My children took on even more difficult tasks that week, and wouldn’t allow Dan or I to assist them. Joe and Tim, our oldest and youngest sons, were in communication with the investigating officer regarding Izzy’s car, and decided they would go to the impound lot and clean out his car a day or so after the wreck. I’ve never been so distraught over something one of my kids did as I was that day. I was so brokenhearted already, and the thought of them seeing his car so soon after his wreck had me completely distraught. I prayed for them a lot that day. When Joe came to our house the next day he was disturbed, as we thought he might be, but also amazed. Tim wasn’t with him, so Joe communicated, through tears, what they’d seen; he said Tim described it like this: “We’ve seen the hand of God today.” Joe said it looked like God had cupped his hands around the driver’s seat of Izzy’s car. The entire car was collapsed around his seat, but his seat looked fairly untouched. On the morning of his accident, the EMTs who arrived at the scene were able to cut his seatbelt and lift him out without using any extraction tools. I believe God, in His infinite love and mercy toward us, kept Izzy’s body from being mangled, because He knew we needed to be able to see him and touch him before we buried him.
Another task our children took on without us was visiting his apartment. Dan and I stayed home, paralyzed by grief, as all four of our kids went to their brother’s apartment to see if they could find some papers the funeral home needed to allow us to give him a military funeral. I remember one of them telling me that they all sat on the floor behind his couch, which separated the living room area from the kitchen area, and cried together. That is one of the many almost unbearable images of my children during that week. We are a very close family and this image is a testament to the relationship my kids have with each other. Like I said in another post, I think losing one of their siblings must be like losing an arm or leg – it has caused them to lose their equilibrium a bit. They are struggling to right themselves and recognize themselves as one of four living adult children, instead of one of five.
They told me about his apartment when they came back to our house, reporting things that told me it was its usual mess! His K’Nex were strewn all over his living room floor, as he had been building a model of a pumpkin launcher so he would know how to build a full size model to launch pumpkins from Joe’s back yard in KC, MO. Crazy kid! He’d been at our house a few weeks before his accident and we’d watched a show called Punkin Chunkin on the Discovery Science channel. He always loved science and history – anything that told how things work or what someone did in the past. So, he had intended to build a catapult, and launch pumpkins with it in his brother’s backyard. This is what happens when you homeschool your kids on 20 acres in the middle of nowhere and let them have free reign to explore and build whatever their hearts’ desire!
Our daughters, Kim and Beth, came by our house after they visited his apartment and told me they left everything just as it was so I could see it just like it was before he died. I have the sweetest, kindest, most thoughtful kids. The way they came into my office, where I was seated, reminded me of every Mother’s Day and my birthdays when they were little. Dan would give each of our children something for me: flowers, a card, a small gift or two, a handmade gift one of them had made or drawn, and they’d come into wherever I was – oftentimes, the bathroom putting my make-up on to go to church, or on the couch in the living room. They came in in order of the youngest to the oldest with Dan behind them all, and each would tell me “happy birthday” or happy Mother’s day” and then give me their little gift. It was the sweetest thing. My girls came into my office one and then the other bearing “gifts” from Izzy’s apartment that they knew I would want to keep- his K-Bar, a knife he cherished, his high school diploma, his Navy tie and belt, and other items of sentimental value to us. I cried as they handed each to me in a similar way to the way they handed me gifts on my birthday or Mother’s day; this was gut-wrenching, though – receiving gifts that belonged to their brother, my son, who was no longer with us. It is a precious memory I will cherish forever- my kind, sweet, thoughtful girls bringing me “gifts” of memories of our son, their brother, to keep as a reminder of him, a reminder that he did indeed live and love, and was a cherished part of our family.
The day of our first visit to the funeral home was a rainy day, as was most of the week between Izzy’s death and his funeral. After we had made decisions about the funeral and picked things out like his guest book and the casket, the funeral director had the local sexton come to the funeral home so we could discuss and pick out his burial plot. Before that day I didn’t even remember what a sexton was, and the thought of picking out a burial plot for one of my kids had never crossed my mind. She came to the funeral home with a map of all the plots in the Gardner Cemetery and pointed out the available ones in the new area that had been added. I could see the road leading to Dan’s parents’ house, the same road Dan had walked down to get to the pond by the cemetery when he was a boy, and the same road my own kids walked to the cemetery with their grandmother to explore there with her; seeing the familiar road helped me get perspective on where the plots were. We had to pick out a plot for our middle son to be buried in. I feel like using the word we occasionally see in the book of Psalms that means to pause and think about that: Selah. We had to pick out a plot for our middle son to be buried in. Selah.
As I was looking at the map I notice that the plots are numbered, and I see a section with the number 55 on it. I knew immediately that that was the one for him. Five, in Biblical numerology, is the number for “grace”. Fifty-five, to me, meant “grace upon grace”. God’s grace, the power to do what He wants us to do, was being multiplied toward us. I told the sexton, a little old lady in her early 70s, that that was the plot I wanted, and to be sure I knew exactly where it was she asked me a couple of questions. It must’ve sounded to our oldest son like she was trying to talk me out of that particular plot, because after a few seconds of silence as I was trying to formulate an answer to her questions, he looked at her and said, “My mama wants Lot 55, and if my mama wants Lot 55 that is the lot she is getting.” Ha! He doesn’t remember that moment exactly like I do, but this is my blog, so I’m writing it like I remember it! It was a moment I will never forget. My big, protective oldest son just being himself. It was a precious moment in the middle of an excruciatingly difficult task. We not only got Izzy’s burial plot, but we bought all of Lot 55 – eight plots, so we won’t ever have to do that again. We all have burial plots now, which is a rather strange feeling, to say the least. After we picked out the plot, we followed the sexton and her husband out to the cemetery in the pouring down rain and looked at it from our cars as she pointed it out from her truck. Our oldest daughter was in our car in the backseat and I could hear her crying as we looked at the final resting place for our son, her brother. Driving by his burial plot that day is a painful memory seared into my brain, like so many memories of that week.