This past Saturday was emotional, enlightening, fun, and exhausting all rolled into one. A couple weeks ago I wrote about my cousin losing her husband after a lengthy battle with cancer in Feeling Their Pain. The funeral was set and I debated for a week whether or not to go. I wanted to go, but I have a lot going on and I was juggling the loss of an entire Saturday to travel and attend v. being able to get things accomplished around home. I didn’t want to later regret not going so I went.
It was a beautiful fall Saturday in Michigan. The visitation was scheduled for 10:00 am, funeral for 11:00. I set my alarm for 4:00 am and was on the road at 5:15 am for the four hour drive. I watched the sunrise through the passenger side of my vehicle as I traveled north on I-75. A quick fifteen minute stop in West Branch gave me the opportunity to re-fuel the vehicle and myself by way of coffee and pumpkin donuts. I was in Traverse City at 9:30 am.
The funeral was held at the Reynolds Jonkoff Funeral Home in Traverse City, the same place my Grandmother’s funeral was held years ago. A beautiful, historical home that lends itself to comfort for memorial services. Photo boards and memorabilia of Charlie’s life were on display, and a slide show of photos played on the screen. Always smiling, always clowning around and being silly, that was Charlie.
I was greeted by family I rarely see and met some I have never seen. It is hard to maintain contact with extended family when we all live so far apart. Facebook is a blessing in that regard for helping people to stay in touch. Charlie’s widow, Michelle, and I had not seen each other since we were children, but we recognized each other immediately. It had only been six days since Charlie passed and Michelle was struggling emotionally. We held each other and cried together, Michelle because the pain was new, me because I was reliving the pain through the memories this setting brought on. I left her a card in which I enclosed the poem I read at my husband Ron’s burial, If Tomorrow Starts Without Me (see below).
During the ceremony the Obituary of Charlie Jokinen was read. Charlie grew up in grew up in Bobcaygeon, Ontario and the stories shared by his best friend from childhood were filled with humor; good memories of a wonderful person in his youth. Michelle’s daughter, Nicole, talked about what a wonderful, accepting person Charlie was when he came into their lives, and how despite his struggles with cancer always attended her sporting events, concerts, and other activities of youth. I learned that Charlie and my husband, Ron, were very much alike. Both loved photography, being active, loved life and family, and were always smiling. It was a wonderful testimonial to a life well lived and a person well liked and loved by all.
Following the ceremony was the procession to the Memorial Gardens where Charlie was laid to rest beside my Uncle Lee and Aunt Jesse Hilts, who were laid to rest beside my maternal grandparents, Ralph and Grace Hilts. They are all located not far from the graves of my paternal grandparents, uncle and parents. After a short grave side service during which Michelle lowered Charlie’s ashes into the ground, we proceeded to the Grawn Baptist Church for a luncheon and fellowship with family members and friends.
About 2:30 I hugged Michelle goodbye before getting on the road. We promised to stay in touch and get together for a weekend. We now have a common bond not shared by our siblings or other cousins. I did manage to accidentally announce my departure rather loudly. As I was walking across the lot to my car I somehow managed to activate my car alarm. Nothing like a bright red car with the horn blasting and lights flashing to signal the end of a memorial luncheon. I glanced around, thought I was safe from anyone having witnesses my blunder and got into my car. Then a grey pickup pulled in next to me, it was my cousin, Iva, and her husband Milt. I rolled down the window and Milt congratulated me on adding a bit of humor to the end of the day.
I took the more scenic, leisurely route across the state on my way home. This served two purposes. It allowed me to enjoy the beautiful northern fall scenery with an occasional stop to take photographs, and the climbing in and out of the car into the cool air helped to keep me awake as I drove.
It was not until I got on US-10, an expressway, that the length of the day made me drowsy. I know that if I keep busy it helps me to stay awake and the singing and dancing in the car while driving wasn’t doing the trick. I finally made a stop and picked up a highly nutritious snack at Speedway gas station of a spiced pumpkin cappuccino and a small bag of crunchy Cheetos. I know, individually they sound yummy but as a combo it sounds horrid. Remarkably it wasn’t, so go ahead and give it a try sometimes. It did work in keeping me awake as I stretched that bag of Cheetos all the way to I-69, which marked only an hour more to go on my route.
I arrived home around 7:00 pm. A tiring day but I am glad I went. It was good for Michelle to have me there. It was good for me to be there.