Right as I was leaving for my Girl's Weekend at Christy's I received a call from Nate who had spoken to my dad. He let me know that my Grandpa Puffer had passed away while riding his motorcycle. The Memorial Service was set for a few weeks down the road, after school got out and the family had some time to make plans. I had a really hard time deciding whether to fly to St. Augustine for the service or not. I knew my family absolutely understood if I couldn't make it and they put absolutely no pressure on me. I'd traveled quite a bit for work and been away from the kids. I was also still finishing up my school year. Even though I knew Grandpa P wouldn't care either way, I really wanted to be there for my mom. Her mom died about 12 years ago. I didn't know what it would be like to say goodbye to your only living parent. I went back and forth for a solid week and ultimately decided that I wouldn't go.

The day before the service I sat down at my computer to write a speech that my mom would read in my absence. The further I got in my speech the more I felt how strongly I wanted to be with my family, even if it was an expensive ticket, even if the service would only be a few hours long. I quickly checked out ticket options. Then I went to my boss and his wife and asked if I was crazy. Their advice was the final boost I needed to go for it so I called Nate, texted my sister to ensure someone could pick me up from the airport, and bought a ticket. I purchased my ticket with 12 hours advance notice and would fly in just about four hours before the service. Timing would be tight and I had done no preparations for the trip to the US but I could do it! My boss' wife was flying out that night so it was a HUGE help to have an easy ride to the airport while Nate was at practice. Nate was amazing about ordering me not to even worry about babysitters and to just focus on getting on the plane. My parents were in the air getting to St. Augustine themselves so they didn't know I had bought a ticket til they landed.

My boss' wife was a great cheerleader as our flight was delayed and we all knew we would miss our connections. Fortunately there is an hourly flight between Miami and Jacksonville and I was able to get rebooked quickly. I arrived three hours before the service and made it to the house in time to say hi to everyone, take a shower and get ready to go to the church. The mood was a bit wired. There was laughter and tears. No one was quite sure how they might react. But everyone was focused on rejoicing over my Grandpa's life. I was glad to get to speak about my Grandpa in person. It was uncanny how similar my sister's words and memories were to my own, though they were written separately. We laughed at some of the stories that Grandpa's friends told about some motorcycle incidents we had never heard about. It was powerful to see his riding friends show up on their bikes all in a group. It was also incredible to see twelve people from his block stand up together ... people from all walks of life who my Grandpa had over the years cultivated into a group interested in studying the Bible. 

My Grandpa's church was so sweet in serving our family behind the scenes and setting up so many things. After the service and receiving line they had offered to serve us dinner as well. Of course it was 4:45pm so no one was hungry after cookies, grapes and cheese but this is a church of mostly elderly and 4:45 is a totally appropriate dinner hour! It was fun to talk with my cousin's daughter. After we left the church we headed back to Grandpa's house. Once the sun was on it's way down and the temperature dropped a bit we took a last walk to the end of Grandpa's block where the ocean water meets the land. We went out on a dock and sprinkled his ashes across the glistening, rippling water that he so loved to body surf in when he was younger and that he loved to fish in, catch shrimp in and take his boat for a wild ride on. The wind whipped our hair and goosebumps formed on my skin as the sun sunk lower but there was a feeling of peace as well.

One by one family had to leave. My sister and family, then my dad. A few days later Uncle Dave. Jan & Al came back on the weekend and we ran a hot garage sale where I was amazed at how many "junk" trinkets were quickly sold to garage sale aficionados. It was strange to watch belongings accumulated over decades get passed on for $5. It was super fun to do this with my aunts and uncles and I strangely felt like a kid again among the grown-ups! I spent the next days staying in Grandpa's house with my mom and my Aunt Karen where we sorted, cleaned, sold things and uncovered memories along the way. One fun find was correspondence between my Grandpa and a prisoner who clearly felt like my Grandpa was one of the only people who cared. Aunt Karen was gracious enough to drive my mom and I to the outlets for a few shopping trips and even to Target! which she avoids. It was just really fun to get to know her again as an adult and to hear about her experience. I had forgotten how open and welcoming she is, how humble she is about life and how informed and opinionated she is. I loved seeing it all. We took an incredibly hot walk mid day to downtown St. Augustine where we ate brunch in ineffective air-conditioning, uncomfortably sticky but everyone was gracious to indulge my craving. The stuffed, 6-inch high mascarpone french toast is something I've dreamed about since. My main job was Craigslist posting and fortunately we were able to sell a good bit of the furniture that way.

I was struck at how my family worked together. Everyone wanted to make sure decisions were made together. Everyone wanted to do their part. Contrary to stories of other families or movies, everyone cared more about each other than what they might "get." My Grandpa had designated his boat, motorcyles and truck to specific family members and my mom ended up with his truck. It was touching to me that my dad immediately decided to sell his little sports car to make room for the truck so that my mom could keep it as long as she wants. I ended up taking two of my Grandma's knit blankets, one for Eden and one for the living room. I also packed some good tupperware and a toaster since ours had just died. It's kind of fun to have these random, insignificant reminders of my Grandpa when the toast pops or when I put some bars away.

I haven't had a single regret about going ... except to maybe have decided a bit sooner! I had about 12 hours with my sister and her family. I was able to see cousins, aunts and uncles that I haven't seen in over 12 years. Mostly I was so appreciative to just be a part of the final moments of putting my Grandpa to rest.

 

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My Uncle Dave wearing one of his Dad's shirts that they had just given him in October

 

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Post garage sale, dinner out splurge!

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