Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Grand Adventure

I've been absent here for a while, and that demands an explanation.

My dear friend Connie Wolfe has been caring for her father for the last four years. It has been difficult to watch her struggle with his descent into dementia and becoming the "parent" to her father. However, she persevered through it all, and after he suffered a stroke, it looked like he had to go into a care facility. That was a heart-breaking decision. Ultimately, because she had suffered a back injury and could not lift him, he was placed in one, but the standard of care was not up to snuff, and Connie brought him back home. She employed one of her sons to be his grandfather's nighttime caregiver so she could get some sleep, and prepared to carry on.

Papa died on Sunday, August 2.

On Monday, after learning of the event, I called to offer Connie anything I could do for her. She hesitated for a moment, then asked if I would accompany her back to Nebraska for the graveside service. She needed me because she was going to transport her father's body to lay it beside his wife. As she understood it, she would need to drive straight through, because the body could not be left unattended. I was to be her relief driver.

A side note here. Papa had often worried that the family would not be able to afford to get him back home to be buried. Connie told him, "Dad, don't worry about it. If I have to put you in the back of the car and drive you there myself, you'll be buried beside Mom."

That's exactly what transpired. After going over the transport options, the local funeral director said, "Don't you have a van?" Connie does, so he went outside and measured the interior and declared that the casket would fit. He got the necessary transport permit for her, and then she asked me to accompany her, since neither of her sons could go.

Of course I accepted immediately. I made a few arrangements, canceled some stuff, threw a few things into my suitcase, and drove off to Mesa for the funeral on Wednesday. After a day of rest and planning, we (which included Connie's brother and his wife in another vehicle) arrived at the mortuary early on Friday morning to pick up the casket. We also learned that we COULD stop along the way to sleep, as long as the van was locked. "Unattended" applied to transporting a casket in a pickup, but especially since the van's side and back windows were dark enough to obscure the contents, there was no problem.

We were on the road by 6:30 a.m., and drove to Oklahoma City before sleeping. The next day we headed up through Kansas, and arrived in Weeping Water, Nebraska, late that afternoon. We were met at the local mortuary, where we ascertained that Papa had made the journey without a problem.

After we handed off the mortal remains of her father, I sensed that Connie was relieved at the completion of the responsibility. We spent some time at her brother's home, then drove the 20 miles to another town to our motel.

We don't recommend the motel where we stayed.

At church on Sunday, Connie learned that the graveside service had morphed into a full funeral at the mortuary. Later, at her brother's house, she asked me to sing a duet with her of the same hymn that had been sung by a men's quartet at the Mesa funeral. We decided how we would sing a men's arrangement with two women's voices, using one mini-hymnbook and a full-sized one. Then we scrambled to find an accompanist, but had no chance to practice with her that day (we're talking about a congregation being spread out over many miles in Nebraska, not like the square mile LDS wards in the Mountain West). We arranged to meet her at the mortuary a few minutes before the viewing to go over the hymn.

At the mortuary, we discovered that the organ didn't work. The funeral director called his wife to bring their keyboard from home. I don't know how far away home was, but it took almost until the end of the viewing for it to arrive. Consequently, we didn't get a rehearsal with the accompanist.

The funeral--and the musical number--went well, and everyone followed the hearse a few blocks to the cemetery. It was a lovely place, tree-shaded and peaceful.

After spending time with her family, and loading a bicycle into the van for the return trip, Connie and I were on the road again, this time heading for Omaha and further adventures.

To be continued . . .

27 comments:

  1. fascinating! I didn't know it was ok to transport a body yourself, so I'm filing that info away just in case I ever need to be on a similar adventure.

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  2. What a trouper you are! I can't wait to hear the rest of the story!

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  3. There is a permit involved. The funeral director took care of that, though, so I don't know the whys and wherefores.

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  4. Its a wonderful story Marsha, about true friendship. There are not many peopled who would be that dedicated and loving.

    And the love of a daughter for her father. It is a story that should be shared - as you are doing.
    Barbara B

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  5. Stay tuned, G.G. (-:

    (The backwards smiley is for all you who have a crick in your neck from reading them the other way. LOL!)

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  6. What a poignant story. You're a good friend to have around.

