"This year I did not do Art Prize. I did a tombstone instead. It was good that I was doing something with my hands that was for Marie. I was making something and it was coming out. I never got discouraged -- sometimes I get discouraged with work that I am doing. But not this time. It was my grief coming out."
“When someone’s that old you expect that death is coming someday, and you kind of dread it. It’s always there in the back of your mind. I was always trying to prepare myself that it would happen. It wasn’t tragic. But it was just such a shock,” explains Wendy. “A loss is a loss. You expect it but you don’t.”
In years past, Lisa would include pictures and links on Facebook to her Art Prize entries and talk excitedly with students and family and friends about it. But this year, she didn’t take pictures of it or make cards and when people asked what she was working on for Art Prize, all she said was that it was a tribute to her mom. “I couldn’t share it. Part of it was that it was evolving. And part of it was that I was grieving while working on it.”
They all have different needs. And meeting them all, while grieving myself, was hard sometimes. It was hard to be strong enough for me, let alone for them. But I was their mom and it was important to me to be there for them because they’re my kids and I hurt so deeply for them. I would have done anything to shield them from that loss, but since I couldn’t do that, I did the best I could to support them.
I realized early on that people grieve very differently. One woman at a group said I grieved hard for two months but then I was done. For me, I was still struggling four years later with trying to let go and move on with my life. Everybody’s different. That group helped me feel normal, though, and that what I was experiencing was normal.
Everyone has their own normal and nothing is right or wrong. Grief is a personal thing. Some people clear out the closet the next week and are done; others hold onto things for years and years and years. Everyone’s different and everyone needs to figure out what is best for them. Letting yourself grieve is healthy and necessary and that looks different for everyone.
My husband Gary died at the age of 57 on March 27, 2011. He was a beloved husband, father of 4 (plus spouses), grandfather to 3 (at the time). Gary had had lung cancer for 18 months. The morning he passed away my daughters and granddaughter were there and we could tell it was almost time. We’d been listening to music, and sometime between the songs “Wonderful, Merciful Savior” and “Word of God Speak” he breathed his last and entered the arms of Jesus.
We held his hands and told him we loved him.
It was completely peaceful. Fittingly, the song that came on right after he passed was a gospel song titled Singing Heaven’s Song.
Gary loved life. He owned his own concrete business and he was a hard worker. One of his big longings he had said to the doctor was, “All I want to do is see my grandkids grow up and pour concrete.” He just wanted to live his life!
Gary loved playing basketball at West Side Christian School on Saturday mornings with a group of guys, and one of the other guys even accidentally ended up with a black eye one time. They were both competitive! Gary also loved to golf.
He also loved helping other people and he would literally give people the shirt off his back. I remember one time that he bought someone a car for $300, and he never got paid back for that, and it wasn’t an issue for him because he just wanted to help out. For years, he served as a mentor to students at Covell School. He was a popular mentor and every kid in the class knew who he was there for, but he also greeted all the kids and was a friend to them all. He was such an encouragement to staff members, asking them about their lives and praying for them and their families.
Early on in our marriage he helped at Gold Avenue chapel, a small church on the west side of Grand Rapids. He used to drive a school bus, picking up kids for Sunday school and then worship there in the mornings. He had such a heart for the kids and people there. He had such heart for service to other people and service to our church and community.
He loved his grandkids – at the time he died he had three of them. He just enjoyed being with them. I remember him getting a teeny golf club for our 4-year old (at the time) granddaughter and trying to teach her how to swing that!
I wrote on his Carepage these words: “I will be honest to say this is heartbreaking to lose our beloved husband, father, and grandfather – we are grieving, crying deep sobs at times, knowing that our lives are less without him here on earth – that just doesn’t even put it into words. And not just us, but also you who grieve a beloved son, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin, friend, and all that he is to so many who adored him and respected him and were honored and blessed to have known him in some way.”
Part 1 of 7. See below for more of Joanne's story.
What about you? How did your grief journey begin, and what treasured memories of your loved one do you hold onto?
Something that we encourage families to consider is whether a graveside ceremony or service could be included in the memorial planning. Families who’ve included this element have found value in it, and here’s some of the reasons why:
1. Taking the Final Step – Going to the cemetery as a family isn't necessarily about words spoken or the amount of time spent there; it is about taking this final step and accompanying a loved one to their final earthly resting place. Additionally, this place that is often visited in the future is framed with this memory of a meaningful experience there.
2. Community Acknowledgment – When our community recognizes and has to yield for a funeral procession, or even when they pass by a cemetery and see a crowd gathered there, it causes them to stop for a moment and acknowledge the loss of life. Supporting those who’ve experienced a loss begins by acknowledging a loss, and a graveside service is a poignant and meaningful step in that process.
3. Military Honors – Honors can be conducted at the funeral home or church, but there is something uniquely meaningful about conducting graveside military honors. The flag-draped casket rests in natural surroundings, and the flag is folded and presented with family and friends closely gathered round at a graveside ceremony.
4. A Final Message to Send – We offer families an opportunity to write a final message on the casket. We provide markers for children to trace their hand, draw a picture, or leave a short note, and families who’ve experienced this have commented that these acts of closure are simultaneously a step forward in the healing process.
5. Witness an Interment – Watching a casket being lowered into the ground is important to some families, and it is a somber yet solemn experience that can be profoundly meaningful.
There certainly may be circumstances that warrant a delayed or unattended burial. However, we do encourage each family to also consider the benefits of accompanying their loved one to their place of final rest because we’ve heard the positive benefits of doing so from those who’ve included this as part of their loved one’s memorial.
“Only wood handles. Never composite. You need the right tools to get the job done right.”
Picking the right kind of shovel wasn't the only lesson that Everhardt "Ev" Katerberg’s children and grandchildren remembered learning from their hardworking dad and grandpa who started Katerberg Lawn Sprinkling in 1957. When Ev’s boys were growing up, each of them learned how to use a shovel, digging ditches by hand for the company. But it wasn't just about digging -- they also learned other valuable lessons in their time with their dad.
The foundation for a joy-filled life comes from faith in the Lord.
There’s nothing more important in the world than your family.
Support, love, and serve others.
Take pride in honest, hard work.
His family honored this legacy at his funeral service at West Leonard Christian Reformed Church. But it was the graveside service at Rosedale Memorial Park, with snow on the ground and a chill in the air, where his family honored Ev one final time
After the burial vault was lowered into the ground, the Katerberg family, starting with the "ditch-digging" sons, each grabbed hold of a shovel and one last time did what came so naturally to them: they started digging.
Each person, in turn, grabbed a shovel and gently poured dirt into the grave of their father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.
They even brought small shovels for the youngest children.
Dirt, memories, and tears mingled together in this sacred space as they worked; a most fitting and appropriate tribute to honor the life of the man who taught them so much from holding a shovel.
The short answer rarely answers the question - take the confusion away by understanding the various costs associated with burial, cremation and memorial events
A few days after Grandma Dot passed away, we gathered as a family to “view” her at her visitation. As we walked into the room, Avery let go of my hand and ran up to the casket. Putting her little hands on the side, she pulled herself up in order to get a glimpse of what was inside.