Whoever would think that a funeral could be an adventure? But that is what it was. Snow poured like water from the sky, the winds whipping it into drifts. It was a scramble to find boots, gloves and hats for everyone because who would expect to be out in a blizzard to bury a loved one?
The snow blinded us on the short walk to the car. A neighbor had been outside for an hour or more, clearing all the sidewalks and vehicles for us. What a guy. We drove, sometimes in whiteout conditions, the 10 miles to the church. Afterwards, we sat waiting for the procession to the cemetery to start--only immediate family could go but still there were many cars because this is a huge family and many of them stayed overnight to be with us.
We wondered why we were waiting so long to leave for the cemetery. As it turned out the vault truck was stuck, blocking the way to the site. Would the pallbearers be willing to carry the casket from the highway to the grave? There was also a concern that the hearse might get stuck. The guys were willing; it would be about 1/4 mile to walk in stinging snow, stiff winds, and drifts to our knees. We could all hear Jon's laughter--he would have loved a challenge like this.
Somehow they got the truck unstuck so the men did not have to take on that strenuous hike. As we made our way back to the church for dinner, we knew that this funeral would be in our minds and stories for a long time to come. And Jon, if he could be here with us, would be laughing loudest. He made sure, I think, that there would be no chance of anyone forgetting this day (as if we could anyway).
The cemetery is a beautiful place with old stones and trees, a stone chapel and quiet views. It is truly a place of rest. I think I will be able to visit and feel peace. But I think I'd prefer that visit to be when there is no blizzard of the century raging.
To give birth is the first gift we give to our children. To offer the eulogy for your child is perhaps the final gift and the most difficult to give. I knew he would want me to do this, and it calmed my heart to be able to do this one thing for Jon and for his family.
I will tell you here, as I told those at the service, that the best way to honor my son is to not look back with regret, but to go forward with enthusiasm and hope. How we do this is what will define his life and his memory. Jonathan means "gift of God," and he truly, truly was a gift we were fortunate to have had.