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  7. Thank you, Barbara. I jumped at the chance. Besides all the usual BFF concerns on my part for relieving her burdens, Connie is the best brainstormer I know, and I needed an opportunity to pick her brain without stress. This journey availed me of the opportunity.

    So . . . I WAS a bit selfish in accepting the invitation. My first and foremost concern was getting her through the experience in one piece, though.

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  8. Thanks, Carole. Being there for Connie was more important than going to a couple of writers' meetings and my weight-loss group. (Can you tell my life isn't very exciting?)

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  9. Marsha, I would hope that I could be that good a friend and also that I might have a friend so caring. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

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  10. I can't wait to hear the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey liked to say. I especially thought Weeping Waters, Nebraska was fitting for the occasion. What a sweet trip, to bring a man home to his final resting place with his wife. God bless Connie....and you.

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  11. Thanks, Velda. I think you'd make the stretch just fine!

    Lorna, thank you. The town's name comes from an old Indian legend of separated lovers, I was told. Weeping Water is also the limestone capital of the world, or maybe the nation, I don't remember which one the sign said. There are huge quarries in the town, some water-filled to make placid lakes. The streets on the truck route are lined with limestone dust, which can scratch up your car something awful.

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  12. What a heartwarming account--it would make a wonderful book. I am anxious to read more. Glad you are back, Marsha. I've missed your posts.

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  13. I have been anxiously waiting to hear this story! This is similar to those old time radio shows my mom used to tell me about. You have to wait until later to find out what happens!! I will be perched on my bed with my teddy bear waiting for the next installment!

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  14. Thank you, Lori. That's sweet!

    Gail, you make me laugh at the image of you sitting on your bed with a teddy bear. No, perched on your bed. A good, strong verb. Are you sure you're not a writer?

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  15. Thanks so much for recording that-it must have been quite surreal-the whole thing, even spiritual.
    Love ya Theresa

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  16. That's a great story, Marsha. Looks like you made it through with aplomb. (I've always wondered what that really means.)

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  17. Theresa, I got a few questions about if I was afraid of being in the van with a body. I wasn't.

    I was by the bedside of my hubby when he passed away. My sis asked to be there, too, and I let her come. I guess we're just weird, or pragmatic, or twisted in my family.

    Anyway.

    I told my dr about my adventure at my appt on Monday, and he about laughed his head off. He still told me to lose weight, though. Bummer.

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  18. Okay Liz, you sent me to my dictionary (second time I've pulled it out today). Aplomb means self-assurance or poise. Does that reflect what you meant? I hope so. Self-assurance is nice. So is poise. I'll take them, heh-heh.

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  19. Anonymous6:00 PM

    Marsha, As usual you have told the story beautifully. You two are very lucky to be best friends and to be there for one another. I have such a friend and I hope everyone has such a friend who can be there for you whatever your needs may be. Sharon

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  20. Thanks, Sharon! I'm glad you also have such a friend. Sorry I got so close and didn't say hello, but it wasn't feasible.

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  21. This is such a moving story. Funny how truth is stranger and more beautiful than fiction.

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  22. Wow, Marsha! What an amazing trip. And what a good friend you are. Can't wait to hear what happened next.

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  23. Great story. Thanks for sharing!

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  24. Bruce Gardner5:05 PM

    Wow! I love the story of the duet! The same hymn! It is so similar to the quartet - we had not been able to practice together at all, doing it in partial groups only - even the last attempt a few minutes before the service! I'm so glad Brother Wolf's "love of music!" is so well known and that the love we have for him and the love we share with him for our Savior was the powerful spirit we all shared! Thanks for your many "gifts" we are so blessed to have your love and friendship!

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  25. Marsha,
    What a demonstration of love for your friend. And to her father from her! Wonderful story.
    Heidi

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  26. Wow! What an adventure. You are a true friend, to be sure.

    I once drove a ward member to New Mexico to pick-up his daughter and then drove him back the same day. I did this after working the night shift. He couldn't drive a stick shift, so I was stuck driving.

    Driving with a body in the back seat is definitely a story that will top all others, I'm sure. What an adventure!!

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  27. It was an amazing trip, and if I was able to help my friend out by going along, it was my pleasure. Perhaps we all need to be more open to being there for each other.

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