I could feel her bones. She's maybe two inches shorter than I, and small anyway, but she felt even smaller. She kept saying, "I didn't know this is how it felt. It hurts physically. I didn't know what you were going through."
I wasn't much comfort, because I knew there wasn't any comfort.

We drove out to the site where Steph died and examined the dirt and the barbed wire. There were flowers and a cross there and the family is putting a huge metal cross there, as well. It's mind boggling to me how she died because only an inch one way or the other and she would have just learned a valuable lesson. God had to have meant this to happen.

She followed my example and wrote an honest obituary. She gathered her family and with dignity and grace, arranged a wonderful tribute to her daughter. She included her former husband and his wife---she calls her "wife-in-law---in everything. Her house was the gathering place. Annie's been active in AA for many years and her AA friends just smothered the house in food. She has three little grandbabies (I'm green with envy) and we all loved the soft little bodies. I make babies cry because I can't help just hugging them. Well, they cry, then they love my guts. I think I just imprint my smell on them.

They are all born again Christians and the funeral, with a huge attendance, was in a born again church, but was very quiet and respectful.

Bill and I got tired and snippy with each other, but we made it home in one piece. We are loving the peace of our home, which is a new thing for me.

I'm blown away at the death around me. I don't have any wise conclusion to make here. I'm incredibly proud of my sister and her strength and beauty.


lifeinredshoes said...

Oh, I am so so sorry. For some reason as I read this I thought to myself, perhaps the Lord was being merciful, and removed this sweet girl from a game she would never win...addiction.
If anyone can comfort your sister at this time, it's you....been there, done that.

Bookslinger said...

How long has Annie been raising the grandkids? My heart goes out to the kids. Were they bonded to their mother as "mom", or was she more like a virtual aunt?

Do the childrens father (or fathers) factor into the kids' lives?

One of my good friends is a baby-sitting grandma, who essentially does day care for the granddaughter while the daughter works. The father has nothing to do with the small child (um, he's a "guest" of the state). If something were to happen to the mother, my friend would go crazy having to have her grand-daughter live with her full time. Hopefully, the other daughter could take her in, if it were needed.

annegb said...

You know, Bridget (am I spelling your name right?), that's exactly what we think. After her death, we discovered that, although she'd been going to meetings every day and working, she had also started seeing a man with a prison record who was an addict. He's the one she was with when she died.

This pattern of lying and breaking the rules leads us to believe it was only a matter of time. And it was God's mercy.

Bookslinger, Annie has had the kids since February, I think, she got them when the state took them due to the abuse they'd experienced. They loved their mom, but she was neglectful and they sure never counted on her.

Their dad came to the funeral, I wouldn't speak to him. He stood by while his girlfriend beat, starved and sexually abused those children. He's being charged as well, but lesser, I think. The girlfriend is going to prison, she's been charged with felony child abuse.

The little boy's father was killed in a car accident, I'm not sure who the oldest girl's father is. He had all three kids!! Annie fought valiantly until the girlfriend accused her of sexually abusing the children and then she washed her hands of it and left it with God. It's truly astonishing the level of evil and hubris.

He's the biological father of the middle child. My niece really made some bad choices. But these are beautiful children and Annie and her husband are absolutely dedicated to them.

I'm humbled, frankly, because as much as I love my grandchildren, I would be completely dismayed to learn I had to raise them. It makes me tired just thinking about it. This is truly a case of God bringing her to it and through it, because Annie has always been quite self involved and childish.

She's beautiful and vain and funny and smart and given to temper tantrums. We didn't speak for 3 years, her decision, which I held her to because I was so sick of the drama. She's done a total 180 and it's truly mind boggling.

I'm pretty sick of funerals, though.

cathycan said...

"I wasn't much comfort, because I knew there wasn't any comfort."
Your intimate knowledge of that kind of loss made you a silent but powerful comfort to her.
sounds like this is a time for you and your sister to get closer.
You're a great gal! Sorry you've had so much pain lately.

Sunshine said...

Anne, God bless you!

Stephen said...

I wasn't much comfort, because I knew there wasn't any comfort.

Though being there is always comfort.

Sorry I've not visited more.

Susannah said...

Hi! Annie here. The self involved, childish little sister! LOL That is so funny and so true!! I'm not sure if I've matured or if age, itself and the law of gravity have caused my 180 turn. It's hard to be conceited when you look in the mirror and EVERYTHING is a bit lower than it used to be! LOL
I don't know if I'm posting correctly. I just want to say to my sister that she WAS a huge comfort to me when she was here for my daughter's funeral. And, she continues to be a comfort to me. You are not only my sister, you are my friend and I love you more than words can say. I also want to say that through this, my darkest hour, God's light has shone the brightest.
In my arrogance, I honestly thought I would get to skip grief. What, with my spiritual superiority and all...LOL. That's not to be, though. There is no way through grief except, well, through grief. Yuck! How blessed I am to have you for my sister to help me find my way. How sorry I am that you know this path all too well! Bless you!!