Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Our Week - The One with All of the Christmas Celebrations, Nana’s Funeral, and Another Goodbye

The week of Christmas was bittersweet.  It’s typically my favorite week of the whole year, but with the death of my Nana on Christmas Eve and saying goodbye to some dear friends, it definitely made for some mixed emotions.  My heartstrings were being tugged in so many different directions all at the same time – joy, sadness, magic, heartbreak – that it made for a confusing week.  Overall, the good outweighed the bad, though, and it felt like each good moment was even more precious after Nana passed.

Monday, December 23

My Daddy and I had already planned to meet at the nursing home Monday morning to visit her after the news he’d received Sunday night, but Nana’s health had declined so rapidly during the night that he texted to tell me to get there ASAP because the doctor had called and said he thought Monday would be the day.  It was time to say goodbye. 

I got ready and got the kids to my mother-in-law’s house as fast as I could and headed to the nursing home.  Brian had to work Monday and I didn’t feel right about bringing the kids to the nursing home, so I was thankful to my MIL for keeping them for a couple of hours.

My Momma, Daddy, brothers, two uncles, and one of my cousins and I spent the next couple of hours sitting around her bed reminiscing, laughing, and crying and it was just really tough.  I don’t handle death well.  I mean, I know most people don’t, but I get major anxiety over it to the point where I can barely function.  My body just goes into hibernation as a coping mechanism and I can’t eat, I can’t drink, and I get exhausted to the point where all I want to do is sleep.

Nana hadn’t been conscious for a while at that point, so she wasn’t able to participate in the conversation, but it was good to just be in her presence for a little bit.  Just before lunchtime, I kissed her on the forehead, told her I loved her, and said goodbye one last time and then it was time to go.  My dad and his brothers spent most of the rest of the day there with her so she wouldn’t be alone.

Prior to all of this, we had accepted an invitation to one of my closest friend’s son’s birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, so I went straight back to my MIL’s to grab the kids and head to the party.  It was a welcome distraction, and watching the kids in all their joy cheered me up a little.    

They had been begging to go to Chuck E. Cheese for a while, and it was a perfect day to be there as not many other people were.  The kids at the party basically had the whole place to themselves and they had unlimited playtime for two whole hours so they played more games than they ever have and they ended up racking up 967 tickets, shattering their old record there.  We had pizza and cake and sang to our sweet Mack and then the kids all cashed in their tickets for the best prizes they’ve ever gotten there. 

When we got home, the kids watched a movie while I tried to wrap up the last of my work for the year.  B made it home from work later that afternoon and I cooked dinner.  After dinner, we had a family movie night to watch Klaus.  I’d heard lots of people raving about it, and I thought it was cute, although not as good as I had expected after said rave reviews. 

B and I put the kids to bed after that and then he and I watched one of my favorite movies of all time, Serendipity.  That movie makes me so happy and that’s just what I needed after worrying about my Nana all day.  She was still hanging in there with basically no changes all day, and I was just praying for her to go ahead and let go.  It is just awful that anyone should ever have to suffer like that.

And for documentation's sake, I wanted to post this picture that I took of our kitchen table after the kids hung their paper snowflakes from the chairs... such a special touch in the decor knowing that the kiddos made them!

Tuesday, December 24

We awoke to no changes on Christmas Eve and my mom and dad said that they wanted to proceed with the day as we normally would.  B and I spent the morning cooking and baking for Christmas Eve dinner at my parents’ house later that evening.  I also spent some time cleaning and prepping the house to host my momma’s whole side of the family the next night for Christmas. 

We all got ready and headed to Christmas Eve mass at 4.  It’s pretty much my favorite hour of the whole year.  We always have a children’s choir and it’s just the most precious thing.  My brother and sister-in-law and their kiddos were in town so they attended mass, too, and my nephew sat with me for about half of it which just made my day.  I miss having teeny tinies like that.  After Communion, a little girl from the choir did a solo of O Holy Night and it brought me to tears.  I cried during the whole song and all I could think about was my Nana. 

After church, we grabbed a few family pictures.  My mom and dad wanted some of the two of them with all five grandbabies since they were all there.  Just look at those precious faces!  I can’t believe how well they all cooperated. 

