Thursday, January 19, 2012

Part 14 - Procession

July 25, 2002 ~ 10:00 a.m. or so......

Jim has just delivered his eulogy and Joseph has played "The
Cathedral" - the final tribute to Joseph Michael Hanlein, Jr., the
attendees have spoken their accolades. The family is gathered around
the about-to-be-closed casket for their final goodbye.  Joe's father
cannot come to the casket for the final goodbye.  I am practically
crawling in the casket with him - so afraid to let him go!!

I stumble outside to feed my nicotine addiction... there are dozens of
cars lining up and there in front is a Constable from the state of
Tennessee or the jurisdiction of Jackson, Tennessee.  I can't figure
it out....

As we leave George A. Smith & Sons Funeral Home in Jackson, TN headed
to Cushman, AR suddenly we are surrounded by 4 or 5 Tennessee State
Troopers on Motorcyles.  The Tennessee version of CHIPS!!  They
practically run the constable off the road and take over the funeral
procession.  At each and every exit and on-ramp along I-40 they stop
traffic so the procession can progress unencumbered.  When we reached
the bridge spanning "Old Man River" from Memphis, TN to West Memphis,
AR the TN highway patrol passed the procession on to the Arkansas
State Police - that was halfway across the bridge.  From that point on
at each and every county line in Arkansas another law enforcement
escort took up the duty of escorting Joe to his final resting place -
one in front, one in back..  The trip is 218 miles and takes about 5
hours.  A long an grueling day.

As we came around the curve and made the decent from the top of the
mountain in Batesville, AR, across the White River and down into the
town the traffic had been stopped at each and every intersection.  As
the hearse passed through with the procession in tow a police car fell
into place at the end of the procession.  It continued until we had
reached the cemetary a few miles outside of town.  As I got out of the
car there were "blue lights" flashing for miles behind us.  Or so it

OMG!!  Up on the hill in the cemetary there must have been 500 people
who had been waiting for hours in the wretched heat......  As the
procession came to a halt an Honour Guard from the Marine Corps
appeared from  nowhere.  They carried the casket to the freshly dug
grave.  Christ!!  This thing is about over and my physical contact
with my only child is about to come to an end.......  Jesus.  NO!!  I
cannot go on living knowing that my beloved child is relegated  to the
cold, hard earth forever!

Just as I'm about to freak out someone in the distance starts playing
"Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes.  Then there is a 21 gun salute that
startled the hell out of me..... and then taps!  Jesus... this is
fucking surreal.  This is absolutely not happening in my life.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

part 13

The curtain is drawn between the congregation and the casket..... the family has one last time to view the deceased.  All of us (family) glide by the casket not really knowing what we are suppose to do.  It is part of the show.  I just about crawl into the casket as I know that this is the last time that I will see my son.  The casket is closed.  We all meander outside to our vehicles to form the line for the procession to the burial place over 200 miles away..... of  course there are a number of people who will not be going to the burial place in Arkansas.  Remember, the funeral is in Jackson, Tennessee and the burial is in a little Podunk town in Arkansas.....
As we leave the funeral home there is the local constable leading the procession.   As we merge onto Route 40 West toward Memphis there are a number of Tennessee motorcycle patrol officers who fall in line with the procession.  We have leaders, those in the middle and those bringing up the rear.  I'm astonished!!  There is no way at all to explain the finesse that these officers showed.  The honor they displayed.  The camaraderie that they displayed.  All along Route 40 West to the bridge that spans the  Mississippi we were escorted by the highway motorcycle patrol.  As we passed into the state of Arkansas the procession was picked up by local law enforcement teams..... e.g. the local sheriffs departments.  And with each and every Arkansas county we traveled through we were passed on to the local deputies at the county line.  As we came around the curve from the mountain into the town of Batesville, AR (5 hours later) all of the local law enforcement vehicles had the traffic lights stopped.  As the procession moved through town the police cars fell into place to form a long line of official vehicles.  As we pulled into the cemetery the police vehicles fell into place....... all of the officers disembarked from their cars to form a line around the burial site.
Enough for tonight...... not long before this is finished.  Thank you for caring.  Thank you for listening.  Thank you for being you...!!
All my love to you both ~ Ann

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Laura's prayer and Ann's poem

