We are home from Pittsburgh. CJ stayed with my parents while we were gone and on our way home from Pittsburgh, we dropped off Big E and Sous Chef to stay all night for a "before school starts" sleepover.
The visitation, funeral and overall trip to Pitt went well. Big E and Sous Chef handled everything beautifully. Big E and Sous Chef spent quite a bit of time observing the casket. They did not do this all at once, but made several small trips to the casket. Big E thought she looked better than when he saw her last week. I did not go into all of the details of why this was, but my aunt in-law told me that she had been very bloated from all of the medicine she was on and very pale. The bloating was gone and with her makeup and hair done, that she did indeed, look much healthier. I was talking with Motorcycle Guy's sister that I know it was a good experience for Big E and Sous Chef to be a part of this with a family member that they loved and cared for, but was not as intimate of a relationship as a grandparent. It allowed them to see how things go, see that people still laugh and enjoy one another even when they are sad. It also let them participate in a ceremony that will indeed be repeated in the (hopefully distant) years to come.
It is hard for all of us to see people you care for be sad. My mother-in-law is one tough cookie and to see her crying at the pre-mass service at the funeral home when family members were asked to pay their last respects before going to the church was very difficult. I am not a big crier, but that was more than I could handle. Watching Motorcycle Guy's uncle and cousins go through this was also difficult. It was hard to watch a father mourn the loss of his daughter. But what was particularly hard for me was watching my husband be a pallbearer. I don't know why this struck me the way it did, but it definitely choked me up. I have seen him in this role before, at his grandfather's funeral, but I was very "distant" during that time as I had met his grandfather only once and Motorcycle Guy and I were newly engaged. I had not met many family members or friends and I felt more like an "observer" during that time. It's now 15 years later...I was also overwhelmed at the number of people I was introduced to because of being the person who set up the Caring Bridge website for our aunt and maintaining it. Sometimes the simplest things mean the most and it was a privilege to help during these difficult months.
The aunt's body is being placed in a mausoleum where many of her family members are buried along with many other family members and 100's of other Polish families. Many of the headstones had names I would never be able to pronounce. The mausoleum is in the St. Stanislas portion of the cemetary up on a big hill. While we were there, we visited the gravesites of Big E's and Sous Chef's great-great grandparents, great-grandparents, several great-aunts and great-uncles and my father-in-law's baby brother. He passed away unexpectedly at the age of one year old.
It was fun to be in Pittsburgh again. Motorcycle Guy and I both agree we would not want to live there, but we LOVE to visit. My in-laws live in the city and Motorcycle Guy lived in what he considers a suburb, but I would consider the city. It had it's own school district and it's own mailing address, zip code, etc., but it was literally five miles from downtown. It would be similar to Hyde Park in Cinti or Brookside in KC, but still more citieish (if that's a word). Now his parents live less than five minutes from downtown - definitely IN the city. Pittsburgh is OLD. His parent's side street, and many around them, is stone and brick instead of asphalt or cement. Their house was built in the 1920's and the church where the funeral was is 98 yrs. old. Several family members are within walking distance. The terrain is totally different - very hilly, almost mountainous. Big E and Sous Chef learned one of Motorcycle Guy's favorite childhood games which was to see if you could hold your breath going through the "tubes," which are roads that are tunneled through the mountains. These particular tunnels, the Liberty Tunnels, are over a mile long and they love to go through any of the tubes in Pitt. I also chuckle that the highways are so hilly and steep that there are "runaway truck ramps" and signs letting you know when there is one near. They have these in case a semi truck's brakes overheat and stop working on these long, steep hills on the highways. If that happens, and it has, they need to get off on one of these ramps that are made of soft gravel for their wheels to sink into to help slow them down and at the end is a huge, "cushioned" barrier for the truck to crash into. If you see a truck coming up behind you with lights flashing, horn honking, etc. you better get out of it's way!
We ate at my favorite restaurant in Pitt. They have been on the Food Network before. It is a sandwich/bar restaurant, and they put coleslaw and home made french fries ON the sandwich. It sounds strange and the first time I went I was not sure I would like it, but it is DELICIOUS and I was hooked. I don't think I've ever gone to Pitt since without going there for a bite to eat.That's all I have for now. It's a quiet morning since my kiddos are at my parent's house. They will be home in time tonight for us to attend Sous Chef's open house at school. We will get to see his room, meet his teacher and some other students and drop off his school supplies.