|A last goodbye||2/6/2015
January was shadowed by the sadness that had taken us by storm when my brother, Geoff, went into cardiac arrest on Christmas Eve and died on December 27. He was only six years older than I am… It was so very unexpected.
My eldest son, his gal and her mom were still visiting for the holidays, which helped us through the very difficult first days. He wrote Geoff’s obituary with the help of my mom and my husband. It was beautifully written and we continue to receive many heartfelt cards from those who mourn with us.
We finalized a date for a private memorial service when my sister from France and my brother from Charlotte could both be here. Saturday, January 24th at St. Dominic Church was the day set aside and there was much planning to do. My sister, Wendy, and I met with our pastor, Father Tom Fanta, to share Geoff’s story. While I was away the week before the service, Wendy took the reins in coordinating the readings and songs that we’d decided to include, composing and printing the program and communicating back and forth with Father Tom. She’s amazing when it comes to getting things done and always in the most efficient way. I don’t know what we’d do without her.
My sister, Judy, and my out-of-town brother Chris and his wife and youngest son arrived two days before the service. Our family gathered at my house for dinner that night and our grieving together could begin.
The following day, my son was to fly in from LA and Wendy’s son, from Denver. Before then, we siblings moved furniture, and set up tables and chairs and a serving station for the luncheon that would take place at my home after the memorial the next morning. Judy put together a sweet floral arrangement for each table and Chris made sure that Geoff’s favorite music would be played. Later that afternoon, Judy re-edited the wonderful tribute that she had written before her arrival, and with the help of all of us, wove in our individual memories to make it complete for the service.
Our dear cousins from Chicago and Milwaukee arrived at the end of the day and Wendy welcomed all 16 of us to her home for dinner. It was comforting being together and a bit of a release from all the pain. My cousin Tom never left my mother’s side, just as Geoff would have done. Geoff would have loved being with us that night… We kept expecting him to appear from another room, which we interpreted as a sign of his presence, if only in spirit.
The following morning we gathered at the church for the intimate 11:00 memorial mass. Mom had requested “Amazing Grace”, and I opened the service with that song. I was happy it came first: as the memorial progressed it became more and more difficult to restrain our emotions. Jim Carr, friend and Music Director of our church (as well as being an excellent singer and guitarist who has lent his talents to a few of my musical endeavors), added his acoustic guitar and beautiful voice to the service.
Father Tom delivered a very moving and insightful sermon, highlighting Geoff’s character, his challenges, and the special, mutually supportive relationship he and my mother shared. He commended my mother for doing such a fine job of raising us all and creating such a bond between us.
It was then the turn of the siblings to rise together to the altar, to each pay tribute to our brother through our individual memories. It seemed the natural thing to do but made his loss that much more tangible.
It was a beautiful and loving ceremony, honoring my kind and gentle brother, in the presence of those who counted most in his life.
At the luncheon that followed, we continued to commemorate Geoff with a slide show of photos that Wendy had put together, and with other memories that were shared by all of us. It was a special day that we will always remember.
All the out-of-towners left the next day, except for Judy, who stayed on four more days. We sisters are very close and I was so happy to have her near a while longer.
We spent most of those days with Mom, to try and ease her loneliness and pain. We took her to a doctor’s appointment, shared lots of meals, helped her sort through some of Geoff’s things and tried to make her house easier to navigate without him. He was her daily companion and was such a help to her. And she misses him more each day. We all do.
When the time came, Wendy and I drove our faraway sister to the airport, squeezing in a few last moments together, before our tearful goodbyes at security. What a month, what a week of emotions.
Somehow, and in small spurts, I continued to write and record songs for my CD, under the direction of my friend, Abe LaMarca. He pushes me to deliver my very best. I hope that will come across in this new endeavor.
And as the world turns, the month ended with the celebration of the birth of my youngest, 24 years ago. In spite of all that has transpired this month, we made it a happy birthday. Geoff wouldn't have had it any other way.