Thursday, August 25, 2011


The next few days at home were very much like the first.  We had a fridge that was overflowing with food from friends and many visitors thoughout the process of grief.  My mom's family came in town from all over the nation to be with us.  This was a bittersweet event, as it was so good to see them, but the circumstances were not what we had hoped would be the basis for our next family reunion.  Yet, there we were, together, as one depressed mob of people.

We ate, we drank, we talked, we went to church - all that lovely family stuff, but I won't go into detail with all of that,  because, to be honest, I really don't feel pulled to do so.

We had a lot of struggles with the funeral home at last minute.  The funeral home had failed to tell us that they did not have a fridge to put my still-decaying brother's body in and the beautiful wood coffin the Marine Corps had supplied us was not doing a good job of containing the stench.  They told us that we could purchase a copper coffin that would seal the scent if we wished.  We were furious at this!  Why would we buy a whole new coffin when they had failed to tell us that the particular branch we had Ian at did not have a fridge?  Mark had a few choice words with them and, after much convincing, they finally gave us not only a free copper coffin for Ian, but also made the entire funeral free. We accepted their offer (of course), but the damage had already been done... this is not the kind of thing that any family should have to deal with at their loved one's funeral... (this was only a small fraction of the difficulties we had with the funeral home too)

The day of the visitation came and I was still able to remain hidden in my own happy little world.  The extended family arrived at the funeral home early in order to have some alone time with Ian before everyone else arrived.  I was happy to see that Daniel Botty was once again on guard; his face as kind as ever, as well as a large group of patriot guard members - standing as a strong wall around the funeral home with flags firmly in hand.  They opened the doors for us and we stepped into the funeral home with our heads held high. 

The room was beautiful with flowers from various friends of Ian and mine growing up - our P.E.E.R listening group, our high school, our doctors - so many people had donated flowers!  The scent of decay had been sealed tightly within the coffin (much to my dismay...) and the fragant scent of flowers filled the room.  It broke my  heart watching my grandmother and grandfather cry as they touched Ian's coffin gingerly - their frail hands shaking.  My grandmother is one of the strongest women I know and seeing her cry took an extra strong stab at my heart.  Then there was papa, my dear sweet little papa who is never seen at a family event without a camera in his hand - funeral included.  However, the camera was not flashing every two seconds as it would be at any other family event.  Instead, it hung lifeless around his neck as he wrapped his arm around grammy, exhaustion and sadness covering their faces.

I looked at Ian's coffin, missing him once more, but determined to not let the reality of his death set in.  I looked at my mother with a mischevious grin on my face, then promptly walked right up to the copper box and gave it a swift kick.  A loud 'clunk!' filled the room as I stepped back from the coffin, satisfied.  My mom looked at me with a curious look on her face - as did my grandmother and grandfather.

"I had to give the idiot one last kick!"  I replied simply.

My mother laughed (it was so good to hear her laugh!) and my grandmother smiled and chuckled.

"Do it again," said grammy and that is exactly what I did.

I always seemed to get more hurt trying to beat him up, than he ever did - even when he just stood there and laughed at me, not fighting back at all, as I would baby my hurt appendage that had been chosen for the attack.  This time, it was my toes that were bruised, but I had a grin on my face and was proud of my chance to attempt to beat Ian up one last time.  (or at least his box...)

Guests began to arrive and I was able to stay hidden in my veiled reality by distracting myself with greeting everyone. Visitors came that I have not seen since I was five years old; as well as some that I had seen just days before when they'd come to our house to visit us.  We had visitors from Washington DC, CA, MI, Fl, Al - all had come to pay their respects to Ian.  I had a smile on my face as I skipped from group to group excitedly talking with everyone.  I think I confused Daniel and some of the other Marines by my strange happiness.  Everyone kept calling it strength - telling me I was being very strong through all of this.  This was only part truth.  It was true that I wanted to stay strong and not cry so that I could be their for my mom and my family while they grieved.  However, I was really only able to smile because I was still hiding in my own reality; the one where Ian wasn't dead and these were just a bunch of friends that had come together to visit.  Deep down, my theory did not add up.  Deep down, I knew the truth, but I was not about to admit it to myself.

The visitation came to a close and my sore ankles had been rubbed raw by my shoes.  I was very happy when I was finally able to take them off.  We said one last goodbye to Ian before heading home to rest up before the next day's events.

I need to stop my recollections here... the visitation is easy for me to write about, but I'm sure it is not so easy to read as it was not that interesting an event.  No tears, no drama, no crying... just one girl getting through the day by lying to herself.  I had planned on including the funeral in this entry, but I decided not to for two reasons:

1)  It feels like the funeral should have its on entry so that I can really focus on each and every detail.

2) I'm not ready yet...

McConell Out

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."  Isaiah 41:10


Anonymous said...

Dear Margaret,
I came about your blog from Military Times link to The Drudge Report. Drudge is visited over 22m a day, so I would home a lot of people will be able to read what your writing about your brother.
I can't tell you how touched I am by your story. Your a wonderful sister, daughter and women. Your brother must have been a great man for him to touch someone so profoundly as he has you. Even thou I look forward to your next blog, I do so with a sense of dread. I hope by writing about your brother helps you thru your grieving process. Your brother is in a much better place. He's looking down at you. And he's very, very proud. What a great sister he has. My God help you and your family. Richard G.

Margaret said...

Wow, Richard! Thank you so much I'm completely honored!! I loved my brother with all of my heart - he was, and still is, my everything!!

I'm about to post the funeral posting so check back soon!

Anonymous said...

I'm honored that you responded Margaret. I just saw that you posted about your brothers funeral. I'll read the post in a few hours. By writing about your brother also has helped someone else with something that he was worried about but is so trivial compared to what you are going thru. That someone is me. Thank YOU Margaret. Richard

Anonymous said...

Margaret - you are brave, loyal and full of faith. Surely your brother is honored by you. Having lost a father and brother myself I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that your current pain WILL eventually transition into a deeper connection with your brother as he now becomes your Guardian Angel in Heaven. And writing is the best therapy I know! Many blessings! Karen