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A time to mourn August 25, 2009

Posted by markgeil in People.

I had something to say yesterday. It was a funny, even flippant story about cutting down a tree this weekend. Instead, I went to a funeral. Now I don’t feel like telling that story anymore.

Our neighbor Anita died a few days ago, along with her unborn son. Nobody is quite sure why. She was young and healthy, married with three kids already. Now she’s gone.

My eyes teared up so many times at the funeral yesterday. For some reason, I feel like writing them down. The first time was when I watched Greg, Anita’s husband. He walked down the aisle, and he looked strong. He was carrying their youngest child and was flanked by their 7- and 8-year olds. Really, they all looked strong, and so brave. At the end of the aisle was the casket, and by the time Greg reached it, everyone else had paid their respects. Then, as Greg watched, with Penny in his arms, the casket was closed.

We sometimes try to say that funerals are celebrations, and parts of them usually are, especially when we know as in Anita’s case that this is a passage to a far better place. Still,it’s physical, visceral moments of finality like this that make them so sad, no matter how much you try to celebrate. It was so hard to bear the sight of the casket closing. There will be memories, and photographs, and stories, but oh, the physical void left in passing.

A second moment: Greg and Anita’s oldest children, Ben and Julia, participated in the service. Julia sang a beautiful song, Mercy Said No, and played the piano. She was radiant. Then Ben walked up to the stage. The microphone was adjusted to his 8-year-old frame. He held a folded sheet of paper, and he spoke, clearly and calmly. “These were some of my mom’s favorite verses.” I marveled at a child so small, so brave, experiencing something no child should have to experience. He read verses about comfort that were so fitting. I prayed the verses back for him.

A third moment: Throughout the funeral, Julia, the seven year old, had the face of someone leaning toward the celebration instead of the grieving. She smiled sometimes. You could tell she was not oblivious to the circumstance, but she exuded peace. In fact, she was a comforting presence that ministered to a room full of people many times her age. Later, at the graveside, she stepped out of the white limousine, the hardest of rides. She sat in a chair covered in velvet, under a tent, as the casket was placed above the grave. Her smile faded. Her bottom lip quivered. She rested her head on her father’s shoulder, and quietly mourned.

A final moment: Little Penny would not leave Greg’s arms all day. Even at the reception, in the receiving line, though many offered to take her, she wanted nothing to do with anyone but her father. She is too young to understand how her life has been forever changed, but she is old enough to know that something is missing. I hugged Greg, and through tears I told him how proud I was of his children. Inexplicably, Penny reached out her arm and touched my shoulder. She said, “Mama. Mama.” And then she started to cry.



1. oldschoolg - August 27, 2009

God bless you , Mark Geil.

2. Scott Pagel - August 27, 2009

Mark: Thanks for sharing this. Your post will help those of us who couldn’t be there to pay our respects in person.
Scott Pagel

3. Nina Smith - August 27, 2009

Thank you so much for writing this. I was not able to go, but have not stop thinking about and praying for Greg and the children.

larry smith - August 27, 2009

we care about you greg and children

4. Gail Fripp - August 27, 2009

I was just looking at a picture last week at my mom’s house of me and Anita in high school. It brought back memories. Thank you for posting this.

5. Teresa Laird - August 27, 2009

Thank you for this.

6. Michelle Hickox - August 27, 2009

Beautiful. Thank you.

7. Andrea Kautz Smith - August 27, 2009

Thank you Mark for writing this for everyone of us who could not be there. Anita was an amazing woman and now i see that her children are too. It takes a sad loss like this for us all to remember that life can go sooner than we all want it. I hope her family heals and that they always have the warm memories that i do about this amazing woman. She will always be remembered and will be forever missed.

8. oldschoolg - August 28, 2009

What can I say but to thank you for posting this for so many to read. Mark. I am Greg’s mother, and you hit my heart with your story. We still have lumps in our throats and tears in our eyes, and it breaks my heart every time I hear Penny saying “Mamma. mamma”. Ben and Julia are back in school with their mommy watching over them as their angel. God Bless You

9. Top 9 of 2009 « A Window in the World - January 8, 2010

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