The Process

August 25th, 2011. 6:45 AM. I get a call from my Aunt Judi. She mistakenly calls me when she wants my Dad. I get the news. My Aunt Joanne has passed away.

The news hits me hard, but because I’m still sleepy, I don’t really absorb it. It’s not until later, after I’ve woken up, that I realize I will never see my Aunt Joanne again. I knew this day was coming, but I wasn’t ready for it. You see, in July, we received news that she only had 2 months to live. After a 7 year battle with breast cancer, it had finally taken a grip too tight to fight anymore. The family reunion had a somewhat sombre mood about it this year. Everyone knew it was going to be the last time we all gather with her still here.

My parents were already in Virginia. They had tried to get there to see her one last time. They arrived 10 minutes late. But, they were there for the family, and like my Mom said, that’s what’s most important. My brother was off working somewhere in Ohio (I lose track of where he is), and I was home alone. I had one day off before I had to head into work. But that day off wasn’t really like a day off. I was running around, cleaning (because that is what I do when I’m stressed), and taking care of the dogs. This was my Thursday. The day I should have been able to have time to grieve, but I didn’t give myself the chance. It sucks being alone during times like that.

Friday, I head into work for a 12 hour work day. I have no time to think about grieving. I didn’t give myself a chance to slow down, even on my breaks. I just kept going. I get home, I take the dogs on a short walk, think about running, give up on that thought and go to bed. I’m too tired to think at this point.

Saturday, I go in for a normal 8 hour work day. I keep myself busy. I don’t want to think about my Aunt Joanne being gone. So I don’t. I get home, run, and spend lots of time outside with the dogs. Still not thinking. Still alone.

Sunday, I have to work for another 12 hours. Once again, I keep myself busy and occupied. I think about everything but my Aunt Joanne. It’s too hard to think about while I’m still alone. I get home, and I got straight to bed.

Monday, I go in for a normal 8 hour day, but end up having to work 12. I stay busy. I don’t think. I am just numb by this point. I get home, and I stay up and wait for my mom and dad to get back home. Jordan returned while I was at work. Mom and Dad get in around 9:30 and we eat and plan for the next day.

Tuesday, I get off thanks to bereavement. I go shopping with Mom and Jordan for clothes for the viewing and the funeral. We spend way too much time running around, but we tried Piada (amazing!) and had a good time. At this point, I’m still not prepared to see my Aunt Joanne in a casket. But I act like I am. I know I never gave myself a chance to cry and grieve, but no one else does. And that’s how I wanted it. We all get home and Dad heads to the funeral home while Mom, Jordan, and I are busy getting ready. We get there, and the first thing I do is try to avoid going into the room with my Aunt Joanne. I go to the kitchen to put some food out for the younger kids. I say hi to some people, and then Mom and I head in. I wasn’t prepared at all. I took one look at her and lost it. I couldn’t keep it in anymore. I had to cry. My Dad comes over and holds me for a little bit. I knew then that I should have given myself a chance to cry before. Not that it would have stopped me then, but at least it would have given me a more private chance to mourn the loss of my beloved Aunt.

Tuesday, I spend lots of time crying and hugging and crying some more. I try to steal my cousin Jennifer (Joanne’s daughter) away for a minute, but can’t. So I resolve to sharing her that day. She has grown into such an amazing young woman… I can’t believe it. After the viewing, my Aunt Judi, Uncle Todd, their four children, Jennifer, my brother, and I all go to Raising Caines. It was a blast. So good to laugh after a tough viewing.

Wednesday, I go back to the funeral home with my Mom and Dad for the funeral. My brother, sister, brother-in-law, and niece all come a little later. Things get crazy with 6 and a half people trying to get ready all at once in the morning. There is more crying and hugging. We say our final goodbye’s. Again, I lose it. It’s devastating watching this. We all head to the church for the service and then on to the luncheon. The food was amazing. And I was starving. And it was wonderful to socialize. After that, we head to the cemetery to lay her to rest. It was so hard hearing her 12 year old son, James, say that he never wanted to leave. He has also grown into such an amazing young man. When our cousin Caroline was crying, he went up and put his arms around her to comfort her. Now, this is totally out of character for him. John, the other 12 year old son, has also grown up into an incredible young man.

But now, my Aunt Joanne is running around her very own 100 Acre Woods, riding rides in her very own Magical Kingdom, and making potions in her very own Hogwarts. And while she is there, she is also always with us. With me. She is a part of each and every person she has met. She has left a legacy that will be remembered for decades to come. She will be missed every day.

Aunt Joanne, I love you so much. I am so glad that we got one last phone call. I’ll try my hardest to get back into scrapbooking… Although I don’t think I’ll ever be as good as you. I’ll think of your often. I’ll miss you more than you can imagine. I’ll do my best to keep the family get-togethers organized. I’ll go out and run for a cure. Run for hope. Run for a chance at life. Run for you.

I love you. I miss you.

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