We celebrated Grandma's life this weekend - on her terms.
After she passed, Auntie Ann found a sticky note attached to her will in her handwriting saying "Big Bash. 10 Empty Saddle." 10 Empty Saddle is their home - my third home growing up, after my own and my Aunt and Uncle's. Just as she lived, she wanted to go out surrounded by family and joy. So we did it up, Grandma style. No service in a church - we did our own service in the front yard of their wonderful home, with 120 invited guests. Grandma was so smart - she new that this wish would give my Grandpa a million and one things to do during the early days of his grieving process. Papa needs to keep busy. My mom and sister Kelli headed up all the decorations - bright and cheerful, reminiscent of her love for Mexico and zest for life. We had Mexican Beers and Sangria. Aunt Ann hired the "Taco Guy" to come and feed everyone. Yum!
We created our own ceremony, to honor Grandma and the life she lived. Everyone contributed something to the day, whether in the service or behind the scenes.
I started us off with "Amazing Grace" as requested by my Mom, Aunt and Papa. My friend Jen (who's also my cousin Brian's wife) read a bit of Scripture. My cousin Brian spoke and delivered a message.My sister Kelli shared memories of Grandma and introduced her husband, Jeff. Jeff sang and played "Danny Boy". My mom, Aunt Ann and Aunt Laurie (my Grandma's three daughters) each told stories about their Mom. My cousins Mark and Kevin played their guitars and harmonized beautifully, singing "Glory Bound" by the Wailing Jennys. The service was beautiful.
I cried at the end of my song - I was hoping I wouldn't since I had the advantage of being up first - but it happened. And my Aunt Ann and then Jeff joined in to get me through the rest of it.
Jason contributed in his way - he beautifully retouched and enlarged several old photos of Grandma, including the ones I've put in this post. Auntie Ann was a whirling dervish in the weeks leading up to Grandma's Bash. Mark's girlfriend Emily flew in from Ohio early and helped with so many of the preparations. Kevin's girlfriend Hannah came in from San Luis Obispo and helped in any way during the weekend. Both girls are just incredible - my cousins are lucky men!
The whole bash was just like a family reunion - it was so wonderful to visit with extended family whom we haven't seen in far too long. Grandma would have been so pleased.
There was joy and laughter and love. And we were gifted with an absolutely gorgeous day - it must have been at least 80 degrees in the sun - Grandma's kind of day. The advantages of life in Southern California! You could almost see her sitting on the porch with a book in hand!
I cannot forget the incredible friends of my family who gave us their time and love - helping the whole day go smoothly. To Jerry, Lisa, Ann, Mike V., Solange, Nik, Mike M. Bonnie, Don, Robin and Karen (I hope I'm not leaving anyone help) - you are incredible. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being so loving and supportive!
Today, a much smaller group of us met at the Rudecinda Sepulveda mausoleum in San Pedro. Grandma Joan was a cousin of the Sepulveda family, and she and my Papa Phil were invited by the Dodson/Sepulveda family (historic Southern California families who have been here since long before there was a film industry) to be placed in their private mausoleum.
Uncle Mike led the service, with prayer by Aunt Laurie, I was asked to sing again "How Great Thou Art" and my dad played Taps on his bugle.
Grandma would have loved her urn - it is so beautiful and classy, with just the right touch of sass and glamour - just like she was.
After, the family retired to Papa Phil's home at 10 Empty Saddle for a late breakfast and time with my Grandpa.
I miss her so much. We all do. Seeing Papa's tears at the mausoleum this morning almost tore my little heart apart. Sixty years of loving marriage is such an incredible gift. To lose your partner of that many years must be devastating beyond belief.
But she is no longer in pain - she is in heaven, having her own family reunion, and some day I'll see her again.
When I die, I hope to go the same way - surrounded by family, so full of love, exactly the way she was that last week. Whenever she was really "there" that last week, she was making sure you knew that she loved you. Telling you, blowing you kisses - she was a kissing fiend in her final days. So classy - helping her family say goodbye even as her body deteriorated. Then, to go out with an awesome party and celebration - that's how I feel. Cremate me, throw a blow out party, and then go on and LIVE YOUR LIVES with my blessing. That's what I want. That's what she wanted. And that's exactly what she got. I hope she was cheering in heaven.