Remembering.

And just like that, we are home again.  We had to plan our trip pretty quickly, and now that it’s over I’m so glad we went a few days early so we could maximize our time with family.  We were really just there to visit, to relax, and to remember.  The first few days, as people trickled in from around the country, we were able to just hang out and help get ready for the memorial service.  We did a lot of snuggling. 

IMG_0897 (640x427)

IMG_0903 (640x427)

Thursday evening brought the visitation and service for Mamaw.  It was an evening service, and I was sad that I wouldn’t be able to go (it was after Cullen’s bedtime).  Thankfully, my little sister – who goes to college in Indianapolis – offered to come over and babysit Cullen and his 3.5 year old cousin, so that we could all be there to remember as a family. 

It was a beautiful service, led by the family, who shared many stories, memories, and some laughs.  While she was not my grandmother by blood, she was still a very loving figure in my life, and she’ll be greatly missed.  Here are a few pictures of her meeting Cullen last Christmas. 

6615054227_bd7f97fe23_b (427x640)

Times like this are such painful reminders of the challenges of living far away.  I wish she’d been able to spend more time with him, and watch him grow.  She asked about him all the time. 

6615050179_b3ac7fac9d_b (640x428)

And here she is, looking absolutely radiant on our wedding day back in 2009. 

mamaw3 (640x427)

She was so fun and outgoing.  Hitting the dance floor with the rest of us, even in her 80’s. 

mamaw4 (640x427)

After the service, we all headed home to throw a party that Mamaw would have been proud of.  We stayed up way too late, laughing and talking, all gathered in the kitchen as always.  Did I mention that there were 15 people, 2 kids, and 3 dogs all staying in my in-laws’ three bedroom house?  It was NUTS, but it was awesome.  We had family in from Seattle, Atlanta, Denver, Chicago, and even the Cayman Islands.  While of course I wish the circumstances were different, it was wonderful to have so much focused time with family.   

While we were there, Cullen also got to spend a lot of time with one of his other great-grandmothers!  She loves him so much.

IMG_0979 (426x640)

Four generations of Malone – pretty cool!

IMG_1073 (640x422)

He also had fun chasing around the big doggies.  Ruthie the Rottweiler weighs just over 120 pounds, and is as sweet as can be.  Even though I know she would never hurt a fly, I admit I was a bit nervous going into this trip.  Cullen hadn’t been around the dogs since he’d started walking, but they didn’t mind him one bit.  Can you imagine what she looks like from his perspective? 

IMG_0972 (640x427)

He also had a great time getting to know his cousin, Jackson.  Technically they are probably like second or removed cousins, but that stuff is too complicated to deal with.  He’s three and a half, and Cullen thought he was the best thing that ever happened.

IMG_0992 (640x427)

Anything Jackson did, Cullen tried to do too, and Jackson was the only one that could send him into fits of hysterical giggles. 

IMG_1003 (640x427)

Friday morning we were all up early for the grave side service for Mamaw.  It was cold, but sunny, and I think we all felt her presence shining down as we said goodbye for the last time.  It was really sad.

Afterward, with all the services and formal gatherings over, we all hit the couches to relax and just enjoy being together.

IMG_1007 (640x427)

IMG_1009 (640x425)

IMG_1018 (640x405)

There were also obligatory family photos.  It always feels like such a pain at the time, but they are so fun to look back on down the road.  Family from Atlanta, Columbus, and Denver…

IMG_1027 (640x428)

And our whole crew (minus two!) all together.  Yay for the self timer!

IMG_1040 (640x427)

And our immediate Malone contingent.  Ignore my weird pose.  I was running back and forth and trying to wedge myself into the photo casually (fail).  Notice my sister in law’s cute baby bump!  She’s 23 weeks along with a little girl, who I can’t wait to meet!

IMG_1061 (640x427)

We had a big delicious Italian dinner with pasta, stuffed shells, garlic bread, and roasted vegetables.  I went back for seconds and thirds.  A guitar was passed around, and provided our evening entertainment. 

IMG_1062 (640x427)

And a bottle of champagne was opened, so we could all toast to Mamaw’s wonderful, and very full life. 

IMG_1066 (640x427)

At some point during that evening, we noticed Buggie – the German Shepherd – acting a little funny.  He seemed really depressed and lethargic, but it was possible he was also really overwhelmed by all the people and the activity in the house.  Tina (my MIL) kept snuggling and checking on him, and agreed to wait until the next morning to see if he had perked up.

IMG_8158

By 7am, Casey was up and helping carry him into the car to head to the vet.  He was not acting right, and something seemed really wrong.  It feels weird to even type this, because it still feels very surreal.  A few hours later, after trips to two different vets and some exploratory surgery, my inlaws lost their beloved Buggie.

IMG_6276

It was so SO unexpected, and I still can’t quite believe it.  He was only 7, but turned out to have spleen and liver cancer that could not be treated.  We buried Mamaw on Friday, and lost Buggie on Saturday morning.  Life feels very unfair sometimes.  I will always remember him as such a gentle giant. 

IMG_8129 (640x426)

It was such a sad, sad day.  The house felt so empty, as family began to say goodbye and head back home, and we all missed Buggie’s familiar presence under the kitchen table or curled up on the couch.  I was so glad we had decided to stay until Sunday, so that we’d have some extra time with Casey’s parents once the rest of the crowd departed.

We ended our visit on an upswing – a short but sweet visit from my mom and Sarah. 

IMG_1075 (640x427)

It was fun to spend a few hours with them as we got packed up and ready to head back.  And then we said our goodbyes and made our way to the airport just before Cullen’s bedtime.  He traveled in style in his flannel pajamas. 

Capture

Eight hours of travel later (six in the air), we arrived home to a dead car battery in the airport parking lot.  It was 34 degrees outside, so we all bundled up close in the backseat until roadside assistance could help.  We finally made it home around 1am this morning, and I gave my pups giant kisses and scratches.  We even let them sleep in the bed last night, which they never do anymore. 

But this past week was a reminder that life is short, and we never know how much time we have left with people (and dogs!) that we love.  They have gotten a few extra treats today, and I have plans to call my own Grandmother this week just to say hi.  I know that someday, I will look back and inevitably wish that there had been more.