Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hugs and Handshakes

Well, it’s over. The funeral, that is. The people came – from EVERYWHERE, and there were lots of them! It was beautiful. The flowers were amazing, the order of service was perfect, the songs were moving, the speakers poignant, powerful, and even amusing at times. We all got to know Brian a little better over the past week, and that was expressed perfectly through the service.  His life meant so much to those of us closest to him, and to share that with others was an important part of telling him goodbye.

Sunday was really a nice day. It was still hard, but I went to bed satisfied that I had done all I could do, and I was pleased with the outcome. I survived church, without too much heartache. I actually never saw our volunteer coordinator (who is ½ my size) that literally held me up last week. I saw her husband, but since we were there as attendees and not volunteers, our paths just didn’t cross. The message (as always) was directed right to me, and I really enjoyed the worship set. It was just what I needed! My parents came, too, so it was as if things were right, even if it was just for one hour. Emma and Lara liked showing off the new feathers in their hair, and I enjoyed telling my Mommy friends that I didn’t pay salon prices for those, I ordered them off the dang ole internet and did it myself for a fraction of the price! After church, a group of relatives arrived from Kansas, and we had lunch at Mexico Joe’s. That afternoon, family gathered at my parents’ house, we had a sandwich dinner, then shortly after 6 we headed for the funeral home.

We greeted guests at the funeral home from 6:30 to 8:30. It was precious. Several of Brian’s childhood friends were there, my parents’ longtime friends, relatives, Stillwater residents, and KIDS. I had my 3, my cousin from New York City had her 6 month old son and my cousin from Kansas had her 4 month old son. It was refreshing. Even my childhood best friend and her parents came, too. It was sad, it was tearful, and it was perfect. The video (which will be posted soon) was playing in the main receiving living room are of the funeral home, as well as in the room where Brian’s casket was. I think everyone enjoyed seeing his life in pictures. There were tears, smiles, laughter, memories, stories, hugs, handshakes, and healing.

That night my house was full. The Twisters shared one twin bed in their room, while a cousin slept in the other twin bed in their room. Another cousin (sister of the first) slept in Jake’s twin bed with a pack and play set up in the room for her 4 month old son. My son’s dreams came true as he got to sleep in the king bed in our room smack dab between Britt and me. (He had some kid of dream at 3:30 am and it caused his body to jerk really hard, then he reached out and grabbed me – startled me so bad I had a hard time going back to sleep!) We had to coordinate showers for 8 people to make sure we were all ready for Monday’s activities, but it was GREAT to feel the house so alive.

Monday morning, we got up and got everyone around. Britt made biscuits and gravy, I got to hold the baby A LOT, and my kids did the best they could to be good in a chaotic situation. I had a tiny shoe emergency, and at 9:30 one cousin and I went in town to shop and get me some shoes. By 11, we had all made it out to my parents’ house. The parents of the 2 cousins at my house were staying with my parents. While we were there, more family members showed up, and we enjoyed talking, sharing and taking pictures and trying to be strong before it was time to head to the church.

I want to thank the people of First Baptist Church for the lunch. Not only was the food delicious and served with love, the room was decorated so nicely and everyone was so kind and helpful. When we first got there, Brother Tim Walker (pastor) had a few things to go over with Britt and I as far as the services were concerned, and then we received more family and ate our lunch while talking about my brother and the events of this week.

The service itself it always beyond words. It was so beautiful, and so perfect. We sang “He Lives” as a congregation, my sweet friend Beth sang “It Is Well” a capella, we heard “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy me with the video, and “Cry Out to Jesus” by Third Day at the end. There was a time for people to come up and speak, so I started that off. I reflected a little about my brother and the ways I am going to miss him, and I shared a sweet message a sorority sister of mine sent to me. Then, I read a Brian Ricker Top Ten of sorts that were memories from a college friend who could not attend. One of the pall bearers got up and spoke about the Brian he knew from high school. It was so touching – the whole thing.

