It’s been 5 weeks since Marcia passed away. Many sad and emotional occasions to remember Marcia have come and gone, while some have been happy and festive. Marcia’s visitation and memorial service took place the weekend starting Friday, April 24th. The entire weekend was a tremendous celebration of Marcia’s life that I’m certain would have made her proud and happy! We used a combination of traditional and non-traditional funeral/memorial service events. Friday’s visitation was not held at a funeral home, but at the Adult Day Center of Somerset County, where Marcia had been going for 18 months. They graciously allowed us to use their facility which allowed for a more festive feel than a traditional more somber funeral home visitation. And the turnout was fantastic, with somewhere between 350 and 400 people attending from various parts of the lives of Marcia, our kids and me. While we did have the traditional line to meet/greet family, there was space for sitting, standing/talking and an outdoor patio for people to socialize. Pictures and videos of Marcia’s life were placed throughout the room and snacks were served. While everything about the night went well, I particularly enjoyed seeing my son have fun with about a dozen of his friends and seeing my daughter take pictures and hang out with friends from high school and a few college friends. Marcia’s family, and my family greeted visitors for 3 ½ hours, and I think Marcia’s mother really enjoyed meeting so many people who have meant so much to us. The evening was very upbeat and very social – Marcia would have loved it!
Saturday afternoon, we had a traditional Presbyterian memorial service. While my daughter and I both spoke at the service, Riley was so impressive! As a 19 year old college freshman, she showed such poise, confidence and maturity beyond her years. She also did a wonderful job of honoring Marcia with humor, insights from a daughter’s perspective, and tugging the perfect emotional chords. After the service, we had a family/close friend’s dinner at Neshanic Valley Golf course. This continued the celebration of life theme, an event Marcia would have enjoyed so much. Just before sunset, we saw about a half dozen hot air balloons not far from the golf course. Marcia always loved hot air balloons and we enjoyed the annual balloon festival where more than a hundred balloons took to the skies less than a mile from our house. The real significance of seeing balloons this night, is that the hot air balloon was the central focus of the “Team Marcia” logo we’ve used for two years to raise money for Alzheimer’s research. Coincidence this happened tonight? Probably, but what a perfect night for the balloons to go up.
While the memorial weekend was a near perfect festive celebration, adjusting to life without Marcia has had many emotional moments. As the adrenalin rush of the weekend faded, life did begin a “new normal”. No more memorial service planning, family and friends returned home, Ryan and Riley went back school, and I’ve gone back to work. Life without Marcia will take some getting used to, though it still seems her death is not yet real. Three events since the memorial weekend were much harder to deal with:
· The day after the memorial service, Marcia’s sister, Cindy went through all of Marcia’s clothes. Cindy cleaned out all of Marcia’s drawers and closets and bagged up 8 large trash bags full of clothes to donate to charity. Cindy took some shirts, my daughter took a few things, as did some of Marcia’s friends. I had a few shirts I wanted to keep too and the longer I looked at the piles of clothes, the more things I wanted to keep. This was really the first thing we did that made Marcia’s death seem real. I was so grateful Cindy was here to do this as I think this would have been difficult for me to do on my own.
· April 30th would have been Marcia’s 55th birthday. I expected this to be high on the emotional scale, and it was, but not unmanageably so. I looked at pictures and some video’s taken over the last few weeks of her life and they just reminded me of how unhappy she was and how much suffering she endured as the disease took over her life. While I missed her and thought of her all day, the Marcia we honored a few weeks ago had been gone for quite some time.
· Last Sunday was Mother’s Day. With Riley being away at college, this would have been different even if Marcia would have been here. It’s painfully obvious that Mother’s Day, while a happy and joyous occasion for most, is a salt in the wound day for many. Mother’s Day should be celebrated and it’s a much needed day to honor my mother, and Marcia’s mother too. It just brought up more emotions as being a mom was the role Marcia cherished more than any other role.
The emotional highs and lows of the last few weeks are sure to continue into the foreseeable future. I felt I was as ready as I could be for Marcia’s life to end since I’ve known for more than 4 years this disease would take her life and slowly saw her physical and cognitive decline. But I wasn’t prepared for the emotional peaks and valleys of losing the woman I’ve known for almost 25 at such a young age. And I don’t think I could have prepared for how Marcia’s death would really hit me. The relief I feel for her that her suffering is over is the consistent emotion I can get my hands around. The “missing her” emotion, even though I’ve missed so much of Marcia before she died, is so much harder to explain and understand. And while my kids will see a return to a normal life rather quickly, I will need to find a new normal without Marcia.