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Memorial Service
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Torn apart

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Yesterday was extremely difficult for me. Today isn't much better.

My Mom arrived back at our place yesterday. We chilled out for a bit around the apartment and then got ready to head to the memorial service. I wore the same suit that I wore to my swearing in ceremony, only with a black shell underneath.

When we pulled into the parking lot I saw my cousin Amy. I haven't seen her in years. She's in the Navy and flew in from Virginia. She took me to her Mom's car (my aunt Mitzi) and pulled some things out of the trunk to give to me. A photo album containing a whole slew of pictures of me when I was a child (my grandma's album of me), the Capricorn and Taurus needlepoints I had wanted, and a book and stuffed lion that goes with it for Gabriel. We put them in Rob's car and headed in.

I was fine up until I saw the sign. The one with her name on it showing the direction of the room that the service would be in. I then lost it completely. I said hi to Cheryl and my Dad with tears running down my face, but was able to hold in the sobs for a little while. When I completely broke down my aunt Mitzi came over to me and hugged me. She told me it wasn't a bad thing, that Eleanor was 96 and not doing well. She was in pain and it was a good thing that she was no longer in pain. I know this, but it didn't make things any better. I eventually excused myself and ran into the ladies room to throw up.

There were three main people who were there for me when I needed them. Either by my side or there in a heartbeat when I had a breakdown. My Mom, Rob, and my aunt Mitzi.

There were a lot of people at the service. My Dad and his wife Cheryl. A lot of Cheryl's family including her sister, two children, and granddaughter London. My aunt Mitzi. Her children Hal, Steve, and Amy and their spouses (and ex-spouses). Some of my second cousins like Mike and Megan. My late uncle Jack's barbershop singing group (who sang several times during the service). People who had known my grandmother when she lived in Muskego before even going into the assisted living center all those years ago. And of course my Mom, Rob, Gabriel, and me. It was nice to see all those people there for her. And I have to wonder if maybe, just maybe Eleanor, my grandfather Harold, or my uncle Jack were there watching as well.

Before the service I was able to look around the room. There were two easels with lots of photographs on them. Various ones of Eleanor and family members. I was able to compose myself looking over the older pictures of her. But when I got to the ones where I was with her as a child, I once again lost it.

The flowers there were gorgeous. Ones from my Dad and Cheryl, my Dad's office, my Mom and Nana, Rob and Gabriel and me, London, my dad's friend Ed... just to name a few.

Her urn (which looked like a box made out of pale blue and white stone) was on a table up front. Next to it was an amazing old picture of her and my grandfather when they were young. It's such a wonderful picture. I remember lying down on her bed when I was a child and just staring at it in awe. There was also a picture of her at a Vegas gambling table (Vegas was her favorite place) and "I'd rather be in Vegas" written on it in her handwriting. There was a pack of cigarettes (Camel... what she smoked when she was younger, she smoker Barclay's since I can remember) and a book of matches. She never used a lighter, only matches. Lighters tainted the taste of the cigarette. There was a coffee cup... one of the delicate tea cups she used for coffee on its saucer. She loved coffee, though I think there was always more sugar in her cup that actual coffee. And there was also her pair of glasses. It was a beautiful set up, but looking at the urn and knowing that she was in it and knowing I would never see her again killed me inside.

I headed out of the room feeling like I was going to pass out. Rob was watching Gabriel in the lobby and I stopped to smooch my baby boy and started having horrible chest pains. I couldn't breathe at all and so I ran outside to get some air. Things got better, but the crushing chest pains lasted through all of the night, even at home before going to bed.

The service itself was beautiful. Rob was with me the entire time and my Mom was so nice. Gabriel was fussy so she was willing to spend the entire time with him walking him around outside so that I could be there the entire time. I owe her so much for that. Besides, I don't think it would be good for Gabriel to see how much pain I was in.

My Dad's friend (who is a Catholic priest) did the service. My late uncle Jack's barbershop group sang several times. Three people went up to speak about my grandmother. My second cousin Megan, my aunt Mitzi, and my Dad. I really wanted to get up and say something. There's so much to say about her. But I couldn't. It was a miracle I hadn't passed out already and I was sobbing the entire time. There was no way I could do it. But I wanted to.

All of the speeches were amazing. My aunt talked about my grandmother's love of vegas and blackjack among other things. She also asked her to say hi to Jack for her. My father gave a great speech, you can tell he's an attorney. He said how she was able to take a kid and make something great out of him. She took away his fear of taking a chance. And because of that, a kid from a blue collar family with not much money turned into an attorney with his own law firm.

Some of my credit for being able to pass two state bars on the first try go to my grandmother Eleanor. She always taught me that you can do anything you want to in life, but just make sure you do it well. She also taught me that it doesn't matter if you're a woman in a man's world. Do what you damn well please. She was wearing pants and jeans back in the days that women NEVER wore anything other than dresses. She was a tomboy as a child before that was acceptable. I think that part of her is with me. I'm not the kind of girl who wears skirts and the like. When I wear a suit it's a pant suit with loafers. No heels, no skirts, no low cut shirts. I went into a male centered career. And I know this is something I can do because of her.

After the service was over my Dad was out of there. Others trickled out, but I stayed. When everyone had left the room I told my Mom and Rob that I needed some time to be alone.

I looked at the flowers and pictures one more time. I went up to the front and looked at the set up, the pictures there, and the urn. I put my hand on her urn and talked to her. Just some things I needed to say. I don't know if she was there or if she heard me, but I needed to do it nonetheless. Looking at the urn and the picture, it all hit me again. I had a complete breakdown. My aunt Mitzi had come into the room to deal with taking things down and she came over and gave me a long hug.

I waited in that room until the last minute and everything was gathered together. My cousin Steve took the items that were next to the urn. He let me have her glasses.

I didn't want to go. Her urn was still there (so that the funeral home could do the burial arrangements). Everyone else had left and it was time to go and it took every ounce of strength that I had to walk out that door.

The ride home was a blur. For the vast majority of the rest of the night I was either crying or numb. By bed time I was exhausted and my body felt as if had been trampeled by an elephant.

I looked through the photo album last night. I need to get a new one to put my childhood pictures into. I also need to get some sort of a scrapbook because I just (like a few minutes ago) found about five letters from Eleanor that she had written to me over the past few years. I just stuck them in a little plastic chest of drawers instead of throwing them out. My laziness of getting something to a garbage can paid off big time. I can't believe I still have some. One of them even has a cigarette burn on it.

Rob and I talked today about our grandparents and I was able to realize why this is hitting me so hard. Both of my grandmothers were some of my best friends while I was growing up. I'd spend weeks with them at a time. Not only when my parents went on vacation, but also when I wanted a vacation. I used to be angry at my parents for going on trips without me, but now I'm thankful they did. It allowed me to spend much more time with both of my grandmothers. When I needed to get away, I'd head to stay with them. They were always there for me. I didn't have a lot of friends growing up and when I got frustrated at my parents (as all kids do) I could just stay with one of them and everything would be all right. I think that might be why I'm so close to both of them and why Eleanor's death has absolutely crushed me.

I have things to post about that happened today including visiting the gravesite and driving by the house Eleanor used to live in. But I can't do it now. This entry has taken a lot out of me and so I'll wrap it up and post about today some other time.

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