It was sudden and completely unexpected.
Aaron and I had just talked to Rick and Michelle after closing on our house and they were going to go out of town for the weekend to celebrate their anniversary. We decided to get a celebratory dinner before we picked the girls up from Amberlyn’s house. As we were walking to our table, Aaron answered his phone. I slid in the booth only to look up and see a shocked face looking back at me. “Are you serious? Oh man,” he said to the phone. He pulled the phone back slightly and said, “we’re leaving,” and walked away. Uh, okay. I saw the guy coming with chips and salsa and I regretfully told him, “I’m so sorry! I guess we’re leaving,” as I slid back out and followed Aaron to the parking lot. He hung up the phone and said, “Papa Freddie died.”
I was caught off guard by the news. “Wait, what? Papa Freddie?”
Papa Freddie was Michelle’s dad. I had only interacted with him a couple of times (the Christmas we spent in Illinois and Amberlyn’s wedding) but I knew my mother-in-law’s heart was aching and we quickly called Amberlyn to pass on the news and ask if they could meet us at the farm to support Mom.
It wasn’t long before we were all sitting around the dining room table, comforting Michelle and figuring out travel plans.
Rick and Michelle obviously canceled their anniversary trip and drove out to Illinois the next morning (3.30.19). My mom came into town and we left Sunday morning (3.31.19) with Amberlyn and Ryan not far behind us.
We weren’t even halfway into the drive when I got the text that my grandpa had passed away – which was a death I was expecting. But still, the sting of 2 grandfather’s passing within 48 hours of each other was a tough pill to swallow. I debated telling the tribe until after we had Papa Freddie’s service, but I knew they would want to know, so I sent a group text and received big hugs when we were reunited in Illinois.
It was a 7ish hour road trip, but with bathroom and food stops, we pulled in just in time for dinner. While we ate dessert (brownies with ice cream) an overview of the plans for the next 72 hours were given.
Monday (4.1.19), everyone except for me, my mom and the girls went to Papa Freddie’s house to claim what they wanted and do some cleaning. In the meantime, my mom and I ran some errands and took Emmaline’s 1-year photos.
Tuesday (4.2.19) was the actual service. It was 2 hours away so we had a slow morning to eat, get ready and be on the road by 11:30 am. The service was an all day event and I decided to bring my camera to take some pictures of the event for the family to keep.
Since we were there all day, we had to get creative to help pass the time. This included a walk to the water fountain and playing in a little corner of the building that had children’s toys.
The service was a lovely representation of his life and it was wonderful to see all the lives that came to honor him.
The service was followed by dinner out with the family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandma, etc.).
We didn’t get back to the house until after midnight so when Wednesday (4.3.19) rolled around, we were all slow to get out the door to make the drive back. Since it was Emmaline’s birthday I had hoped to stop and do something fun but our late departure meant a late return home so we decided to just beeline home and we’d postpone the celebration. We got home just before 8 pm and it wasn’t long before I showered and went to bed since I had to get up early for work the next morning.
Overall, it was a bittersweet trip and honestly, very exhausting for everyone. Embracing a family death is like that I think. There is such an emotional and physical demand that it sucks everything you have and it leaves you tired.
I am so glad we were able to be there to support Michelle and her family during this unforeseen circumstance. Papa Freddie was a good man and I’m thankful I got to meet him.