30th October 2008

The Viewing

We barely had time to shower before Zach had to leave for the viewing and the babysitter came for the kids. Kirsten had a friend and babysitter that was finishing up a Special Ed degree and had a special interest in autism, and she was happy to help out. She was great. She couldn’t get there until after the family viewing was to begin, so Zach went ahead with one of his siblings, and I stayed behind getting Zane and myself ready and waited for her. The plan was to leave Zora with her, while I took Zane for long enough to see the body, and maybe a little longer if he wanted to, then bring him back to the hotel to play with Zora and the sitter, and I would return to the viewing to be with Zach.

I was still finishing up when she came, and helped get Zane dressed as I gave directions. I realized when I was giving directions that I never left the kids with anybody besides my mom, but I was too worn out and stressed to really let that thought settle much.

We went to the viewing. It was the first time I had seen a lot of the family. Zane did pretty well, under the circumstances. He was a little sensory seeking…leaning, pulling out to swing when we held his hand, but overall, did really well.

We slowly made our way to the front, and eventually, I had Zach take him up to see Papo, with me holding his other hand. We showed him Papo, and that he wasn’t breathing, and that he wasn’t moving, and that he felt cold and reitterated that it was because his body was broken, but his inside alive part was with Jesus in heaven and was happy. We stayed as long as he wanted to stay and just held him. When he started getting antsy, we asked if he wanted to go, and he did.

As we walked away from the casket, he started tearing up. We sat down in a pew with him and asked him “What is wrong?” (we weren’t sure if it was too high of level question, so we waited a bit for him to answer before rephrasing) He finally said “I sad” We asked “What makes you sad?” (“what” is easier for him than “why”). He mumbled “Grampapa-Papo”. We asked “Why does Papo make you sad?” He said “Papo is Dead”. He got it. What a bittersweet momment. It was important for him to understand, and I was relieved that he got it, but so overwhelmingly sad at the same time. We hugged him, and then asked if he wanted to go back to the hotel to play nintendo and the babysitter and Zora, or if he wanted to stay here with us. He wanted to stay, much to our amazement. Minutes later, he fell asleep. Almost passed out he fell asleep so hard. He was all twisted up like a pretzel and when I tried to untangle him, he twisted back up again, so we just left him on the bench to sleep and stayed within visual range of him the rest of the evening. He woke up, almost crying, three times, I stepped back over to him, hugged him and reassured him, and he passed back out again. He stayed that way until we got him up to leave.

As anybody who has ever met both Zach and his Dad knows, Zach looks astonishingly like his dad. We even heard Jennifer (the widow), comment, in reference to Jim’s body, that “Zach looks more like Jim than Jim does” and it was true. I don’t know what the deal was, but you really had to look to see Jim because the make-up or something was a bit off. You could see him, and you could kind of see his father (Zach’s grandpa) in him, but it really didn’t look like him as much as one would expect.

One result of the resemblance is that Zach had people coming up to him who didn’t know him, but instantly knew he was Jim’s son. A few of them didn’t realize he wasn’t the “doctor” (Zach’s younger brother, from the second marriage…we had to keep pointing out Hayden to them), and seemed a bit surprised that he had another, older son, but everybody from Jim’s office and those he had known a long time all knew who Zach was. (it seemed to be the church people who were more surprised). I do have to say, you know that you eat out a lot when you get waitresses and waiters come up to you saying what restaurant they had worked at when explaining how they knew Jim. That was sort of funny.

His workmates were amazing. They stood and talked to us for a long, long time, and pulled other workmates over to introduce each other to Zach. All of them knew who he was instantly, and quickly remembered even my name “the other Jennifer Z***” (Jim’s wife and I have the same name…which got sort of weird at times during the week because I kept hearing “my” name called all the time). It became very apparent that he talked about us at work a lot, and very little at the church. He spent a lot of time at work, so that felt really good. Heck, I even got baby gifts from his workmates, even though I had never met them at that time. They had many stories and fond memories they shared (including that they finally bought him his own clippers so he would quit stealing the cake knives from the drawers to go out and landscape the grounds around the building). It was clear that they were devastated by his passing. Truly. I think they knew him better than we did, and hearing about him through them was so comforting. He clearly had a family with his colleagues. They also put a wreath on the door and took pictures of his office, and the building (his dad was a partner, so his name was on the building) to give to us (and the other siblings). It meant a lot.

There was a LOT of family there, including Jennifer’s family whom we hadn’t seen in a long time (since Christmas 2002 for some, and the sibling’s weddings for the others). Sandy had brought a big batch of pictures of Jim from when they were kids, and Zach got to really look at them for a while. That was particularly neat for him.

Another thing that happened with some frequency, was people who came up to him, assuming he was Jim’s son, and then telling Zach how he had changed their lives. Including a woman he helped to leave an abusive marriage and start her life over, and a multitude of other people who’s lives he had changed for the better. He had counseled them and was a force of good in their lives. That was a side of his Dad we never really knew about and were particularly grateful to know about. Zach is the same way, and has always been very generous to those in need (often giving to the point of sacrifice to ourselves and our family), so to see that trait in his Dad really made me smile.

It is so weird to be at a funeral like that, where you are so happy to see some of the people whom you have connected with in the past but haven’t seen in ages, but to have to do it under such awful circumstances. It had me grinning and laughing in joy one minute, and choking back tears the next.

When the viewing was winding down, Zach talked to the mortuary director to thank him for all he had done. He told Zach that his Dad must have been something really special because he had never, in all of his years of doing this, seen so many people come to just a viewing. (with no memorial service). And it was really big, especially considering it wasn’t in a community like I grew up in. (in small towns, viewings and funerals are naturally much, much larger because everybody knows everybody and is affected by the death of somebody in the community)

The viewing, over all, was very healing. We learned so much about his dad and were so grateful for so many sharing their stories.

Near the end of the viewing, the line finally letting up, Jim’s sisters comforting Jen.

Although Zane had changed positions after one of his awakening, this is the view of him at the end of the viewing. We picked him up and went to talk to Jennifer for a bit, then went back to the hotel. I couldn’t believe he slept the several hours we were there. This really wiped him out.

This entry was posted on Thursday, October 30th, 2008 at 9:42 PM and is filed under Autistic Life, Death, San Antonio, Stress. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
  • Zane's age

  • Zane is 16 years, 10 months, and 17 days old
  • Zora's age

  • Zora is 12 years, 10 months, and 21 days old
  • Random Quote

  • “you don’t look autistic!”

    Yes we do. You are just grossly misinformed about what “autistic” looks like.
    — Brigianna (MDC): Autistic, with Autistic child

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