Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Left Behind

December 28, 2009, the entire reason that my brothers and I are in Holland in the first place. This was the day that we buried my parents urns in the cemetery in Zwolle, Netherlands, the same cemetery where my grandmother and great-grandparents are buried. A bittersweet day because of the sadness of missing them, the reminder that they are no longer here, and knowing that when we leave here on Tuesday, we will be leaving them behind. On the other hand, we are happy knowing they are in a beautiful place, in a country where they began a new life and had lots of good memories with family and friends.

For those of you who have kept up with my blog and who know how the beginning of this trip started, then you will understand that of course what I am about to write about is just par for the course for us. Unfortunately, “left behind” had another meaning early Monday afternoon. We had all decided to meet at my cousin Theresa’s house in Elburg before heading to Zwolle to meet up at my uncle’s house and then to the cemetery. First of all, the urn we had chosen for my father is made of metal and therefore could not be taken through airport security since it cannot be x-rayed. I had to purchase a temporary urn for his remains to travel with. We had no problems with this however we were going to have to remove the bag with my father’s remains and put it back into the metal urn since that is the one we planned to bury. My brother Andy took on this task, which wasn’t easy because the ashes are in a heavy plastic bag that was secured with basically, a zip tie (cable tie). He had to basically try and get one end of the bag into the narrow opening of the metal urn, then slowly shake the bag so that the ashes would settle and fit the rest of the way into the urn. He was careful doing this, but I have to admit I still had this awful fear that the bag would accidentally be punctured and that my father’s ashes would be all over Theresa’s leather couch. Fortunately, this didn’t happen! It all went in and we secured the top of my father’s urn. My mother’s urn is a beautiful wood urn so that wasn’t a problem with airport security. Her urn remained in the travel bag that the funeral home provided to us to transport the urns on the plane. Bill took charge of my father’s urn because he did not want to put it back in the bag with my mother’s wood urn for fear of scratching the beautiful glossy finish. So he hand carried my father’s urn. When all of us were finally at Theresa’s house, we again had a caravan of vehicles going to my uncle’s house which is about a twenty minute drive. We arrived at my uncle’s house and spent some time visiting before having to head to the cemetery for the 2 p.m. service. At some point my very observant niece Carrie asked where the bag was with my mother’s urn. We thought that my brother Andy had it and he said no, he thought we had it. So we looked in the back of the car and to our horror, it wasn’t there. My nephew’s girlfriend Renee said the last place she saw it was sitting on the sofa when Andy was trying to get our father’s ashes back into the original urn! Yes, in all of the commotion, we left mom behind on Theresa’s sofa! By the time we realized it, it was about 1:30 p.m. Theresa’s husband was then sent back to his house to retrieve mom! Just one more thing to happen to us! It all worked out in the end with the service only starting about ten minutes later than we had planned and it was a beautiful service. My cousin Theresa has a paternal cousin that I believe is a pastor and he did a wonderful job with the service. Andy spoke a bit as well and a few prayers were said. My cousin Theresa and Wendy sang as did my uncle. In attendance were family from both my mother and father’s side, so the turnout was quite large. At the end of the service, after we had placed the urns in the ground, everyone at the service put a handful of dirt on top of the urns then laid a rose down beside the grave.

Finally, I have to mention the cemetery. This cemetery is unlike any I have ever seen. It looks more like a beautiful forest, with lots of trees, grass and flowers. Here are a few photos. My parents urns are buried at the same grave site as my grandmother and a brass nameplate was added to the headstone with my parents names on it. If you are wondering why my parents names are spelled differently, it is because the last name was misspelled on my father's birth certificate and the error was never corrected. That is why the first three letters are G-A-E instead of G-E-E, which is how it should be.

The graves are all kept up immaculately and it is truly a peaceful place to be. I was also thrilled that the weather was great because the night before it was raining well into the night, but by morning the sun was actually out and it wasn’t too cold outside. It remained that way throughout the burial service. Maybe my parents had something to do with the weather that day!

After the service, we gathered at my uncle’s house to visit, and enjoy some coffee and food. It was a full house, that’s for sure. My little cousins were there, of course, and they sure have taken a liking to Bill. When we first arrived at my uncle’s house before the service, Inez, Pascale and Anouk immediately ran to him and all were saying “Bill!” and then ran to give him hugs. As they walked to the front door of my uncle’s house, I managed to snap the most adorable photo of Bill holding hands with the girls as they walked. I love this photo!

Bill walking with those little girls is just too cute! And of course Pascale just loves to make friends with everyone. I snapped a picture of her with my maternal cousin, James. She had first met him at the airport when they came to welcome us and just enjoyed playing with him. At my uncle’s house, she really took a liking to him, sitting in his lap and talking and playing with him.

Of course Bill is still a favorite of Pascale’s as well. She still enjoys showing him her karate chop moves but unfortunately, she tried it on him while he was eating a bowl of split pea soup that my aunt had made. Split pea soup (thankfully it had cooled down) all over Bill’s nice sweater, dress pants and oh yes, ME! I was sitting next to Bill so it was on my sweater and dress pants as well. The second after it happened, Pascale just had a look of horror on her face and must have felt pretty bad because she was hugging Bill like crazy and once the aunts brought him a damp towel to clean himself up, Pascale was helping as well! Of course we couldn’t be mad at her then, because she’s just too cute. So she just got a warning from her mother to be more careful with her karate moves!

We stayed at my uncle’s for a little while longer, then everyone headed back home. We did as well, and once there, made our plans for day # 11, Amsterdam!

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