Oddly enough after a fantastic weekend with DeeDee and my special little munchkins and a couple of visits with my mother and then capping the weekend off with attending a Donor Remembrance ceremony in Baltimore yesterday, I am feeling extraordinarily fragile!  Just a brief explanation of the Donor Remembrance ceremony - my husband, Jim, had a liver transplant in May of '96.  We were honored just a couple of years later to meet his donor's husband and have maintained a loving relationship with him to this day.  Anyway, Angelo (the donor's husband) has attended the "ceremony" religiously for the last 15 years.  After Jim's transplant, Jim became a devoted advocate of organ donation and eventually became the Community Liaison for the Transplant Resource Center of Maryland and spoke publically for a number of years on behalf of organ donor programs throughout the world.  Angelo and I attended this year together....  It is a very emotional and spiritual event.  It honors all the families (and the donors themselves) who donated their loved ones much needed organs.  I think one reason that I feel fragile after this event is that my Joe was an organ donor and believed wholeheartedly in organ donation, the gift of life.  Unfortunately, none of the four people who died in the crash could be organ donors.  It's a very complicated process and often misunderstood - another story for another time.  Anyway......... Joe and Kim (Laura's mom) were divorced when Laura was not quite 2 years old.  Kim remarried a wonderful fellow, Chris, and he and Joe became steadfast friends.  Joe was enormously comfortable with Chris being Laura's step dad and the new families (Joe & Janet & kids) often did things together beginning with Joe and Janet's courtship!  Pretty cool, huh?  Okay - going to fix another JD and seltzer and then  I'm going to share "Laura's Prayer" that Jim read at Joe's funeral.  Jim delivered the eulogy!  Joseph played "The Cathedral".  I just sat in a trance.........
Laura's Prayer
Dear God, thank you for letting me and Bayli and Jessica be in the world right now.
I know that daddy would have wanted it to be this way for me and Bayli to be okay.
I have one little question to ask:  If you can, tell my daddy that me and Bayli love him with all our hearts, and me and Bayli will be there beside him someday and he won't have to worry about us being apart.
Thank you, God, for everything you have done in the last few days for me and everybody else.
Daddy, you don't have to worry about not being there for me 'cause I still have one daddy and I love him like I love you.  He may not be my real daddy but he feels like it.

Ann's poem
Shards of broken glass lay upon the damaged pavement.  Blood stains lay upon the fractured souls.  A dream shattered.  A lifetime of hope gone.  What lies ahead is unknown.  Lives are changed.  Hope for the future is demolished.  Survival is paramount.   And, thus, begins the journey.  The journey into the unknown.  The journey into the deep abyss.  The journey that slowly, methodically sucks the life out of your soul.  The journey that must be travelled to begin the ascent back to normalcy again.!  Year after painful year......

pictures of Joe and family

My dear, dear Leslie.......
As you well know by now Brevity is not my middle name........ I've scanned some pictures of Joe and I wanted to show you some various and assorted times of his life.  Joe was very aloof (as I am) but probably had a better time than most when he finally let his hair down.  He is (was) his mother's child!!  It is important to me that you see him in various and assorted times of his life.......  I will itemize them with a little explanation so you can kind of fit the pieces together.
1.  Joe playing hockey in his junior year of high school ~ 1984 ~ I think I misnamed the file when I saved it.
2.  Joe in 1986 in the USMC
3.  Joe aboard the Iwo Jima (helicopter carrier) Mediterranean Sea - north coast of Africa 1987.  I love this ethereal picture!
4.  Joe and the girls Cristmas 2001
5.  The new family... from left.  Janet's dad (he died of cancer 6 mos. after the crash), Jessica,  Andrew, Cameran, Janet, Joe - father's day '02 - one month before the crash.
6.  Bayli Hanlein - gymnastics 18 months after the crash.  The motor mouth and most flamboyant one of the group.
7.  Laura Ann Hanlein - Joe's first born - Senior pictures... she is her father's child. She is the most modest and has no clue about her inner or outer beauty!
8.  Just before the crash - Joe played in the Memphis Open - he was an avid golfer and started playing when he was around 8 years old.  the summer of his death he was teaching Bayli to play - she was 7 years old
9.  Joe when he was promoted to Lt. and put in charge of the county jail.....
10.  Joe's comments after promoted to Lt.
As you can well imagine I've imagined Joe to be bigger than life since his death.  I think that is a somewhat normal response.  He was a mere mortal.  He was of somewhat average intelligence.  He was so damned good looking.  Even though he was somewhat average.... he always gave more than 100% of himself.  He threw himself wholeheartedly into everything he did.  Sometimes he failed.  Sometimes he won.  It didn't matter to him.  He always gave it his best.  I think that's the thing I'm proudest about.  He didn't care if he won or lost as long as he tried his best!  Beside that... he was a great father.  He loved his children with all his heart (as I loved him).  If he had to have a favorite it would have been Bayli..... she needed him more.  He felt more responsible toward her because of her mother's shortcomings!  Laura's  mother was much more responsible and took her role as a mother much more seriously than Bayli's mom.  So..... Bayli and Joe were much closer  in the parent/child relationship.
Oh hell..... I've got to sign off for now.
Ciao my friends

