A year ago a limousine sent by Mike’s company showed up in front of our house to take us to our daughter’s funeral.

I climbed in the back, carefully smoothing my purple dress so it wouldn’t get wrinkled, and then realizing how ridiculous that was. I stared out the window and thought, “I can’t wait to take Maddie in a limo!” And then I remembered.

I wore a set of gold bracelets that she loved to play with, even though they clanged and made lots of noise. In the pocket of my dress I had the first hat she ever wore from the day she was born.

We arrived at the church early, and looked at how the pictures and Madeline’s things had been arranged.

Maddieshrine Three

La-Z-Moozer

Maddie's Piano

We then sat in a room in the back while we waited for everyone to arrive. We walked out right before the service started. I stared at my feet as we walked to our seats in the front row.

I looked up when I heard chuckling, and I realized the laughter was at a funny picture of Maddie from the pre-service slide show.

The service started, and I listened to the celebrant, then my dad, Mike’s dad, my brother, and Mike. As it came closer to my turn to speak, I started to feel sick to my stomach. My body felt cold and my legs felt like jell-o. I clutched her Abby doll close and walked up to the podium.

Abby

Podium

I looked out at the crowd and was amazed by all the people.

Front Chapel Wide

four purple ribbons

Somehow I managed to address the crowd.

After the service there was a beautiful balloon release. The wind blew right when the balloons lifted into the air.

Gathering for Balloon Release

maddie's purple balloons.

As my balloon floated away, I wished that it could take me with it.

The reception after was a blur. So many people came, people I hadn’t seen in years, wonderful people. I didn’t eat, the food smelled both delicious and awful. There were a lot of hugs and tears. I didn’t cry. I couldn’t.

Many people told me how beautiful the reception was, and I wanted to say, “well, we don’t get to throw her a second birthday, or a sweet sixteen party, or a graduation, or a wedding. This is it.” Instead I said thank you, and gave credit to my wonderful friends that had handled everything.

We stayed until the sun was down, the cold wind blowing steadily. We stayed until the last person left, and then we got back in that limo and returned to our empty, quiet home.

all photos by the wonderful Casey

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