We all split up to go to our houses and grab everything to take to my parents’ house but about five minutes down the road I got the call from my mom that Nana had just passed while we were in church.

Momma and Daddy headed straight to the nursing home to take care of things and my brothers and me all headed to their house to tend to the ham and dressing and everything else that had been cooking all day (my littlest brother had been home watching it while everyone else was gone).

We got dinner on, business as usual, but it sure felt weird/sad going about our typical Christmas Eve things knowing that Nana had just passed.  Growing up, Nana was always included in our Christmas Eve celebrations at my parents’ house, but she had missed the last few because her health was so poor.  I just know she was there with us in spirit that night… part of me thinks she passed when she did just so she could finally be there for it again.  She loved Christmas.

The rest of the evening was joyful with sad undertones... that's the only way I know how to describe it.  Mom and Daddy got home from the nursing home and we all sat down to dinner.  The kids drank out of Nana’s old cups, they played with her dancing Christmas reindeer, and we all laughed and joked about how obsessed she was with keeping the ice trays full (before there were ice makers).  My gosh, my brother Zach and I must’ve filled them a thousand times under her care.

We made Winter White Cosmos, we opened gifts, we ate too many homemade chocolate chip cookies, we watched Home Alone as we always do, and we even made it partway through Home Alone 2 before it was super late and time to head out.  It was, in essence, the perfect Christmas Eve… surrounding circumstances overlooked. 

See?  Emotionally confusing. 

B and I got the kids in bed around 11 and then we ended up making it to bed a little after midnight.  We haven’t gotten to bed that early on Christmas Eve in a long time, but I had a killer headache and wasn’t feeling great (hibernation mode: ACTIVATED) so I wanted to try to get a decent night of sleep.

Wednesday, December 25

Since the kids had been up so late the night before, they both slept late (YES!) and we ended up going downstairs just after 8 o’clock.  I went down first and turned on all the lights all the while oohing and aahing over what Santa had brought.  B and the kids came down once everything was ready and the looks on their little faces were just priceless.  Christmas morning never gets old, that’s for sure. 

Santa had been very good to them, bringing Jacob a LEGO Voltron and the LEGO Star Wars Y-Wing he’d asked Santa directly for so many times.  Jacob coincidentally got the same Y-Wing from my parents the night before, though, so Santa left a letter to Jacob explaining that he’d already loaded the Y-Wing Jacob had requested on his sleigh before my Mom and Dad gave the other one to him.  He went on to say that he’d left some special paperwork with Brian so that he could return that one and let Jacob pick something else out in its place.  Christmas snafu averted!  ;o)

The kids opened their gifts from us and then I made cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  In the past, we’ve always gone to my parents’ for breakfast or my parents have come to our house, but this year, we all decided to do our own thing for breakfast to keep things simpler since we were going to host Christmas dinner later that day.

The rest of the morning was spent playing.  Jacob immediately started putting together LEGO sets while Olivia worked on making jewelry from the set she’d gotten from Santa.  I helped Olivia a little bit and then got the house all clean and prepped for company.

We had over 30 people coming, so we had borrowed folding tables and chairs from my mother-in-law to ensure we had enough seating for everyone.  I got the bar cart all set up for drinks, got the table cloths on the tables, made the dish I was contributing to the dinner (everyone brings something so it doesn’t fall on one person’s shoulders), and I also made the prettiest charcuterie board. 

Everyone showed up between 5:30 and 6 and we spent the next few hours throwing back drinks, stuffing our faces, and spending time together.  The great grandkids all opened their gifts from Mama Cass and ran around like maniacs all evening while the adults chatted and laughed.  Everyone headed home around 9 and then B and I collapsed on the couch, exhausted. 

It was a good day.

Thursday, December 26

Thursday was spent playing all day.  Jacob worked on LEGOs literally all day and I helped Olivia with some of her new crafts she’d received as Christmas gifts.  Since the Christmas décor takes forever to take down, I went ahead and started taking some of it down.  I knew I wouldn’t be spending anymore time in my office for a while, so I took the tree down in there, and I also took the tree down in our bedroom since we spend minimal time in there, too.