part 12

We're busy as a beehive...... switching things from trunk to trunk.  The bulk of Joe's things (his personal belongings that I want)  will be brought back to Maryland by Tom and Joe's friend, Paul Renshaw,  who had driven to Tennessee.  Jim's brother, Clyde, who is a long-haul truck driver had his dispatcher reroute him to Jackson, TN but he had to park his rig outside of town at a truck stop.  Tom had to pick him up.  Tom had been ferrying people around for the last few days.  There are so many things to do..... so many people trying to coordinate these last couple of hours/days.  Poor DeeDee had an appointment at her fertility clinic at 7:00 a.m the next day in Gaithersburg, MD, so she knew that she would not be able to drive the 5 hours to the burial site.  I insisted that she continue with her plans.  I knew, too, that my mother would never be able to make it through the funeral, then a 5 hour drive to the burial and then 2 hours back to the nearest airport!!  That's too much even for the heartiest souls - a hell of a lot of people did it though! It was amazing how many people traveled from Batesville, AR to Jackson, TN and back again.  The funeral is set for 10:00 a.m.
We arrive at the funeral home.  Somehow - I can't remember how - we managed to walk in and be seated in the L shaped wing reserved for family members (kind of an old fashioned thing I think).  Fortunately I could see the entire congregation of people........
The first person to open the ceremony - or proceedings - I don't have a clue what it's really called is a step-relative who is a devout Christian and a lay minister who lives right outside of Jackson, TN.  I knew from the beginning that I would ask Jack.  I have known him since he served in Vietnam - not intimately - but a part of the "step" family.  I sure wanted a "man of the cloth" but not a freakin' Bible slapper that I knew nothing about.  When I met with Jack the night before the funeral I told him right up front "no hellfire and brimstone bullshit".  My mother just about passed out~:)  Joe was a Christian (on the same lines as I am~:) and I wanted an ethereal tone but nothing too radical!  So...... Jack did an amazing opening of the service. 
Early on Jim had agreed to do the eulogy.  Tom positively stated that he couldn't do it.  I knew I couldn't (sorry now that I didn't).  Jim stepped up to the plate.  Jim was an eloquent speaker and had spent years publicly speaking so it was a natural for him, albeit incredibly emotional.
When Jack was done, Jim stepped up to the podium.  He had been up all night putting the finishing touches on the eulogy and I had proofed it.  Sometime I'll share that with you.  It was honorable, upbeat, funny at times, and profoundly accurate.  Joe would have loved it. 
I think when Jim was done with the eulogy was when Guitar Joe played "The Cathedral".  After that Jim invited the guests to speak.  People in the South had never heard of a funeral service that became a "celebration of life" event.  At first when Jim invited anyone who had something they wanted to share about Joe to get up and speak the whole place was silent.  After a couple of minutes one person stood up.  Then another, then another, then another.... pretty soon there must have been at least 40 or 50 people who stood and shared a memory of Joe.  I had to laugh because as distraught as DeeDee was, after a few people spoke she got up and told the story about what a pain in the ass Joe was when he was little but how she came to love him~:)
One of his friends from Easton read a prayer.  The step-fathers of his daughters told about their friendship with Joe and how they admired him.  Someone who he had bought a little trailer from on a little piece of land told how proud he was of "his new house".  The place was a shambles but Joe immediately painted the shutters and planted flowers.  A man in his 50's told about how Joe gave him a job and believed in him - Joe gave him a second chance at life.  A wonderful fellow who was of the darker persuasion (remember we're still in the South) stood up and told about how Joe believed in him, hired him and gave HIM a chance, which changed his life.  This went on for a long, long time.  Once the first person stood to speak it was as if everyone there needed to tell their story about what Joe meant in their life.   It was so awesome and I was totally honored.  I'm only sorry that I didn't have the opportunity to record it all.
Okay you guys...... death by words!  I had no freakin' clue that on the funeral day I would have so much to say! 
The journey from Jackson, TN to Pleasant Valley Cemetery in Cushman, AR (right outside of Batesville, AR) is a whole other story for another day.
Bless you both and thank from the bottom of my heart.  What I have written over the last couple of weeks is virginity at it's finest.  Not one other soul has ever heard the intimate details.  Not one other soul has ever cared to hear it all.  All of the people who profess to be my friends never, ever want me to talk about "it"!!  It is too scary for them.  Let's just sweep it under the rug and then it has never happened. 
Just so you both know...... even my own husband didn't really want to know how I felt.  Either he couldn't deal with it or he cared more about how it effected him rather than me.  Oh well.... that's life in the fast lane!! 
Help me I'm talking and I can't stop!!  ~:)

