The Journey Home
Monday, October 19, 2009 to Tuesday, October 27, 2009
A very personal blog.
Monday was a really rough day at school. Not only was I still trying to get better and trying to catch up on the work that I missed from the previous week, I was also dealing with holding myself together. I felt so fragile. I felt like I was holding the weight of the world in order not to break down in front of my entire class. I felt like I was just waiting for a call and in a sense, I was. I was waiting on the call from my father to tell me that Papa had died. Why was I having such a hard time with this? Why? I mean, it was for the best. Papa would be happy and wouldn’t be in any pain and I knew I would see him again. But why was I in this weird place that I couldn’t explain? Was it because it was the first death in the family that I would ever have had to deal with? Was it because I felt so helpless because I was 4,000 miles away? Was it because I was surround by plenty of people at school but still felt completely alone? I didn’t know what was going on. All I knew was that after ever single class let out and that every ten minutes during a break, I was checking my phone for the call. Monday night I did so much prep work for my Tuesday classes. Looking back, I don’t know where my focus came from but I did more homework and preparation for my classes in that night than I had done total since being here.
Tuesday was a huge day for me: a monologue in acting, a dance piece in jazz, a song for Presentation class, a song for my private voice lesson, and a singing concert that night for the entire school after my classes were finished. The day was terribly exhausting but somehow I made it all the way through my classes and was ready for the singing concert. I sang “She Love’s Me” from She Loves Me. As I got ready to go on, I turned my phone off for the first time in almost a week. I was fifth in a line of forty-nine so I didn’t have to wait too long. At 7:20 I walked on to sing my two minute song. When I walked off and turned on my cell phone, I discovered that at 7:21 I missed a phone call from my dad. I went into one of the extra classrooms to call Daddy back to hear that Papa had just gone peacefully. One last grasp of air and it was over. I hung up the phone and it felt like everything that I was trying to hold on to just came crashing down on me. I told a couple of the other students what had happened and asked them to tell the teachers what was going on and that I was headed back to the States on the first flight back. While I was on the bus headed home, the head of Mountview Musical Theatre Deparment, Paul Sabey, called me to let me know that he, along with the rest of the faculty of Mountview, were there if I needed any help. He also told me to take as much time as I need in order to be with my family and to deal with what I was going through. When I made it back to Chester House I booked my flight and opened a nice bottle of red wine. I figured I wasn’t going to be able to drink when I got back to the States so I might as well have a glass while packing to calm my nerves.
I ended up getting about two hours of sleep before I had to get up. I had to wake up early to catch the first tube at 5 am that ran to Heathrow Airport which meant that I had to catch a bus around 4:30 to make it to the station in time. I didn’t realize how far away the airport was. It took me an hour and a half to go thirty five stops on the tube. Basically, I went from one side of London to the completely other side of London. The flight to the States actually didn’t feel that long. I watched several movies on the plane including The Proposal and Star Trek and made it back to Memphis around 5pm. Daddy and Brittanie, my older sister, were at the airport to pick me up. It was really nice to finally be home. It was nice to see family, people who where feeling the same way I was about the whole situation. We left the airport and headed straight to my Aunt and Uncle’s house to have dinner with the family that was already in town. It was good to see my grandmother and just give her a hug. It was then that I started not wanting to go back to London. I don’t know why but I just had this incredible desire to just stay here for the rest of the semester and be with my family. About an hour or so after dinner, I had to go home. Since I didn’t really sleep on the plane ride, I was starting to get extremely jet lagged and so daddy took me home to go to bed. Can I just say that I forgot what a piece of crap mattress I was sleeping on in London until I got back to my bed. I had the best sleep that night that I had had in months!
Thursday morning I woke up and did a couple of things around town that I needed to do. After that, I spent the rest of the day preparing the music for Papa’s funeral. I met up with my grandmother, went over a couple of things, showed her some of my suggestions, and we figured everything out that we needed to. After that I spent my time finding sheet music, making copies, and prepping the music for the pianist. That night the family stayed in and had a wonderful home cooked meal that a family friend had brought over (Thank you miss Sonya…it was amazing!).
