We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...

We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...
1997's Climb

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On Funerals

           It was one of those odd, surreal type of days, where I found myself beginning my day at a funeral for the son of a friend, off on an insatiable search for a donkey and ending the day at 10P.M. at Sonic with a car load of kids...

            What do you say to the bereaved at a funeral?  Must you say anything at all, or is a firm hug and your presence enough?  I've had this conversation often, and feel that we all feel we need to come up with something to say, wanting to provide comfort in a time of need.  I've always felt awkward in this role, as no words can take away the pain of the moment, so feel so small coming out of my mouth...I thought of how Kim always knew what to say - so genuine and from the heart. 

             And when the funeral is for a child...it is impossible to make sense out of it.  As Cody said, when I broke the news of the passing of James Thelen, at the tender age of 12, he blurted out 'that is jacked up'.  He was initially mad...then numb. We talked about how fast life is and how important it is to cherish every moment and to appreciate what we have...as Kimmy always told us.
            The Thelan's were neighbors of ours, when we lived across from Cottonwood Elementary.  Some of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet.  Cody and their daughter, Megan, were in classes together since kindergarten and James was just ahead of Autumn in school.  
            So it was a shock - and I think the thing I thought to say 'I may not be able to understand exactly what you are going through, but I do understand loss...and am here to help', worked in this situation...I hope.  And, the comfort of knowing that James was greeted by Kimmy in Heaven...I hope helped.
            James' Mass was a nice one.  It was held at St. Rita in the Desert, where Kim and I used to go from time to time at the old chapel.  I thought the priest did a nice job tying in the readings and applying it to the situation...only, right now, I can't remember which verses he used, I left them at the church today. And the church was filled to capacity with well wishers.  Today, I was able to better take in the people that made up the crowd today. See things with greater clarity and detail. At Kimmy's Celebration, I was overwhelmed with the support and it was so heartwarming to see so many people there - but I could only take in small groups at a time, unable to process, or get my arms around the make up of the crowd.
            What I noticed today, was a loving community in that church.  There were representatives from the police department, the armed forces, neighbors, co-workes, relatives.  Teachers.  You know, as a child, I used to think that teachers had the greatest job.  Working 8-3.  Weekends and evenings off.  Summers and holidays off.  Right?  Then, my bambini went to school and I quickly came to find, the hours these teachers put in are more like 6-5 or until 6.  And then there are after school and weekend events.  Meetings.  Training.  Ongoing education.  Conferences.  Carnivals.  Fund raisers...someone please stop me when I've touched on them all.
           Today, it was crystal clear, that a teacher's comittment continues to extend beyond the school and beyond their current classrooms.  They become extended family in many ways.  They play such an important role in our children's upbringing.  The children, too, become such a big part of the teacher's lives. I was so touched to see many teachers and staff there today who had taught Megan and James and were there to show their support.  And, for once, I am at a loss for words to adaquetly convey how important these teachers/staff are to our families.
           The final piece of today's crowd really tugged at my heart.  James' football teammates who showed up wearing their jerseys.  The were scattered throughout the congregation, there to pay their respects to their fallen teammate...James was a smart, athletic young man and will be missed by all.
           God bless the Thelen's.  We will keep them in our prayers and pray for them to find peace.
          Again, I do know loss, but today's start, once again, put things into perspective for me...I am blessed.  Good family.  Good friends.  Healthy bambini.

          Later, I took Autumn and Tonio across town to look for a donkey...

         Autumn has wanted one for our garden for a while.  I thought they might have one at the place we picked out the St. Francis statue for Kimmy's nitcho.  We drove across town, to the west side and stopped in.  We saw a similar planter that was a goose.  They had colorful iguanas and lizards, but no donkey.  I thought of a shop over on Ajo and Mission that Kim and I used to go to get our pots when we first moved here and we headed south...only to find it has gone out of business.  So, we drove over to 12th and then down 6th...nothing.
      All the while I'm thinking 'why am I taking Autumn all over to find her a donkey?'...and it hit me.  Kim.  She loved donkeys.  Always asked me, if, one day we could buy a piece of land so she could own one.  And, like Kim, Autumn wanted to buy the donkey, not for herself, but for our garden, so we all could enjoy it.  It all made sense...but our search will have to continue on another day...

       Things got hairy, as it neared time for me to show some houses.  I went to drop the bambini off at roller skating, and Autumn got sick.  And, it was thanks to my super parenting skills.  She had eaten a small bowl of cereal around 9:30 a.m.  I dragged her around in 107 degree temps and around 2, she wanted something to eat.  A Dairy Queen was nearby!  How about a sundae?  Carmel!!  Tonio was the voice of reason, saying he thought he'd better have some lunch first.  So I got Aut the carmel sundae and headed to healthy McD's for some nuggets for Tonio.  "Maybe I should have some, too, so I don't eat junk at skating" Autumn said.  Great idea!!  She had already downed half of her carmel sundae and began piling in the nuggets.  As soon as we pulled up to the rink - barf-o-rama ensued!  She's so concientious, even when sick.  She grabbed her empty Happy Meal box, pulled her hair back into a pony tail, got sick and quickly put the box in the parking lot!  Then, she apologized. Talk about breaking my heart!! 
          Around 9:00P.M., we ran over to the skate park to pick up Cody and Brendon, who, after roller skating for 5 hours this afternoon, still had not burned off enough energy (especially considering, David, Brendon and Cody had stayed up until 4:30 a.m.)!  I had to drop Brendon off at Janene's, and had Lexy and Hadley, who are sleeping over with Autumn, Cody and Tonio - so, we ended up at Sonic at 10:00 P.M. - another great choice!  Actually, this ended happily, as the kids ate their ice cream (Autumn and Lexy got the rootbeer floats, Hadley opted for a lemon slush - and I did make them a nice, home cooked, pasta meal for dinner!) with no incidents and had a lot of fun - they love Sonic!

             So it was a day of high emotion...and running...and, ending the day on a positive note.  As we said good night to Kimmy, we asked her to watch out for James...the clouds were, once again, so spectacular tonight...




  1. We did not know James, but many, many of our friends did. The feeling that sits in the pit of my stomach is indescribable. It is tragic and heart breaking to say the least for his parents, sister and all who knew him.

    I know you are going to find the absolute perfect Donkey ;) Keep the search going :)

  2. Dave,
    Very well said. What do you say to someone who has lost their child too soon?? I think you said it perfectly.

  3. And as I sat there at that funeral, I, like you could not help but think of several things-
    1. Too many funerals lately it seems..too many great people gone too soon.
    2. I loved that Kim would be there to greet James. Especially after reading 'Heaven is for Real.' Just makes you feel so much better to be able to picture where they are.
    3. We became teachers to touch lives and make a difference. No one teaches you in school that sometimes that means going to your students' funerals. But it's important--and not at all an inconvenience.

    James was a great kid. But like Kim, he was needed in a more important place. So we'll remember. And we'll think of him often. Just like we do for Kim. :)

    Good luck with the donkey hunt! Can't wait to see what you find! I'll keep my eyes out too!

  4. Dave - what a touching post, the Thelens and any teacher could appreciate your kind words. Good luck on your donkey quest - have you tried World Market? I once bought a pig there... err... clay garden pig, that is. :)

  5. Thanks Dave. Well said.

    That was a hard day. Well, a hard week. No, it's just hard, period.

    Great kids, great family. I think about that kiddo every day now. I know she's taking good care of him.