Saturday, May 06, 2006

I just got back from the funeral/ giant gathering of family. Friday was very hard for me. Every time I saw a picture of my aunt or saw another family member, I'd cry. I cried through the whole service too. There were so many people there... somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000. They completely filled the church- people were sitting in the entry hall area and standing around the sides. There was a group in another side room watching on tv screen, and then even more people on the patio who could just hear through speakers. No one had an idea that that many people would come. There was only food for about 400.

The hardest part was watching a picture slideshow of my aunt, and also listening to my aunt's friend tell about her last day. She did so many kind and special things that day, and had told some people that she was going to "take a walk with Jesus" that afternoon. (Her final hike.) Right before she collapsed, her friend asked her if she was okay. She said, "No, I'm not." and then "Help!" and died. That was so hard to hear. She died wearing hiking boots and a backpack, which is, I'm sure, exactly what she would have wanted.

Many of her students, current and former, came. At one point in the service they all stood up... Another teacher at her school had the kids write sentences about my aunt, which she arranged into a poem. It was sweet and funny. Another teacher (also the friend who was with her when she died.) put together pieces of my aunt's goodbye letters to her 5th graders over the years to give them advice on life. Let her say goodbye to them.

Afterwards my cousin Tommy gave all of her former students monarch butterflies to release. The girl in the picture is in her class this year... Everyone wanted to talk to us. People I've never met coming to tell me how much I looked like my aunt, or to tell me that I'd be a wonderful teacher just like her.

This weekend was hard. So hard. My brother and I left a little earlier than we planned today, because we didn't feel up to being around while the family played a dvd recording from the women's retreat camp my aunt was at when she died. It was of all the women in her group sharing memories of her in the hours after her death. There was also an area set up at the funeral for people to record things.

Another tough one was going by her classroom today. I wanted to talk to her so bad...


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