The front row started like this: Me, Britt, Jake, Lara, Emma, Brian’s ex-wife, his daughter, Kayleigh, my mom, my dad, his sister Shelley, and I think my grandma and her husband ( I couldn’t see down that far). And I was so lucky to have my cousin Jane from New York right behind me in the next pew – it was a great comfort to feel her hand reach out and touch me several times during the service. Jake pretty quickly migrated down to sit by his favorite cousin and fellow 4 year old, Kayleigh, and my girls ended up down there at some point as well – Emma was on a lap (I think my dad’s) for quite a while too. I mention all this because of how adorable and sweet it was to watch Jake and Kayleigh act, react, and interact during the service. During the video they were gasping and pointing saying, “Look! There’s me!” and “Look, there’s your Daddy” or “There’s Uncle Brian.” They were so excited! They took the offering envelopes and wrote each other notes and drew pictures for the adults near them. They talked and smiled and were just plain precious. We did remind them to be quiet a couple of times – once during a prayer, but they were doing the best 2 energetic 4 year old who haven’t seen each other in a while can be. I just remember looking down the row and thinking “There shouldn’t have to be babies at a funeral.”

The graveside portion of the service was wonderful as well. Aside from the 92 degree temperature. One pall bearer from the state of Washington, 2 from Colorado – I bet they thought they were melting. The preacher spoke a few words and Beth led the group in “Amazing Grace.” The family received guests, and then the crowd started to disperse. My courageous, smart, curious and tenacious 4 year old was determined to see the casket lowered in to the ground. During the last few minutes out at the site, both my husband and my father had asked the funeral director if we could stay for that, and he kind off brushed us off saying they usually did that after everyone left. But, I also think he didn’t want to see my son throw a fit, so I asked one more time, and they let us stay and watch. Jake was FASCINATED, and once he was satisfied, we headed home.

I think one of the most interesting observations I’ve had over the last few days – aside from the adorable way Jake and Kayleigh act together – was that hugs are much like handshakes. I’ve never been much of a hugger. Close friends, family, and of course my husband and kids. But, I have received, WELCOMED even, many hugs over this past week. And hugs come in all shapes and sizes. I even got an amazing full on frontal squeeze from a noted “side hugger” who will remain nameless that really made my day yesterday! Some people hold you, some people pat you, some people are in and out in a few seconds, some take hold and want to never let go. Some squeeze, some just barely touch, but they all LOVE. Thank you so much for all the hugs (and handshakes) we have received. And, all the love.


  1. Okay....a few things. I love that you wrote out all the details of the past few days. You will treasure it when you look back. I love that you have the memories of family staying with you. A packed house with kids everywhere, sharing beds, sleeping on the floor, Britt making breakfast for everyone, etc. When I've gone through situations of losing someone, I have felt guilty for having a "good time" or being happy when I'm so sad. I'm so thankful that God gives us blessings and things that we can laugh about and good times to remember in the midst of hurt! I love that He clearly makes Himself known as we go through trials.

    Yesterday was so beautiful. I was blessed and humbled to be at a church that wasn't my home and have watch them serve a family that is hurting. Humbled to sit with you, Britt and the kids and enjoy spending time with you. Humbled by your family who was so loving towards me. Humbled to meet Bro. Walker and talk to him about life. Humbled to sit in that choir loft and experience the love and admiration so many people had for this incredible man. Humbled to watch his daughter who is madly in love with her daddy (and then quickly look away b/c I couldn't cry right before I sang). Humbled as I watched friends love your family. Thank you for letting me be a part of this day. I was truly blessed!

    I know that it feels like its "over". Once the funeral has passed, friends have a tendency to "forget" that life is hard. This first year seems to always be the worst. I know that the years to come will bring moments and seasons that your brother will be deeply missed and you will cry at what he's missing....and what you are missing with him not being there. But, this first year brings many new "firsts" that you will go through without him. Some will be expected (holidays) and there will probably be many that aren't. Know that I will be continue to pray for you and your family every time God brings it to mind!

    Love your family so much!!!!

  2. Beth - thanks for your comment! It means a lot to me and to our family. you are amazing!