At 5 we had a date with our friends at the Botanical Gardens.  Y’all may remember that my friend Katie and her family moved to Korea last year?  Well, they came home to Florida for Christmas and they made the drive to Georgia to see us and we were so excited to get to see them!  We hadn’t seen them in over a year, so it was a sweet reunion.  The kids all picked right back up where they left off and they had the best time running around and playing with the Stomp Rocket that my friend Jeannine had brought. 

The weather was amazing… it was warm enough that we didn’t need jackets, and we were treated to a stunning sunset while we were there.  We took advantage of the gorgeous backdrop to take some framily pictures, and we managed to grab a great group shot by pulling a bench over, resting a phone on top of someone’s purse while propping it up with one of the kids’ thermoses, and then using the self timer.  Haha.  Gotta do what you gotta do!

After the sun set, we all headed to our favorite Mexican restaurant – the one where the girls and I always do our Wednesday margarita nights.  All of the kids sat at one end of the table and all of us adults sat at the other end.  We ordered a couple of pitchers of margaritas and had THE BEST TIME catching up with Matthew and Katie and hearing about all of their adventures in Korea.  They had an amazing time and they did some serious exploring while they were there so it was fun to live vicariously through them and learn more about the culture there.

After dinner we said our goodbyes and then we headed home.

Friday, December 27

Friday morning I worked on getting the Christmas stuff down in the kids’ bedrooms and I also started cleaning the house.  I like to have everything back to normal and super clean by New Year’s Day so it’s a lot of work getting it all done.

B was home from work that day and he kept the kids while I met up with Katie, Jeannine, and Shelly for a girls lunch at Panera.  We wanted to soak up as much Katie time as we could in the short window that they were here. 

The rest of the afternoon was spent taking down more Christmas stuff and cleaning, and then late in the afternoon B, the kids, and I all met up with Katie and Jeannine and their families again for a play date at the park.  The park we went to has been there for about a year, but we’d never been, and it is AWESOME.  It’s HUGE and the whole thing is fenced in, there’s a playground, a massive green space for the kids to run around, a walking track, a basketball court, and huge covered pavilion with tables and grills, giant Connect 4, a bathroom (praise be!), drink machines, a zipline (the kids’ favorite), and my favorite part – a huge fire pit!  So many amenities!

The kids played on the playground and ran around for hours while us adults turned on the fire pit and sat around and talked some more.  We were treated to another beautiful sunset, and before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye.  Katie and Matthew and their girls are now in Germany for the next few years so we don’t know how long it’ll be until we see them again, so I’m so thankful for every single second we were able to spend with them while they were here.  It was good for my heart but it was hard saying goodbye again.

Saturday, December 28

My Nana’s funeral was Saturday morning in her hometown in south Alabama, so I was up early to get ready and get to my parents’ house to ride with my brothers.  I wasn’t ready for the kids to go to a funeral, and I also didn’t want Brian and the kids missing my father-in-law’s Christmas celebration either, so they stayed home while I went to the funeral.  B took them to get fireworks for New Year’s Eve so they were pretty happy about that.  ;o)

It was a long drive to get there (over two hours), so we were on the road by 8:30 to get there on time.  My oldest brother drove and my youngest brother called shotty, so I was stretched out in the back alone for our sibling road trip.  My parents rode separately and we all arrived about 30 minutes prior to the viewing.

The next couple of hours were spent at the funeral home for the viewing and I did okay because there were multiple rooms.  I’m not a fan of seeing deceased people in their caskets – it freaks me out a bit – so I stayed in the other room while the others went in to see Nana.  The time spent at the funeral home was pretty light and filled with happiness and laughter and I was feeling so good that I decided to go in and say goodbye one last time before they closed the casket.  That was a big step for me, and I was pretty proud of myself for taking it and handling it well.  And I had my brothers for comic relief so that helped tremendously.

We had to drive about 30 more minutes to get to the gravesite because it was in the middle of nowhere, and that’s where we held the short and sweet graveside service in the misty, grey rain.  My anxiety peaked right at the beginning, but thankfully, it ended as quickly as the service did.  We each plucked a rose from Nana’s casket spray as a final memento, said one final goodbye, and then it was time to head home. 

My littlest brother had to be at work by 6 and I wanted to try to make it back to attend the end of my FIL’s Christmas celebration, so my brothers and I headed back home without our parents in tow, stopping quickly at a Chick-Fil-A for a super late lunch. 

