Please bear with this post as it will be a bit longer than most…..
Once day broke, Cowgirl’s step mom brought over a breakfast casserole and there was coffee. Still, I think in a numb stage, the three of us staying at he ranch tried to eat something. There was a lot to do that day, November 11th, Veterans Day. There would be no celebration of all the Veterans who were away from homes serving our country for us that day or remembering those who didn’t make it home. Our Veteran would be laid to rest later that week.
Our day would be filled with funeral preparations for Big Bubby. Cowgirl and I had no idea where to start. We decided the on Tuesday we would look at a few funeral homes in the area and then decide which one to go with. Cowgirl’s dad made a comment that he had used one that was close to the ranch and was pleased with the handling of the process all around. Cowgirl and I were willing to go and visit this one first. It was close to both of us and it came with a good referral.
The funeral home opened at nine AM so we were there promptly at nine AM to talk with the director (known here as T). He was very kind. We knew from the moment we all sat down with him and a couple of jokes were made that Big Bubby had sent us directly to this funeral home. We didn’t go anywhere else to look. This was where we would say our final good-byes to Big Bubby.
If you have never been through arranging for someones burial, there are a lot of decisions to be made in a short amount of time. This is the reason I stated in an earlier post, have a will, share your wants/needs with family, and have life insurance. Life insurance is so cheap if you start at a young age like my husband and I did for our children. The last thing you want to be worried about is how to pay for a tragedy like ours, you are already reeling from the death, the added burden of cost shouldn’t have to be a concern.
Seeing all of these GoFundMe pages breaks my heart because for little to nothing these parents could have had their child covered. Again our family talks a lot about things other families do not and some would consider discussing life insurance taboo. I get that, but take it from the mother who just buried her 24 year old son, it was a burden that I didn’t have to bear at the time.
No one realizes exactly what has to happen and in what order to lay your loved one to rest properly until you are sitting in a room with a funeral director who knows you are being over loaded with information while you try to come to terms with what has happened. Especially when the death is not a long illness or an older generation that is expected.
Things we had to face with T were where is your loved ones body (ours was at the Dallas County Medical Examiners Office still), how do we get him to the funeral home, releases signed, military options (make sure you know where your loved ones DD214 is at), obituary written, date of visitation/funeral services, time of visitation/services, place of visitation/services, who will speak, open or closed casket (we didn’t have a choice due to the extent of our Big Bubby’s injuries it had to be closed), where will you bury your loved one? These were all questions that T walked us through as delicately as he could considering we were there to bury a 24 year old healthy adult except for the fact that he had been killed by a DART bus the day before.
Due to the reason Big Bubby passed, there were other things that had to be handled as well. Such as where was his truck? How do we get it back? How bad was the damage to it? Can we drive it from where it was at? Where do we take it? Police reports were not available yet to be able to determine what exactly happened and we wouldn’t get those for several months because I had to pull them myself. Luckily, Our Red Headed Step Child took on that part and tracked the truck down, went to where it was at, found out what we needed to do, and got it back to a shop that Baby Sis is friends with the owners son.
Back to planning. Since Big Bubby was in the military, I wanted him to have military honors at the graveside. We had his DD214 and was able to give that to T the day we met with him. In doing so, that meant no flowers were to be on the casket. We picked a beautiful wooden casket as my son loved the outdoors and loved cutting and selling firewood with Baby Sis. We picked the vault the casket would eventually rest in. Cowgirl’s best friend and my brother-in-law are who we chose to speak at the funeral besides the minister.Cowgirl’s friend spoke from when Cowgirl met Big Bubby and my brother-in-law spoke from the time Big Bubby was born until the day of the call. There were no more perfect people to talk about Big Bubby’s life than her and my brother-in-law. They did us proud that day. The photo below was displayed as well with his dog tags on the casket next to the flag. This is not normal protocol but T thought it was the best place for the photo and finished off the look of the chapel.
