Monday, June 15, 2015
Garry recently went on hospice and stopped chemotherapy, so we knew that he didn’t have much longer to live. Before our trip to Odessa, we had some difficult conversations with the kids. They've known for a while that Grandpa hasn't been feeling good, however we knew they didn’t truly understand what his sickness meant and how sick he really was. I told them about cancer and that Grandpa's medicine wasn't working anymore and that he was very sick and was going to die soon. I told them that this was a very special trip and that it was probably going to be the last time they would see Grandpa Garry. They both were sad about it, and Paige took it particularly hard. She cried inconsolably for a long time.
Grandpa Garry was around quite a bit on Sunday, he barbecued the meat for the BBQ, and he spent time playing with the kids and talking to everyone. He was in a lot of pain, and it was obvious he was uncomfortable most of the time. The nights were the worst, and Genie told me that she had never seen him hurting so much. On Monday night, Garry had the worst night, and when I talked to him on Tuesday he said that he just hated taking the pain medications and he'd kind of gotten behind on them and it had been a mistake. The hospice nurse and dietitian came by that day and went over the meds and diet plan with Garry and Tuesday night wasn't quite as hard for him. We were hopeful that he’d do better and feel better going forwards.
On Wednesday morning on June 10th, Andrea and I got packed up to head back to Florida. We planned to leave the kids in Odessa for the next week, and they were excited to go over to Aunt Amanda's house for a while during the day and then stay the night at Aunt Abby's house. They were sad to see us go, and gave us big hugs and kisses. Grandpa Garry told us to wake him up before we left, and he came out to the front door to tell us goodbye. He gave Andrea a big hug and told her he loved her. I went to shake his hand, like we usually do, but he gave me a hug instead. He told me how much he loved my family and I told him thank you, and that I'd always take good care of Andrea and the family. As we drove away, Grandpa Garry, Grandma Genie and the kids waved goodbye to us from the front window. Amanda drove us to Blue Springs to the Rudolph house. We were all pretty sad. I talked to Amanda about how it was most likely the last time I'd ever see Garry, and she cried. Every time you see someone may be the last, but it was a hard thing knowing for sure.
Amanda dropped us off in Blue Springs and Nate drove us to McAlister's for lunch and then to the airport. We checked our bags, went through security, and then sat for a while and waited for our plane. Andrea got a text from her mom that Garry was having some trouble breathing and the hospice nurse was coming by. Connor and Paige were sent over to Amanda's so Genie could focus on Garry. We were worried for him, however he'd had a number of health issues for so long, you just never know. We boarded the plane, sat down, and Andrea's phone started ringing. I saw it was from Genie and I had a feeling I knew what the call would be about. Genie told Andrea that Garry had just died. Andrea asked "Are you sure?", and Genie told her "Yes". Andrea grabbed the arm of a stewardess that was passing and told her what happened. She told us she'd get us off the plane and would get our luggage off as well. We had to wait until the current group boarding finished sitting down, and then we exited the plane. Andrea called her mother back just to be sure she heard her right. I talked to the Southwest staff and described our bags and gave them our information. They pulled our bags from the plane and told us the bags would come through the baggage claim area shortly. They canceled the flight for us, refunded us the points we used for the flight and took care of everything. Southwest staff could not have been more helpful, understanding, or professional about it.
As we waited for our bags, we were worried that our kids were over at Grandma Genie's house. I called Amanda to ask her if the kids were with her at her house and she told me yes. She asked me what was happening, and I was surprised because I had assumed she already knew about her father. I told her just to call her mom, since I didn't want to be the one to tell her, and it seemed appropriate for her mom to be the one to talk to her. When our bags arrived, we took a bus to the rental car building, had a town car come pick us up, and we rode back to Odessa.
