That first night at home is eerie in my memory. Dark, overcast, too quiet. It’s like the day, the environment, the atmosphere knew what was in our souls, knew we were missing an integral part of ourselves. We had walked back in the house early that evening, came in through the kitchen door, and there, on the floor, right where hubby had left it, was the old garbage disposal torn out, his tools, a big mess, and the new garbage disposal, still in the box. That was what he had been working on late that morning when we got the call and left. It was bizarre, weird, odd, to walk in our house and see something so normal, so ordinary, so task-minded....when our whole world, our lives, had just been blown apart. It seemed just so wrong to me, to see something so average, so every-day, sitting there spread out on our kitchen floor, waiting on us, as if hubby would just pick up where he left off and continue to replace the garbage disposal. Later that night, hubby was on the couch, sitting in the dark, not crying, not talking, doing nothing....well, because.....at this point, what is there to do? I walked in the family room and asked him, stupidly, of course, I know, “are you OK?” I felt like an idiot before the words were out of my mouth. Then, my mother walked in....and I looked at her, I really looked at her....and her sadness, her grief, her loss (because she had known and truly loved Angelia as well) had weighted her down, and my poor mother looked so little and tiny and sad and lost. The three of us sat, quietly, for the longest time and said nothing. Then the words began, the senseless, changes-nothing words began. And the phone calls began. People wanting to ask, to inquire, to help. The next few days were a blur.....cremation arrangements, memorial services arrangements, talking to the medical examiner’s office, talking to Jessica and Ricky, trying to piece together exactly what had lead to her death. The first indications were that the fever of 108 had killed her, had basically cooked her brain. But there was more to it, for she had been covered with bruises on the lower part of her body when she died, and that would call for an autopsy.
It’s funny what you go through when a close family member dies...the things that creep up, the things that irritate you. I remember vividly having my head down and crying at one point while we were making cremation and memorial service arrangements, and a neighbor of Angelia’s took center stage and held practically a press conference to discuss the amount of her recent income tax refund and what she spent the money on. Sitting, head down on my folded arms, across my knees, I listed to this woman brag on for nearly half an hour about her new kitchen cabinets and flooring, etc., etc., etc. I mean, how obnoxious! How insensitive! How arrogant! And then, when it came time to actually talk about the details of Angelia’s cremation, this woman did not want me talking about it too loudly or too graphically, because her two young daughters were there, and she didn’t want them to get upset! This is the point where I lost it! I told her in no uncertain terms that if she did not want her daughters to hear anything about death, dying, cremation or burial, then this was not the place for her to be, because this is a house where someone has died, and we needed to proceed with the business of death. Sorry if it’s an unpleasant topic, but it ain’t any better for us, thank you very much. And the last thing I needed was to be worried about tip-toeing around the sensitivities of this broad and her kids! If she didn’t want to hear it, she could damn well leave the house!
Eventually, we got the arrangements made, and Ricky pulled it together enough to take Jessica and Adrian with him to look for an appropriate cremation urn. Somewhat to my surprise, he picked out something not only decent, but actually quite beautiful. He also put together, with help from the girls, of course, a huge, framed photographic display of Angelia’s life. It was surprising and even moving to see his loving and final efforts to make something nice for Angelia. The day of the memorial service arrived, to be held at the cemetary where hubby’s parents are buried. Everything was arranged very nicely, lots of people, and in addition to the framed photo montage made by Ricky and the girls, there were lots of momentoes and favorite objects of Angelia’s on display....some plants from her garden, a ceramic dish she made in school as a small girl with her name in it, a picture of a deer her little brother Matthew made for her when he was a young boy, and family photos and flowers and bouquets everywhere. It was all nice, as nice as a service can be when it’s your daughter you’re saying good-bye to. The service began. Hubby held it together pretty well, stoic, stone-cold numb, in pain. The one who really lost it, after days of holding it together, was Ashley, my step-daughter. She had been very calm, very collected in the hospital the day of Angel's death, and in the immediate days afterwards. She finally broke down, though, at the service, and sobbed like there was to end to her anguish. I felt so, so bad for her, for Angelia had been something of a second mother to Ashley. The oldest daughter and the youngest daughter, one gone, one to life the rest of her life without her beloved big sister. I knew Ashley's life was forever changed, as all of ours had been.
After the service, we all went back to my brother-in-law’s house, which used to be my mother-and-father-in-law’s house when they were living. The whole family was there, and it began to take on a party atmosphere. Food, kids swimming, talking....someone brought out the 4-wheelers and all the young kids began riding around on those. It was foreign, how can all this family togetherness be taking place; us, my inlaws, the cousins, nieces, nephews, my parents, the kids, the grandkids, all without Angelia being here in the middle of it? Where is she? Why is she not here? How can everyone be talking and living and go on, without Angelia here to join us? It was the oddest sensation and recognition of my entire life, so far. I could tell it was getting to hubby, too. We left, quickly and abruptly, we simply had to get out of there. In spite of the house being on a 5-acre lot, we were both getting claustrophobic there....couldn’t breath, couldn’t sit still.
Once at home again, the visits and phone calls continued over the next week or so. Hubby held up pretty well....considering. I went back to work, hubby went back to his various activities, life went on in some fashion. When Angelia died, we were two weeks away from our final home visit by our adoption social worker. After a year of preparation and waiting, we had come so close. However, the raw, searing pain of Angelia’s death caused us to put our plans on hold for a while, to give us time to grieve. We planned to resume our homestudy at some point, but we deliberately left things open, knowing our hearts would tell us when to move forward. Good thing we didn’t try to plan things too much, because Our Heavenly Father above had some significant changes in mind for us.