Since we were pretty sure we were going to have a closed casket (the medical examiner had told Cowgirl that she didn’t need to see Big Bubby but T told us he had the best person in the area to prepare bodies so he would let us know if that was the case or not. Turns out, Big Bubby was not viewable by family without it causing too much heartache), we had to decide how we wanted the flag displayed on the casket. There was a 13 fold flag and the traditional drape over the entire casket. We chose the 13 fold so that attendees could see the beautiful wood casket we had picked. We asked that folks not send flowers (I have always hated the smell of funeral flowers) and instead give to the Wounded Warrior Project in Big Bubby’s honor. There were still several folks that sent arrangements and they were beautiful. We chose two photo’s to enlarge, one of Big Bubby and one of him and Cowgirl to sit on each side of the casket. We also brought along his oil field hard hat and sprinkler fitter hard hat to include in the items displayed next to the casket. You never saw Big Bubby without his sun glasses and baseball cap either so those were among the things displayed as well. My son was a die hard Oklahoma University fan, I am not, but for him, I had friends of ours, referenced here as dad’s best friend, drive all over Dallas looking for an OU flag to display as well. They did finally find one but apparently Texas doesn’t carry many OU flags.
Big Bubby passed away on a Tuesday, we had the visitation on Friday and funeral/burial on Saturday. Between Wednesday after we had made the arrangements and Friday, we gathered things to be placed in the casket with him. Baby Sis wrote a letter, Cowgirl chose his clothing (she had just bought him a pair of bass skin cowboy boots (his pride and joy) so those went with him, our son was a drinker as are we so we placed his favorite drink in with him as well as a shot glass, as I look back now, I didn’t put one thing from myself in with him. I was too worried about everyone else getting their things to the funeral home to put in that it just didn’t register with me that I hadn’t done anything.
Thursday came and went quickly in a blur and then it was Friday. There were some of the Band of Brothers (Big Bubby’s boys from the military) who came in Thursday night, but most came in throughout the day on Friday and stayed through Sunday. They all were there for the visitation that evening. Some took it harder than others but all showed the emotional toll it was taking on them to see one of their own gone.
T had told us that he would have Big Bubby ready at around one PM. I wanted to go be with him until the burial. So as soon as one o’clock got there, I told my husband to take me to the chapel. The employer that I was at prior to moving to New Orleans had planned to have dinner for us prior to the visitation but I wasn’t wanting to leave. My baby laid in a wooden casket in front of me and I couldn’t make myself get up and leave. I wanted to stay, he didn’t need to be alone, I didn’t want to leave him there alone and possibly scared if he didn’t understand what had happened.
I haven’t spoke about my son’s biological father much and this will be the only post that he is mentioned. It had been 14 or 15 years since my son and his biological father had seen each other to my knowledge. I know Big Bubby had spoken to him on the phone recently and saw his aunt from that side of his family but physically seeing his biological father I don’t believe had happened in a long time. Unknown to me, his biological father’s current wife called the funeral home and spoke to T regarding seeing Big Bubby. T pulled my husband and sister-in-law aside to let them know because I had clearly stated that there was no connection there for my son. My husband had been the only father Big Bubby had ever known. So because the biological father didn’t want to make a scene (he knew me well enough to know that I would not allow him within 100 feet of my son), T told him that there was a family dinner planned prior to the visitation. If he wanted to say his good-byes that would be the time to be at the chapel. Here is where the problem came in, I didn’t know about all this. My husband, knowing I was dealing with just about all I could handle right then, had kept this from me hoping that he could get me to leave before they showed up. I kept telling him I wasn’t hungry and just wanted to sit with Big Bubby until people started arriving later in the evening. My husband kept insisting that I go at least try to eat something. I relented and left the chapel to go meet family and the friends who were bringing the food. We spent about an hour with the family and friends then headed back to the chapel. This is when I found out that Big Bubby’s biological father had shown up. My husband had to tell me because they signed the guest book at the front. At first I was furious with him for keeping it from me but then my only grace I could come to find was that Big Bubby’s biological father wasn’t able to “see” him only the casket.
When we arrived back at the chapel, family and friends had already started to show up which caught me off guard. I wasn’t prepared for that to be the case. I wanted more alone time with Big Bubby before everyone started coming. People from all walks of our lives showed up to grieve with us and tell stories if they had them of our beautiful baby.
It was a night filled with lots of tears, stories from his band of brothers, stories from high school friends, family, some laughter about things Big Bubby would try and fail at. Mostly, it was a time to remember the person who held us all together and brought us all to this place we were now.