On Friday I woke up early and went to rehearse with the pianist. After that I worked with Kassie, my younger sister, on the picture slide show of Papa for during the visitation and funeral. Once we finished up there, Kassie and I went back home to get ready for the visitation that night. I headed up to the church early so that I could sort of have my own time with Papa. Most everyone else had had their time to say goodbye. I really said my goodbyes in September before I left for Europe but I just needed a moment with him by myself. When I walked into the church he had already been brought in by the funeral home people and placed in the sanctuarty. This was the hardest thing that I think I have ever had to deal with. I mean, I’ve seen dead people at funerals before but this was different. This was Papa. This was the man that, besides my father, I looked up to most. This was the man that I wanted to grow up to be just like. I want to mean that much to people. I want to have that big of a heart. I want to always put others before myself. I want to have a servant’s heart like his. I want my grandson to love me as much as I love him. I want to be a major part of somebody’s life and just by smiling at them make them know how much I care and love them. I want to spend time with someone down in the basement making stained glass, or working on the tractor, or building something, or fixing something, or just be down in the basement doing something just to do it. I want to do something right because if it is worth doing, it is worth doing right. I want to slip someone a $20 for gas because I know he needs it but he wouldn’t ever ask for it. I want to sit on that back porch forever on my swing looking out into my back yard. I want to carry on the Gilland name with the upmost respect because it is the only thing I came into this world with and it is the only thing that I will take with me. This was Papa. Like I said earlier, I don’t know why I was having such a hard time with this. He was in a better place, happier, he could hear (not selective hearing anymore. HA!), and it was a good thing. Anyway, after a few minutes alone with Papa the rest of the family started to show up. The visitation was really exhausting but a lot of people came to pay their respects and to see the rest of the family as well. After the visitation a group of the cousins when out to eat and to hang out. Everyone’s lives are so busy that this was the first time that the entire family had been in town together since my first cousin’s wedding almost ten years ago. It was really nice to see everyone and catch up. Natalie had just come in town from Tulsa and so she got to join us for this as well.
Saturday was the day. It was the day of the funeral. It was the day that we would finally put Papa in the ground. It was a day that we’d all knew was coming but weren’t really ready for it. The whole day just seems like a haze to me. We went to the funeral. I sang and made it through most of the songs. The four sons of Papa, including daddy, all met with the preacher at different times to talk about their expierences of Papa and what he made them think of. During the service, Brother Danny shared some of these stories. The following is what daddy wrote to be read at the funeral and is so true to this man, his wife, and our family:
“Grandmother and Papa – to our family this is one word. When God put these two people together in marriage and made them one, this is exactly what we as a family had. Two people acting as one to raise, mentor, love and encourage us as we grew. He was and she is the most selfless people I now and will ever know. We were told the only thing we would take with us to the grave would be our name, so don’t mess it up. Be proud of it and build on it each and every day. The memory of Daddy cannot be broken down into just a couple of instances. It is one constant memory. He was steady as a rock in his day to day life with very little change. If it needs to be repaired, adjusted, built or torn down, now was the time to take care of it and he would be there every second teaching and helping. He never had other things that were more important than to help and teach each of us how to survive in this world with a strong work ethic and common since. When their first grandchild was born they both reached a new level of guidance and love. She guided, he taught and they both loved. I have been told by my children more that once that when we are blessed enough to become grandparents, we will have monster shoes to fill and they doubted it could be done. Papa…… you will be missed and remembered as long as we draw a breath. We were proud to be your sons, daughter-in-laws, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. We all love you.” -Darryl Gilland-
The male cousins were the pallbearers for Papa. I felt this was very appropriate. This man had carried us and taken care of us so many times that it was only appropriate for us to finally do the same for him. After the graveside service, all the family went to my Aunt Cathy and Uncle Tim’s house to hang out and be together. It was so wonderful for the entire family to be together. That is what it is all about. What we should all work and strive towards. Building a family that loves and cares for one another no matter what. I don’t care what anyone says, I’ve got the best family in the world. Don’t get me wrong, we have our problems and we have our differences, but I would do anything for every single last one of them and I know they would do the same for me. Family is everything.
On Sunday, Natalie left to head back for Tulsa. It was so nice to see her and I was so greatful that she drove in town. Nicole also left on Sunday to head back to Bama. It was also really nice to see her as well. I hadn’t seen here in forever and it was great to be able to spend a little time with her that weekend. It is times like these that friends and family are what really do matter the most. They are the people who help keep you strong and help you out along the way. The rest of Sunday was spent at home with the family.
On Monday I spent the entire day with Grandmother. While she, of course, was up by 6 am, I slept in until about 10 am. We had lunch with Nana and Pops, my grandparents on my mother’s side of the family, at Crackle Barrel. May I just say I do miss that wonderful southern cooking in London! After lunch Grandmother and I went over to Grandmother & Papa’s house to do a little cleaning and work on the house. While she was inside packing up boxes, I work on cutting the grass and picking up limbs. It was almost soothing to be able to do this. Something that I had watched and helped Papa do for so many years. It felt like he was right there with me, picking up each limb as I did and watching me cut the front hill to make sure that I did it right! Ha! After a couple of hours we headed back to the house for dinner and to turn in for the night.
Tuesday was the day I headed back to London. Like I said earlier, I really didn’t want to leave. I really wanted to stay here at home and help out where I was need and take a bit of the load off of my parents. But obviously, I didn’t stay. I woke up that morning and ran to Walmart before I left just to pick up a couple of things that I would need while back in London. It was easier to buy things like medicine and shampoo in the States since it was cheaper. I finished packing and my dad took me to the airport for my flight. My mom met us at the airport and we sort of just sat there for a while until it was time to go through security.
As I left my parents for the second time in two months now, I realized something. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t excited about my future about living on my own and away from my family.