My husband and I had to run to the store to get food for the people attending the viewing, then we were on our way. The vehicle was STUFFED! We had the shrine in the back of my sister in law's vehicle, an easel to set it on, and bags of food, drinks, cups, plates, and napkins. I have no idea how we got it all in there without breaking anything.
My husband and I were the first to arrive. We unloaded the food first and got everything set up, then it was time for the shrine. It was to be placed near the casket. He had not seen his father yet, and to be honest I was worried. I lost my mother when I was 12 to cancer, and I remember when it was time for the family to view her in the casket I flipped and refused to go in the room (I finally went in after everyone else had left the room).
He went in the room to set everything up and did not even glance at his father. At one point I caught him sneak a peek and saw him jump a little, stiffen, and then immediately he was back to "business mode". He was bound and determined to be strong and not cry. When his family got there we all went in the room while everyone placed something in the casket from them. Letters, figurines, pins, medals (he was already wearing his and my husband's dog tags and holding my mother in law's rosaries)... when they were done my sister in law and I decided there was something missing and ran to the store. We returned to the funeral home with a 20 oz. bottle of Crush and a 2 pack of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (his favorite) and added it to the mix in his casket. My husband looked over, saw what we did, looked at me and said "Really?!?"
"Yup. Just like when you die I am putting a bottle of Mountain Dew and a pack of Kool's in there with you."
He just shook his head at me. I was bound and determined to bring some levity to the evening and make him smile.
At the end of the viewing the priest said a prayer and invited anyone up to share a story of a memory of my father in law. No one was really saying much, one person stood and talked of how he was a kind and giving man, my husband's grandmother spoke of how he was a good boy but got into mischief and butted heads with the priest, then I stood up.
"I had not had much time to get to know Steve, but he was always my voice of reason with my husband. When I first met him, he and my mother in law came to Colorado to see us and see my husband before he deployed to Iraq. One night we were all standing outside and my husband asked my oldest son to park the truck in front of the car so that there would be room in the driveway for the van. 'Just back it right up!' Well my son did... right into the car. My husband started to get mad, but right then Steve spoke up: 'Now wait a minute son! Before you go getting angry, let me remind you about when you backed OUR truck right into the porch!' My husband cooled down fast and after that he was my voice of reason. Whenever my husband claimed to have been a child who always listened, never talked back, always did what he was told, etc... I would just call my father in law to remind my husband what he was REALLY like. He was always able to put things in perspective."
My husband had refused to get up and speak, but after that I guess he got some courage to share. He got up, started to cry, but was quickly able to push down the tears and share stories of when he and his brother were children and broke his fathers windshield and never got in trouble, how his father took him and his brother fishing and put the boat in the lake, but forgot to plug the bottom of the boat. He talked of his father hanging him from a hook on the ceiling by his pants as punishment after all else had failed and how he enjoyed it because he could pretend he was a plane! He was so animated when he remembered those times, smiling, laughing... then at the end you saw the grief when he realized there would be no more of those times with him... only memories.
It was time to go and my husband did not want to leave. He just stood by the coffin staring at his father, thoughts swirling. I explained to him we had to go, and with some reluctance he followed me outside. After that we all went out to eat. We took a few pictures while everyone was "dressed nice", and at one point my husband's uncle said "You do know these are going on Facebook!" It was then I thrust my leg up and flung my head back. My husband laughed and he cheered up.
At the funeral the next day, there was drama. I will not go into that, but for the most part the dramatics were ignored (and amazingly the dramatics were not from my mother in law). We drove to the Veteran's Cemetery for the Service with honors. I was fine through this whole thing; from when I arrived till this point I had shed no tears... but when they played Taps I started to cry.
When the service was done my husband seemed different. He seemed to accept that his father was gone, and the solemn grief was there. He was sad, angry, and confused. He had 2 weeks to try to grieve, and for a man that suppresses his emotions daily, and has for years, that was impossible. He is still angry, for many reasons that he has a right to be angry for. He is still in mourning, but has to push it aside to do his job (which creates more anger). He is sad, but does not want to talk about it because he cannot right now. There are many other factors that are contributing to his rise in anger now that he is back in "Hell", but what can be done? R&R is still months away, and I do what I can via phone and internet to keep him calm. Please keep him in your prayers, he needs them.
Thank you for sticking with me through this part of the journey, thank you for your condolences and prayers. They are all very much appreciated.