This was a difficult week. I travelled back to Michigan to attend Diane's funeral. I was able to stay at Diane's parents' home and they made me feel (as they always have), that I am not a house guest, but a close family member. I was surprised repeatedly at how generous and open and wonderful the entire HUGE family is. This is what I feel family should be, if most of us weren't so caught up in past wrongs or current gossip. It is what I will strive to attain. Over the 30 years I've known them, I had never had the opportunity to live among them (sounds a bit Jane Goodall, but couldn't help it ;-)). It is only now that I understand what compelled Diane, her sister and their parents to move back to Michigan after living in California. It isn't the snow, or the weather, or the crappy roads... It's the people. And in this series of villages and townships, it is her entire family. Oh sure, there are Aunts & Uncles in Kansas and Florida (all of whom drove upward of 24 hours to attend), but my running gag for the week was that you couldn't throw a stone in any one of these places without hitting a relative. Every time we passed a place and someone remarked that, "Well ya know, that farm belongs to aunt..." or, "The person doing the sound is related by...", my only response was "Of course it is."
The one weird thing was that Aunt Helen, Liz (Diane's mom) and Terry (Diane's brother-in-law) all said repeatedly that I sound like Diane, or I remind them of Diane. I guess it was our similarities in sense of humor that kept us friends for so long, and it was bound to happen that our speech patterning and expressions would be similar.
I cried when I hugged Sue at the visitation. I cried when I hugged Diane's estranged husband as well, but not for the same reasons. I had such a tremendous anger built up toward him that I could no longer contain it. It was the last I will ever see or talk to him. That he could not, or would not see the value of Diane as a person, a mom, a wife, a sister, daughter, niece cousin and friend infuriates me. Her value to him was only as much as she could make him look good, and he truly had no idea who she really was. He will move on with his life, grieving in his own way. We all continue to live, but I have the joy of being able to share my grief with those who did really know Diane, and for that I am grateful.
I cried at the funeral service when Uncle Dan sang "On Eagle's Wings". It is one of my favorite church songs and fitting. I cried when Aunt Helen gave such a beautiful and touching eulogy. I also laughed during it, as she really did capture Diane's humor. I cried when Diane's youngest played "Amazing Grace" on his trumpet. I cried at the grave when he played "Taps". I avoided Cousin Julie because I just knew, and when I did finally talk to her and we hugged, I cried even more. I cried when the minister choked up and when I saw her dad cry. I cried when we touched down at SFO when I realized I will never hear Diane's voice again. I cried like a mess when I got home and was able to put my arms around Maria, and when I saw my kids again.
And now for the gratitude to all who lent a hand, an ear, a shoulder:
Maria - for being here for me, holding me when I cry, telling me it will get better, and whispering all the soothing things I need to hear. For loving me and giving me safe strength which allows me to do what I need to do. Also for missing me terribly and thinking I look beautiful even when I'm bawling my eyes out.
Brian - my ex brother-in-law and Diane's first boyfriend. He gave me companion passes for the airline so that I could afford to actually go.
Sandy - my sister. She picked up our folks at the port when they arrived from their cruise to Mexico (a job I was supposed to do, but couldn't).
Ron - my ex husband. He took The Boys an extra day, got them to where they needed to go and attended a band parent meeting in my place. He also gave me time with The Boys when I returned because I'd asked.
Nicole - my BFF. She took care of the cat, feeding and socializing with her so that the wrath I felt upon returning was minimal. She also agreed to be the backup in case The Oldest needed to be picked up from school.
Chaela - dear friend. She agreed to be the backup in case The Youngest needed to be picked up from school and hugged and cried with me.
Bill and Liz - Diane's parents - They welcomed me in as one of their own, insisted I walk in with and sit with the family, and even in their grief found time to catch up, chat, laugh and cry with me.
Aunt Pat - She loaned me her car, which allowed me to not have to rely upon another grieving family member to come get me.
Aunt Helen - she included me in the eulogy. (Yes, that also made me cry.)