part 11

It's early morning the day of the funeral and we are trying to get organized..........  I have Joe's suitcase in the hotel room.  One of his friends who drove from Easton is going to take some of the stuff back with him.  We had piled the trunks of both rental cars full (ours & Tom's) when we went to his and Janet's home the day we chose the clothes for the funeral.  I remember trying to gather the suitcase together to pass it along to the friend who was going to take it "home" for us.  The zipper was broken and it was full of glass.  Joe's cologne wafted up out of it..... it smelled so much like him!  The fragrance lingered for months and I used to snuggle up close and sniff.  Curve is the name of the cologne.....
For the last two or three days Joe's friends on the sheriff's department back in his hometown in Arkansas (where the children still lived and where the burial was going to be) had been in constant communication with us.  They wanted to help plan the events and we gratefully acquiesced!  The burial was going to be a 5 hour drive from the funeral home and there was only so much we could do alone!
I somehow managed to get dressed in the black skirt and newly purchased black blouse adorned with Joe's Captains bars and his dog tags.  I have to look back and laugh....... I only had brought knee-high stockings and the skirt had slits up the sides that exposed the tops of the stockings.  I probably looked like the Granny from hell~:)  I probably should have stripped the damned stockings off - it was 100 fucking degrees that day!!
I just decided that I can't finish this right now................. sorry.  Too, too much emotion.  I can't crash and burn right now!! 
Ciao my friends ~ Ann

