Boy-O, burial, cold, community, death, family, funeral, God, Grace, grief, I am loved, Jacob, Latin, overwhelmed, students, support, teaching, The Absent-minded Professor, The Duchess, The Young Queen, touch, we are loved
So we buried my brother today. It was too cold to be believed, so we didn’t actually go to the grave side for the service. Instead we said our prayers together in the nice, warm chapel, which was just fine. I sat between Absent Minded Prof, who was pressed against my side holding my hand, and the Duchess, and had my other hand over the back of my seat being held by Boy-O, who was sitting behind me. There’s been a lot of that over these last days, touching, I mean. Our family has always been a fairly snuggly family – there’s a certain amount of touching that just occurs through shoving that many people into the same space, but sooner or later someone is always having a low-touch day, and then you step back. But these last days, we’ve held on to each other. I just told a friend in an e-mail that we’ve held each other up. Sometimes that was literally. I don’t know how many times it happened, in the hospital, at home, wherever, that one of us would be hit by one of the waves of grief that comes, and suddenly there would be another one (or two, or three) of us there holding them, putting our arms around them, holding them up.
We’ve also been held up by our community, especially by the vast amounts of grace called down for us by the prayers of so many people all over the world.(!) The only thing I can compare it to is something I experienced back when I was doing traveling youth ministry with NET. I was part of a team of young adults who traveled all over the US putting on retreats six nights a week, in a different place almost every night, with a new small group, a new host family to meet, not much sleep, and more things to do than hours to do them in. Yet somehow you did it, you got through, doing things that you looked back and couldn’t imagine how you did them. It was then that you realized how much grace had carried you through, making it possible for you to do impossible things. The last week has been like that. I go places and do things, and I know that the strength isn’t coming from me, because I have nothing left. The strength is the amazing grace coming to me through all those who have been lifting us up to God so powerfully. And so I thank all of you for that. Your prayers have made it possible for us to make it through.
It has also been amazing to all of us seeing just how many people love us and love Jacob. The funeral Mass yesterday was standing room only, and someone said that even standing room was hard to find. I had 300 programs printed, thinking that there would probably be extras that I would take home and recycle. Every single one was taken, and some friends told me that they had to share with other people because there weren’t enough to go around. It was wonderful, and to be honest, a little overwhelming at times! I didn’t completely realize how many people were there until I came up the stairs of the Rec Center to the cafeteria where the reception after the funeral was being held. Everyone was just saying grace, and I peeped through the doors, and saw just how many people were massed in there. I kinda staggered back and backed up until I was leaning against the wall, saying, “So many people!” The Young Queen was with me (did I mention that she drove down from Milwaukee Thursday morning through snow and cold and ice and blocked roads to be with me and make sure I did things like eat?), and Sweetness and a few other girls happened to be passing by. They saw me there, how overwhelmed I was, and asked if I would like to come to the bathroom with them. So I did, and stood in the corner and just breathed while they did their business, and by the time they were done I was able to go back out again.
If I tried to list all the many, many kindnesses shown to us over the past few days by so many, many people, I would never be done with this blog post, and I really need to finish and get to bed. However, I did want to mention something that meant a lot to us. Jacob was in the process of getting his MA in Education at UC after getting his BA in Classics (Latin & Greek) from Wright State. He finished his first term of student teaching at Mariemont High School in Cincinnati just before Christmas, and I know he had enjoyed himself thoroughly. Monday morning I had called the school and let them know what had happened. The secretary took my message and said she would try to get it to the appropriate person, but she didn’t take my name or number or anything. At the time I was getting ready to go back down to the hospital for the last day, so I left it at that. Today among the things the funeral home people gave one of my sisters was a manila envelope containing notes from some of the students Jacob had taught. We passed them around and read them together at my aunt’s house after the burial service. They were some of the sweetest, funniest notes ever, full of little bits that showed us the kind of teacher Jacob had been. He had taught Latin with passion and verve, and had been very, very good at it. The notes made us laugh, and touched our hearts. I’m so glad that they were able to enjoy Jacob. I know that Jacob certainly enjoyed them!