Friday, October 24, 2014

So Long to June

A couple weeks ago we said goodbye to a family member.  Bill's stepmother, June, passed away in Denver three weeks ago and we traveled to Buffalo the following weekend to lay her to rest next to Bill's father. She and her daughters had an interesting journey between Denver and Buffalo.  She and Gene had always planned that they wanted to travel to Buffalo for their funerals via train.  Amtrak was not allowed to use the tracks in Indiana for some reason so the girls had to hire a funeral home in Chicago to transport June's body from Chicago to Toledo where they could get back on the train because bodies cannot be transported by bus.  And the bus broke down a few times between Chicago and Toledo so it was an challenging trip.

June has always been more of a "mom" to me than a mother-in-law.  My mom passed away shortly after Bill and I got married so I asked June to be my mom and she immediately said yes.  I always felt loved and was grateful to be able to carry on a mother-daughter relationship with someone.  June hasn't been doing well since about April and her daughters recently got hospice involved in her care but my impression was that it wasn't for any impending reason.  Just to prepare for it happening at sometime in the next six months.  So just a few days before she passed, I was thinking I wanted to travel to Denver for one last time to see her before she died.  So it was a bit of a shock to get the call that she had passed away so soon.  In hearing about her last days, it sounds like it was an incredible blessing that she didn't linger a long time in the state she was in.  Because of her illness and slip into dementia, I haven't had the same relationship with her recently so I have been eased into the fact that she is no longer going to be a part of my life.  But I will miss that sense of having a "mom" to go to when you feel like you need one.

All her daughters and their husbands came.  Bill, Chuck, Timothy, Gregory and I came from the Roller side of the family.  Seven out of the ten grandchildren were able to be there.  A man that had become a good friend to her over the past few years also came.  We enjoyed sharing meals together, attending the funeral and touring the cemetery after the funeral.  As strange as that sounds, the Forest Lawn Cemetery actually has several different types of tours that they run.  We went on a two hour art tour of the cemetery the afternoon of the funeral.  It is an incredibly beautiful place and even is one of the top spots for brides and grooms go to have their wedding photos taken.  We got to wave at a couple as they were getting their photos taken while we were on our tour.
When Gene died, the whole family went to Niagara Falls after the funeral.  So I was expecting that but the those who were already there on Friday went then instead.  So we missed out on going as a family this time.  But I wanted to see the falls again.  Bill indulged me and we crossed over into Canada for about an hour so I could see the falls and travel alongside the Niagara River on the Canadian side.  The mist was so heavy from the Horseshoe Falls that is was like a downpour of rain.  And we only got to see a small sliver of the falls.  But the sunlight hit it in such a way that it was still beautiful and provided the view that you can see from my picture above.
Bill wanted to see Fort Niagara.  He remembered going there as a child and wanted to revisit.  I had never been there before so I was interested in seeing it as well.  I had seen pictures from Chris' trip there with June and it looked like a beautiful place.  It is located on the shores of Lake Ontario and its purpose was to guard the Niagara River.  We were there on such a clear day that we could actually see Toronto across the lake from us.  It is setup as a French fort because that was its beginnings although it has been occupied by the British and Americans as well over its history.  The French first occupied the site in 1679 and built the current fortifications as a permanent fort in 1726. 

It was a whirlwind trip.  Traveling on Friday to get there and coming home on Sunday.  And traveling through JFK Airport in New York was definitely a challenge.  But it was good to connect with family that we haven't seen for a very long time.  Some as long as nine years ago when Bill's dad passed away.  I was very happy to have gone and to pay my last respects to a woman that I loved dearly.  Goodbye June.  Rest in peace and enjoy your reunion with Gene, your parents, grandparents and other dear friends and relatives in heaven.

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