When we arrived at Grandma Genie's house, there were quite a few people there already. We hugged everyone and then went back to Grandpa and Grandma's room to see Garry. Genie came with us and she talked to us about everything that happened. Garry had a fairly good morning, and after we left he sat with Paige on the couch and they were laughing and playing together. A little while later, Garry started feeling worse and was having trouble breathing. The hospice nurse was scheduled to come by that day, but with his breathing trouble, Genie called and asked for them to come out earlier. The hospice nurse arrived and took his vitals and found that everything was normal. Garry was near to hyperventilating, and the nurse talked to him and told him he needed to focus on his breathing and work to take deep breaths and slow it down. They sat together for about 45 minutes breathing and concentrating on relaxing. Garry took some morphine for pain and eventually his breathing slowed down and he relaxed. The hospice nurse left the room briefly and Genie sat with Garry and held his hand. He was very still, and Genie assumed that it was the morphine finally kicking in. When the nurse came back in the room she gave her a hug and cried and said that she wished it would be over. She hated to see Garry struggling for so long and in so much pain. The nurse looked at Garry and saw that he was not moving. The nurse took his vitals and informed Genie that he’d passed. The nurse told Genie that she probably could wait a while before calling the girls, and thankfully she said that because it made Genie remember that Andrea and I were getting on our flight. Genie called Andrea and was surprised when Andrea picked up the phone. If she’d called even 5 minutes later, the doors would have been closed and it would have been too late.
Connor and Paige were over at Amanda’s house with Nathan. Andrea stayed with her mother and I drove over to talk to the kids since they’d been asking a lot of questions. They were very surprised to see me since I’d just left them a few hours ago. I took their hands and talked to them about what happened. Their response wasn’t what I’d expected. They accepted it and then were a bit quiet. I asked them if they had any questions, and Connor asked if they were still going to get to go over to Aunt Abby’s to stay the night. Paige was quiet and didn’t talk much. Uncle Nate held her for a bit and she fell asleep. I took Paige from Nate after a few minutes and he left. After Paige woke up I talked to the kids about it all again and told them that we’d go over to Grandma’s, but they needed to stay in the basement for a while. We were worried they’d see the Grandpa Garry and would be scared, so when we got to the house, they went straight downstairs.
During the day, a number of people came to the house. Before the undertaker took Garry’s body away, we all gathered in the room and Genie talked to us. We had an opportunity to say goodbye one last time, and Andrea gave him a kiss on his forehead. The kids were in the basement away from everything and we told them that they shouldn’t come up until they’d taken him away. Connor and Paige both insisted they wanted to see him. We told them no at first, but we talked to Genie and after we talked it over we decided that if it’s what they wanted that we should give them the opportunity. I carried Connor and Andrea carried Paige into the room. I talked to them about how it looked like Grandpa was sleeping in bed and that he wasn’t hurting anymore. Connor and Paige both cried. We told them it was their opportunity to say goodbye and they both did and then we took them out of the room. We had been sure we didn’t want them to see Grandpa after he’d died. We had talked months ago about how when the time came we’d leave the kids in Florida and only Andrea and I would make the trip for the funeral. We wanted them to only remember Grandpa alive and happy, however I think it allowed them to see the reality of what we’d been talking about, and it was something they’d asked for and it was something that I think they needed.
The undertaker and Ryan’s mom DeLisa (who is also a hospice nurse) put Garry’s body into a bodybag and then they wheeled him out and away. The rest of the day, we helped to clean up the house, made plans for the funeral, proofread the obituary, and spent time with each other.
The following days were very busy. Andrea and her sisters worked with her mother to make the appropriate funeral arrangements and prepare for the visitation, funeral service, and for a gathering at the house after the funeral. Garry had already prepared for most everything, and there weren’t too many decisions that had to be made, however it was still quite a bit of work to get everything scheduled and setup. Since the kids were in town, Andrea and I went out on Thursday to buy them some things to wear, however it was a stressful trip and the kids were not in a good mood for it and I was very stressed out as well. After we were done shopping, Andrea and I talked and decided that the visitation and funeral were going to be too difficult with the kids. We made plans for one of Ryan’s family members to babysit the kids during both.