part 10

Wednesday 24 July '02 - Jackson, TN


Ann Hundertmark

 to melgrussel
show details Apr 23 (8 days ago)
Somehow we've managed to get through another day.  We've been on the phone nonstop.  I never realized I knew so many people.  The "viewing" is scheduled for this evening - Laura's 11th birthday.  I had not packed anything appropriate to wear to Joe's funeral so Jim and I called a cab and set out for a little shopping center not far from our hotel.  Somehow we stumbled through the store and for some odd reason that I've never figured out we couldn't find a phone number to call a cab to come back for us.  We were just wandering in a dazed state....... Jim finally spotted a police car cruising the parking lot and flagged it down.  The officer gave us a ride back to the hotel.  By this time everyone in the state of Tennessee had seen the news over and over and over.  Everyone we came in contact with was so kind and sympathetic!  By now the hotel was filling up with friends and family who had traveled to Tennessee to pay their respects.  I was practically comatose and recall very little of the next few days.  But, what I do recall is incredibly vivid!
We arrive at the funeral home around 7 or so............ I remember so many people waiting outside.  It was amazing there were so many people considering we were all so far from home.  Of course it dawned on me later and the next day at the funeral itself that Joe had lived and worked in that area for a number of years and knew so many people.  Everyone was waiting until I arrived and, respectfully, waited to enter until I had had a chance to see Joe for the first time!!!  Jim again instructed Tom on how to hold my arm in case I fainted.........
It is so strange.  When we got to the door leading into the "parlor" where Joe was I felt almost as if I ran to his casket.  I had to get to him, to hold him, to love him, to let him know that I was there and he was no longer alone.  Jim told me later that I barely was able to walk and yet I felt as if I had run like the wind...  There was my only child, my little boy turned man, lying in sweet repose with eyes closed, never to open them again to look at me with love.  Never to look at me with a little twinkle.  Never to look at me in all seriousness.  Never to look at me with worry or pride or anything else.  Never!  That is a long, long time. 
It was simply amazing how things had come together through concerned people working in the background.  Of course Joe's friend, Mike, had FedEx the dress blues which were prominently displayed on some type of mannequin.  Joe's high school sweetheart, Jackie, and her sister had put together a number of collages to be displayed.  The pictures were beautiful and all of his high school years.  One of his dear friends from Easton had brought them.  My neighbor and dear friend had gone through my house and had gathered certain pictures and things and had sent them FedEx to the funeral home.  It looked like a proper tribute to a fallen hero.  The number of floral arrangements was mind boggling.  It is simply amazing how all of this came together so beautifully hundreds of miles from home in a strange town amongst strangers.  All of it done by friends who cared!
I cannot for the life of me begin to imagine how many people came and went that night for the two hours of visitation.  I well remember trying with all my might to talk to each and every one and express my gratitude that they came to honor my child.  Forever etched in my memory is my dear, dear friend, Maxwell, who traveled from St. Louis to pay his respects.  He sat with his wife looking as if it were his own child lying there.  He was so profoundly saddened that I wanted to reach out and comfort him.  Then there was my little DeeDee trying so hard to take care of my mother and stepfather and at the same time being so kind to everyone who came, all the while dealing with her own grief and shock. 
I kept hovering over the casket touching Joe. His face had some bruising but was perfect otherwise.  I swear I almost crawled in there with him.  I couldn't keep my hands off him.  I also was puzzled why the three white roses that I wanted placed in his hands were just laying beside him.  I had put a lot of pictures in the casket with him.  I even had DeeDee bring a picture of my father who had died almost 30 years before that.  I wanted Joe to take with him pictures of everyone he loved so he would never be alone.  Jim and Tom kept steering me away from the casket every time I touched Joe....... the "hands" thing kept nagging at me.  Why weren't his hands placed like all other people that I'd seen in a casket?  His hand weren't even showing.  I found out much later that there wasn't much left - according to the funeral director it was the worst he had ever seen and he had told Jim and Tom to keep me from touching him.  I guess he was afraid that what little was left would fall apart!!   We were so lucky to be able to have an open casket. 
I think this is the hardest part for me......... Joe loved his body and he honored it.  From the time he was a tiny child he instinctively knew that his body was a miraculous creation and deserved to be treated as such.  As a young teenager he started working out with weights.  He played all sports.  He always ate correctly.  He got enough rest.  Once he joined the Marine Corps he became even more fixated on his physique.  After the Marine Corps and while in law enforcement he was a semi-pro body builder and competed at a state level.  He was damned good looking, proud of it and strutted his "stuff"!!~:)  To think that his body was totally destroyed in the blink of an eye is more than I can bear.  It is one of the rare occasions that I must believe in Heaven as other people believe.  There are no injuries, there are no cripples, there are no missing limbs - everyone is whole.
I have never, ever disclosed this to another soul.  Jim took this to the grave with him.  DeeDee has no clue.  No one would want to know the horrific details because they wouldn't be able to deal with it.  It is my silent secret that just kills me.  Why oh why oh why??
Eighteen months later at the trial of the drunk driver and in communicating with the officers of the Critical Incident Response Team this would be confirmed - again!!
Phew!!  I think that is all I can do tonight...... 
Thank you my friends.  This is cathartic and I will finally begin to heal.  The telling of the story in whole will be my salvation!
With love ~ my arms are wrapping around you both with a big, warm hug.

part 9

Sunday 21 July '02 - Memphis, TN
ann h


Ann Hundertmark

 to me
show details Apr 5
We have all arrived at Joe and Janet's new home.... the cousin/attorney, Janet's mom & dad, and the four of us - Tom, Jim, Joe,Sr. and me.  We walk into the home.  On a chair in the living room is a teddy bear.  I pick it up and it starts reciting "Now I lay me down to sleep".  Jesus!  Everyone turns and looks totally spooked.  The house is spooky and we are even  more so!  Janet's parents are pathetic.  They have lost their daughter, two grandsons and their only granddaughter is in critical condition.  Holy Jesus how could this be happening??  We all have a mission.........choosing appropriate funeral clothes.
Joe, Sr. starts going through Joe's closet and chooses a suit that he had bought him when he left law enforcement and took a "real" job - that is according to his fucked up father who couldn't identify with a son who chose law enforcement as a career!  His father never recognized anything he did until he became a white collar worker.  My anger will come out occasionally as you will see....  I'm getting pissed off as I write this~:) 
When it came to choosing socks, shoes  and underwear his father picked a pair of tightie whities out of Joe's dresser drawer.  I told him "Joe doesn't wear underwear like that.  So "we" chose a pair of bikini type underwear.  Joe had at one point earlier in his life modeled, and underwear was one of the things he did! ~:)  How positively stupid all of this seemed to me.  I was on the verge of regurgitating constantly because I was so freakin'  undone!  In my mind there was no way that this could be happening.  Nothing this bad happens to people! 
In the meantime Janet's parents are in the children's room (Andrew & Cameron) and they are trying to pick out clothes for the boys to be buried in.  I went to try to help.  It was so pathetic.  There was a little shoe here and a little shoe there and the going through dresser drawers...... Christ!  Help me!
Finally, at long last, we were done. "We", my group of four, went to check into a local motel where we would spend the next couple of days.  Most of the next couple of days are a blur.  I know there were a  number of phone calls.  One night we went out to eat and there was a group of motorcycle riders at the restaurant.  I went into the ladies room and one of the "gals" was there.  I poured my heart out to her.  I came back to the table where Tom, Jim and Joe, Sr. were sitting and proudly announced that I had found a "dyke on a bike".  Whatever~:)  Next thing I know the guys (Tom, Jim and Joe, Sr.) were hustling me out of the restaurant and taking me back  to the hotel.  I think I probably just fucking lost it!!  I was crying and screaming hysterically.... "Oh my God, not my Joe.  Not my baby.  Not my son."
Okay... I think that's enough for today....

