I remember sitting in Corey’s ICU room one night and Crystal, one of the Respiratory Therapists, said to me, “You’ve been here for two weeks and I’ve never once seen that TV on.” I chuckled and said, “Yeah, I’ve got a lot on my mind. A lot to pray about.” If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, you know that I’m a processor. I have to work through things in my own mind before I can express them, and I typically like to do that in silence. My drive over to Coeur d’Alene this past weekend for Corey’s graveside service was quiet too. The kids were in the back watching movies, reading, drawing, etc., and I mostly drove in silence.
There’s a lot to process these days.
Corey’s funeral service was…beautiful. Is that the right word? It kind of sounds strange rolling off the tongue, but I think it was. The church was full, which didn’t surprise me. Corey made friends everywhere he went, and, as several people remarked that day, he just made people feel special. The people I asked to speak, from friends to colleagues to family members all captured and conveyed Corey’s spunk and love for life perfectly. We laughed, we cried and we remembered well this larger-than-life guy who will be so, so missed. Pastor Rob delivered a beautiful message and the blessed hope we have in Jesus was front and center in everything we did that day. I was so touched by all the people who came to offer their love, support, their shoulders and their strength. I had tons of family come, most of whom flew in from out of state, friends from near and far, people I’ve never met but have heard lots of stories about, so many of Corey’s colleagues that it felt like an Edward Jones event (I guess that’s why we always refer to them as our Edward Jones family). Half our neighborhood skipped school so the neighborhood kids could come support their friends who’d just lost their dad, and even the kids’ teachers both skipped school to be there. Some of Corey’s amazing ICU care team was there and it was oddly comforting to spend that day with people who had walked through such a deeply life-altering experience with me. It’s all still a bit hazy, but as the fog begins to clear a bit, I’m looking back on that day with deep, deep gratitude.
All of my family and friends who came from out of town began to head home Wednesday and Thursday, and Friday afternoon the kids and I headed for Coeur d’Alene, Idaho for the graveside service at the family cemetery and a memorial service at Corey’s hometown church. Now, anyone who knows Corey (especially his Idaho friends) knows that his favorite place to eat on the east-side was Dick’s drive-in in Spokane. Every time we drove to Coeur d’Alene (and I mean every time, no matter the time of day) Corey would call his parents and brother as we approached Spokane to see if they wanted to drive in and meet us at Dick’s for a whammy and fish-n-chips. This is one of those old-school, greasy-spoon, walk-up window kind of burger joints (not exactly my favorite spot) but to honor Corey’s memory I called and asked his family to come in and meet us there. Of course they did and we had a greasy dinner, malted milkshakes and told funny Corey stories while feeding french fries to the seagulls and enjoying the warm spring night. That may be the last time I ever eat at Dick’s drive-in, but I know Corey was smiling down at all of us and I’ll never pass through Spokane on my way to Coeur d’Alene without thinking of him.
The weather changed late Friday night and by Saturday morning it was gray, rainy and cold – which, honestly, matched my mood a little more than sunshine and chirping birds would have. We headed out to the cemetery ahead of the service and I can’t remember ever wanting to be anywhere less than I did that place on that day. I blamed the weather but it was probably more than just that that kept me sitting in my car for a good half hour when I arrived. Some of Corey’s family was milling about but I couldn’t make myself get out of the car. It wasn’t until my kids arrived (they’d gone home the night before with their aunt and uncle) that I forced myself to walk through the little gate into that little country cemetery. If I’d been at someone else’s graveside I may have been able to appreciate the quaint beauty of the setting. But I wasn’t at someone else’s graveside; I was at my husband’s. And that was a hard pill to swallow.
The service was brief but nice. Corey’s parents and brothers took care of all the arrangements for the two services in Idaho and Pastor Dan, the pastor at the church Corey grew up in, did a great job. He knew Corey well, they were good friends, and he honored Corey’s life well. The close friends and family who attended the graveside service filed by and left flowers on the casket, giving hugs and hushed condolences to the kids and me, some even sharing their favorite memory with us. I placed a rose on the casket when everyone had gone, and had one last moment with my husband and the father of my children. I know Corey’s spirit wasn’t there, that the body being laid to rest was just an empty shell, but driving away from that cemetery, “leaving” him there, was about the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Yes, I was there when he took his last breath, but this had such a finality to it – and I felt pretty alone in that moment.
The memorial service followed and once again the church was full of people who knew and loved Corey and came to honor and celebrate his life. Friends and family spoke and told mostly funny stories and Pastor Dan delivered a great message honoring Corey’s life and, once again, reflecting on the assurance we have that we’ll see Corey again because of the promise of eternal life through our Savior, Jesus Christ.
We spent some good time together with all Corey’s family on Saturday night and the kids and I headed home early Sunday morning. It’s a 5-6 hour drive and, once again, the kids were in the back, this time sleeping, and I mostly drove in silence. Again, there’s a lot of praying to do about this new life I’m embarking on. Being a single mom wasn’t really on my radar. Especially not in my mid-forties. About 2-3 hours into the trip I put my ear buds in and turned on my favorite Pandora station. The first song that played was a song I’d never heard before called “You’re Gonna Be OKay.” I listened to the song probably half a dozen times and then turned it off and drove on in silence again.
You’re gonna be OKay.
Do you remember a few blog posts back (“Stillness & Knowing”) when I was talking about the different facets of God and what I’ve seen of Him through this journey? I distinctly remember that night, sitting in Corey’s ICU room looking up the different names of God, and El Roi jumping out at me. El Roi means the God who sees. The God who sees. The God who sees my hurting heart as I drive away, looking back one last time at the pine box I’m leaving behind in a little country cemetery in the foothills of northern Idaho. The God who sees me while I’m driving west on I-90 into a new life as a single mom, wondering how in the world I’m going to make this work. And then, the God who sees me put my ear buds in after 2-3 hours of silence, and cares enough to deliver a tender, personal, perfectly timed message directly to my spirit: “You’re gonna be OKay.”
Don’t tell me God is some enigmatic being out there who doesn’t know or care who we are or what we’re going through. The God I serve is the God who created galaxies and oceans and holds back the tide, but is gentle and loving enough to know when the silence needs to be broken and I need to be reassured of His loving presence and that he sees me. And if He thinks I’m gonna be OKay, then I think I will be too.