The day was incredibly gloomy, but thankfully, the big rain held off and we made it home without incident.  I headed straight to my FIL’s in my funeral black and we spent the rest of the evening eating, opening gifts, and celebrating Christmas with B’s side of the family. 

Sunday, December 29

Sunday, we headed to my mother-in-law and father-in-law’s house to do Christmas with them.  We had a delicious lunch, even yummier desserts, and then we opened gifts.  We also celebrated my nephew whose birthday is December 26.   

Sunday evening my momma made white chicken chili for one last evening with my bro, SIL, and the kids before they left to go back to Huntsville.  And Sunday was my brother’s birthday, too, so we were able to celebrate with him before they headed back.

Up, down, up, down, up, down.

See what I mean about joy and sadness and magic and heartbreak?  Christmas week was a roller coaster.

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  1. It truly was a roller coaster for you all - so bittersweet. So many highs and so many lows. I can't get over the kids' faces on Christmas morning - just pure joy. Definitely one of the highs!

  2. I am so sorry about your Nana again. I’m glad you found some joy and I love the beautiful paper snowflakes the kids made on the chairs. Have a wonderful Wednesday xo

  3. Wow, it must have been so hard to lose your grandmother right at Christmas time. It looks like you managed to enjoy the season while still being a bit sad, so I'd say bittersweet is the right word. I feel badly for you! Thanks for sharing it all here with us.

  4. I️'m so sorry about your Nana - I️ know how hard that is to say goodbye to loved ones, especially around the holidays, too! I️'m glad you guys were still able to have a nice holiday spent with loved ones. <3

  5. I am so sorry to hear about your Nana. That is just awful that she passed on Christmas Eve. Total mix of emotions is right. Christmas morning looked great though and I am sure you guys are still feeling all the emotions after last week.

  6. I know it was a very bittersweet holiday for you. It's never easy but especially not around the holidays. Thinking of you! xo, Biana

  7. Bless your heart. That's such a hard ride of emotion. The Holidays & you have to be cheery for the kids & then the emotion & heartache over the loss of your sweet Nana... I bet it was a little relief to have Christmas to celebrate.. & can you imagine your nana celebrating with the Angels??? What a Christmas she had!!! :)

  8. I am so thankful y'all were about to still get to enjoy the holidays through your loss. Sounds like your Nana would have wanted it that way!

  9. I am so sorry you had to experience the loss of your lovely Nana during the holidays, I can imagine the roller coaster. Sounds like the holidays still went on as they should for the kiddos and how I bet she wanted. I am glad you got some sibling time in and time with your friends in from Korea.

  10. I can see how all of that would feel emotionally confusing. I'm glad you were able to still find some joy in the moments and much needed distractions. It's so hard to say goodbye to our loved ones. Especially around the holidays. I'm glad your family was able to all be together and the kids still had a great Christmas and time celebrating. Sending you hugs!

  11. Your kids rocked those paper snowflakes! I'm so sorry for the heartbreak on Christmas Eve, but glad you were able to be close to family during such a difficult time <3

    Green Fashionista

  12. what a bittersweet Christmas - I'm so sorry about your Nana again! love your polka dot dress!!

  13. That sure does sound like an emotional roller coaster of a week.. I remember feeling that way when my grandmother passed away too (and it wasn't even near a holiday). I remember feeling relieved that her suffering was over and happy for her that she finally got her wish (she'd been telling us for months she just wanted to go so she could see my grandfather and her other family members again) but I also remember being so sad, mostly for myself, because she was such a huge part of my life and I was going to miss her so much. I think you handled that week beautifully!!

    1. Thank you so much for this. Yes, I know Nana was happy to finally let go and I know she's in a much better place, so most of my sadness was just me being selfish and wanting to keep her here.

  14. I am so sorry to hear about the passing of your Nana! Sending you the biggest hugs and praying for peace and comfort for your family. I don’t handle death well at all, either, so my heart goes out to you! I love how each Chuck E Cheese has something different. So fun! And I can imagine it was a welcomed distraction. Christmas Eve service is my favorite as well! It’s so moving and just beautiful! I’m glad you all managed to have a good Christmas Eve. I know it must have been heartbreaking underneath, but the Joy of those Christmas moments I’m sure was good for your soul. Happy New Year, friend!


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