Earlier this year, when we lost our grandson, our family agreed that the best place to bury him was at our funeral home. His death and funeral seemed so surreal; dreamlike, in a nightmarish sort of way.
My husband and I reside in our funeral home. Mikey Joe is buried just outside of our great room window. The location of his grave places him beside us when we sit to eat our meals and relax before retiring to bed. This closeness allows me to tend to my grandson’s needs, just as I do for any of my grandchildren. Mikey Joe’s needs, however, are different from theirs. For him, I tend to the physical needs of his grave. Doing so tends to my emotional needs and encourages my grief to soften.
When we buried Mikey Joe, we decided to uproot our plantings around the funeral home and place in their stead, a memorial for deceased children. For the past eight months, my husband and I have sought and purchased bronze statues of children engaged in the merriment of childhood activities. These statues will be the focal point of the memorial, surrounded by pavers engraved with the names of lost children. The memorial will assist families to heal by providing a permanent spot of remembrance. We have a lovely ballerina, a boy playing football, two children playing leapfrog, and a little girl cooing a little bird. Last week, I acquired three additional statues; a boy sitting on a saddle, a boy roping, and a girl with her lariat. Although these three children complete our goals for the monument, I hope one day to obtain a bronze pony to match them.
Two days ago, I drove my husband to Dallas to hop a plane to Colorado to collect the three statues and transport them back to Texas. I made the air flight and vehicle rental reservations online. Because his flight was too early for us to drive there in a timely fashion, we rented a hotel room in Dallas.
I waited as he checked his luggage to make sure that all was well before I drove away. During check-in, the attendant informed him that he was 14 hours early for his flight. I had made a terrible mistake and in order to return safely home, I would have to drive away and leave him there. I dreaded the discomfort he would endure.
Eventually, my husband boarded his flight near midnight and landed in Denver past midnight. He had endured nearly 17 hours of complete discomfort in air travel. Upon landing, my husband sought his rental car. As he handed over his credit card to pay for the rental, the staff informed him that because we use a credit card with a debit option, they would not hand over the car.
Wow, in the wee hours of the morning, exhausted and grief-stricken, my husband was stranded again. Over the phone, the manager said it was their company’s policy to only accept credit cards without a debit option. I asked to pay with cash. Cash is against their company’s policy. I asked if I could give her a credit card number of one of our other cards that would not have a debit option attached to it. Apparently, credit cards over the phone are against their policies too. By the way, neither do they accept checks.
I called their company’s customer service. Unable to justify their company’s policy, they would hang up on me in frustration (three times). I was sure there was a solution; we just needed to find it. Unfortunately, they were unwilling to find a remedy. Rather than think, assist, and resolve, they preferred hanging up and stranding travelers in distant airports.
Hours and a shift change later, an employee told my husband that if he had a round-trip ticket, their company would accept the debit/credit card as payment. At last, a solution. We immediately purchased a round-trip airfare (one that we will never use), in order to rent a car. In so doing, my husband was able to leave the airport, get to his hotel, and transport three bronze memorial statues home. Unbelievable!
Traveling can be stressful even under the best of circumstances but coupled with grief and exhaustion, it is unbearable. The trip will end up costing us quite a bit more than we had anticipated. The cost of purchasing an unneeded round-trip airfare on the spot was shocking. The rudeness, unwillingness to assist, and lack of empathy of the car rental company’s employees to a stranded customer stricken with grief, exhausted and completing the task of gathering the final statues for a children’s memorial, is unimaginable. In the end, however, the healing benefit to grieving families and ourselves makes it worth whatever difficulties and hardships we have endured to accomplish it.
The loss of our grandson has been excruciatingly painful. As grandparents, we have lost our beloved grandson. Additionally, we have suffered the anguish of seeing our daughter lose her son and our grandchildren lose their baby brother. It is unfortunate that many people do not care nor understand the pain and anguish of grief. Kindness, however, should extend a hand of relief rather than obstructions toward the facilitation of recovery. I remember when airlines and travel providers accommodated the bereft. It is sad that they no longer extend basic human kindness, courtesy, nor sympathy.
As a grief counselor and funeral practitioner, I see society’s ill-treatment of mourners daily in my work. It saddens and worries me that our society grows colder and ever more self-fulfilling.
As our family moves forward toward recovery, our memorial to lost children will help mend our pain and anguish. As others come to mourn, they too shall heal from is sustaining mission.
Unfortunately, society callously expects mourners to quickly move on. After thorough analyzation, it occurs to me that survivors do not move on. The passage of time merely allows ones resolve for strength to bear their pain with greater reserve. In his absence, our love never diminishes nor slips away; we continue to love our sweet grandson and always will. Even time will not rob us of that privilege, for time does not heal all wounds. Enduring love inflicts enduring pain; we would not have it any other way.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am a Certified Grief Counselor (GC-C), Managing Funeral Director (FDIC) and owner of Queen City Funeral Home in Queen City, Texas, professional artist, co-founder of the “Mikey Joe Children’s Memorial” and Heaven Sent, Corp, author, and syndicated columnist. I write books, weekly bereavement articles, and Grief BRIEFs related to understanding and coping with grief. I am the American Funeral Director of the Year Runner-Up and recipient of the BBB’s Integrity Award. I deliver powerful messages and motivate survivors toward positive recovery.
It is my life’s work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.
For additional encouragement, read other articles or watch video “Grief Briefs,” please go to my website at www.MourningCoffee.com.