What a weekend. On Wednesday, July 9, Darren's aunt Fran died. She died on the exact date her daughter Betsy died last year.
We had a lot of figuring out to do--which of us was going to the funeral, we needed to get the day off work, would we get someone to take care of the girls or would we all go, compounded by the fact that it is a 9-hour drive to Mississippi, and we are just operating with a small rental car right now. So Darren got a larger rental car and DVD players (did I mention it was nine hours?), and the four of us piled in on Friday morning to head down South.
The girls were so so so so exceedingly good. Not one fight or fuss the whole trip. They were complete angels. This was especially helpful around about the time we hit St. Louis, and food poisoning hit Darren and me. We spent significant time in a number of gas stations and finally headed back down the road. I attempted to lie down in an upright seat, draping myself across the console. I vaguely remember Darren on his phone and him asking me about flowers for the funeral and me muttering, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..."
We finally rolled in around 7 p.m. and headed to the hotel where we all did a quick change and teeth brush and headed over for the last 20 minutes of the wake. After that we were feeling well enough to take the girls swimming at the hotel, which I was glad about because that's what they had been looking forward to. We were in an outdoor pool at around 9:30 p.m., and it felt like bathwater so that probably gives you an idea of what the temperature was down there (the next day at the internment, it was 100 degrees in the shade).
Saturday was the funeral. Darren played "Amazing Grace" on his trombone, and his little girls were so proud of him (me too!) Darren's mom said some words (Fran was her sister) and sang as well as Darren's sister. Fran's brother gave the eulogy. It was truly a family event. One of the neatest parts for us was Darren introducing Elaine during the service since she is named Elaine Frances after her great aunt.
Aunt Fran was such a sweet little lady. I'm sorry both girls, but especially Elaine, won't get to know her as they grow up. She had a pronounced Southern accent and called everybody "honey." When Darren was born, she went to help out Darren's mom with the new baby. She took a look at him and said, "Meg honey, now that's the prettiest baby you ever had!" She was also known to go through the Corky's drive-through and announce her order as, "Oh honey, just give me what I had last time!"
She loved to help people, and she was a snazzy dresser. Her brother said during her eulogy how happy Fran would be to see what a nice outfit she had on for her funeral (and she had her nails polished too!)
The only time she was ever able to come and visit us was two years ago--she came up for Elaine Frances's baptism, and we bought her a corsage for the service. I sat next to her at the luncheon afterward, and we had a good chat. She asked me if I was working again, and I said kind of apologetically that I was. With a lot of people, I feel like I need to defend that position, but not Aunt Fran. She said warmly, "Of course you are! You paid a lot of money for that education. And honey, let me tell you. When you've got those little ones? You just need to get out of the house sometimes!"
She brought Elaine a little purple dress and $100 savings bond. She also gave her a baptism card that started out, "Dear little one...," in which she crossed out "one" and put "Elaine." Then inside she wrote, "This is the greatest honor I have ever had in my lifetime. One day I want you to know how much I love you. Love forever, Aunt Fran."
Before we left for Mississippi on Friday, I quickly opened up my email. Remember our friends I asked prayer for a few weeks ago, Brian and Warrie Blackburn? They were the ones who wanted to adopt the twin baby girls but were now facing a lengthy court battle for them. Last week we got an email from Brian saying that the birth mother decided to withdraw both fostering and adoption for the babies. They were devastated; it was the end of their dream. They had already grown to know and love those girls.
Then in an amazing turn of events basically overnight, both biological parents decided to terminate their rights and let the adoption go through. In the email I opened on Friday, there was a picture of a beaming Brian and Warrie, each holding a baby girl with one word in capital letters underneath: "HOME!"
So, it's been a happy-sad weekend. We're going to miss Aunt Fran. A lot. We know we'll see her in heaven someday, but it was hard to say goodbye here on Earth. And then we're so thrilled for the Blackburns, starting out a whole new life with two beautiful daughters. At the risk of breaking into a rendition of "Circle of Life" or something, I'll just say that's how life is. I am so thankful for all of it.
Job 1:21 "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."