Friday evening was the visitation at the funeral home. Garry’s urn was placed on the center table, and all the flowers that had been sent decorated the space nicely. Hundreds of people came through, and Genie, Nate, Allison, Drew, Abby, Andrea, myself, Amanda and Ryan greeted each one as they made their way through the funeral home. We put together a large collection of pictures of Garry, which played on a TV in the back of the room. Genie was strong and brave, with her chin up, and she conversed with each at length. A few times, we tried to get her to move things along, but everyone wanted to talk with Genie and everyone had a story about Garry they wanted to tell. I felt bad for a few people that came during the busiest times, I’m pretty sure some people waited in line well over an hour.
Saturday was the funeral. The forecast called for rain, and we were worried that it would be a mess, especially at the house afterwards when everyone showed up. We drove to the church in the morning and made the final preparations. The urn, flowers, and church were put together very well and I took a picture before anyone arrived.
We all waited in the back room with family members as the guests made their way to the seats. Every available space was filled, and some folding chairs had to be brought forwards to accommodate everyone. When the service started, Genie led the way to the family section on the right side in the front of the church. I held Andrea’s hand, and when Andrea saw everyone who had come to support her family she cried. The service started with a song, and some words from the pastor. Some of Garry’s friends played songs on piano, trumpet, and saxophone. I thought about all the concerts that Garry had put together over his life and during one song I remember tearing up as I thought that the funeral was one last concert for Garry. Andrew was one of the first people to speak and he talked about the trips he went on with Grandpa, the love of music they shared, and the good times they spent together. I don’t know many 16 year olds that can speak in front of hundreds of people, especially about something so emotional and personal. He did so well and we were all so proud of him.
Garry’s friends, colleagues and a student shared their personal stories and memories of Garry and in their telling everyone heard the various facets of Garry’s life. Nathan spoke about Garry, and I have to think that he knew Garry better than most since he had shared experiences with him as a son-in-law, music teacher, golf buddy, and friend.
After the funeral service, I drove to Amanda’s house to pick up the kids, and then drove to Grandma Genie’s house. Close family and friends came over and Genie hosted a good sized crowd with catered food. Once the kids were fed, I wandered around with my camera and snapped pics of everyone so we could remember the day. I knew that in time we’d forget who was there if I didn’t.
The gathering lasted for a few hours, and eventually everyone said their farewells and departed.
I wish we had a way to get a picture of the church when everyone was there, it was a packed house. More than that, I wish I had gotten a picture of Garry during the trip before he passed. The first day when we arrived and ate BBQ, I remember a moment as we all sat outside together. I remember thinking I should get my camera and take a picture of everyone. I was tired, the camera was upstairs, and I didn’t do it. That would have been the best day for a picture. During the rest of the visit, Garry was in pretty bad shape. There were multiple times when he would be around, however he often had a mask over his face, or would be in his pajamas. He often appeared to be in such pain and so uncomfortable, I didn’t want to disturb him with a picture and wasn’t even sure if he wanted his picture taken. The first time we almost flew home, on the way to the airport, I’d asked Amanda to find a moment while the kids were in town when she could snap a picture of them together with Grandpa. Unfortunately that moment never came. I flipped through every pic I took in Odessa, and sadly he isn’t in a single one.
The picture I posted of Garry is one we took at Moments and Memories in December of 2014. It probably is one of the best pictures of him we have in his final days, and is the one we printed and used during the Visitation and Funeral.
That’s everything I can remember of the funeral. His passing and funeral were some of the saddest times I’ve experienced, and we all came together to support each other and get through it. Genie cried from time to time throughout the days after Garry passed, but she was strong throughout everything and I admire her calm courage through those difficult days. Her girls and their love for each other were plainly evident, and I am very happy that Andrea and I were able to be there for the entirety of the experience. Maybe it was God, Garry, or chance, but although the weather channel predicted a 100% chance of rain, it didn’t rain on either the visitation or funeral.
Goodbye Garry, you will be missed.
Posted by Shawn Vernon at 8:26 PM