part 8

God, don't run from the room covering your eyes and ears.......  I told you that you had opened  can of worms!  Just one more thing before I  go to la la land ~  After my last missive I decided to open the box.  The box is the sacred place where all of the sympathy cards and what not have been stored for over 8 years.  Oh my God.... I've been reading the cards.  Most of them I've forgotten or never had it together enough early on to even appreciate or acknowledge them.  It is most amazing and exquisitely beautiful what people wrote.  How in the world could I have "stuffed" all of that??  Anyway..... on top of the pile in the magic box was the memorial tract that was given out at Joe's funeral.  I knew when I chose it that it said all that I believed in without reference to "God".  That was my choice and I was adamant about it! This is it....
Many waters I have sailed
throughout the voyage of life
over waters tranquil
free of pain and strife
Sometimes tossed in raging storms
though never left alone
There was a light that beckoned me
Toward the Shores of home
Always in the distance
this beacon I could see
Giving me direction
As I sailed up life's sea
My journey is completed now
The tide is drifting in
My vessel moves on gentle waves
Eternity begins...

part 7

Part 2 of the Funeral Home event........ Sunday 21 July '02
ann h


Ann Hundertmark

 to me
show details Apr 2
Here we are in the casket showroom.....  I have at some point been told that we could have an open casket for which I'm eternally grateful.  If that had not been the case I would have insisted on seeing Joe anyway.  I brought him into this world and I needed to say a proper goodbye.  I needed to kiss him, love him, touch him and hold him.  He is my child, my only child.
I kept gravitating toward the shiny, sleek looking caskets for some reason.  I guess if my child has to be shot off to Heaven without a moments notice it might as well be in something that resembles a spaceship.  Tom reels me back in and suggests that Joe was an oak type of guy.  There right in front of us is a lovely, burnished oak coffin with a masculine looking lining and pillow.  The shopping trip is over and not a moment too soon.  I'm feeling really weak.  So........ now it's time to choose the flowers and the music.  I cannot for the life of me remember the flowers I chose (I think it was something in red, white and blue)  , but I did decide to have his coffin draped with the American flag and the main floral thing displayed on a stand.  I requested three white rose buds to be placed in his hands to represent the three surviving innocent young children.  The music that was chosen was Amazing Grace, The Battle Hymn of the Republic and the Navy Hymn - in deference to Jim even though the Marine Corps (Joe was in the Marine Corps for 6 years) is part of the Department of the Navy!  I look back now and realize that Joe, Sr. had virtually no input.  I made all of the decisions.  But then again I was the one who raised my child by myself from the time he was five years old.  His father was a weekend "Disneyland" dad.
As we came out of the funeral home there was the attorney/cousin of Janet's.  In the trunk of his car were all of the little suitcases that had been recovered from the crash site.  Amongst the belongings were Joe's custom made Titanium golf clubs.  He had just had them made a couple of months before he played in the Memphis Open not long before his death.  He had a golf date here with my accountant at a new course just a couple of miles from my house.  Joe was an avid golfer.  He started playing when he was 8 or 9 years old!  Anyway...... there will be many times that I'll get off the beaten track as thoughts and little facts come to me.
We start sorting through the stuff and of course I knew which bag was Joe's.  Then Bayli's because the little girl clothes were so small.  Andrew's and Cameron's was easy.  Janet's mom and dad had already claimed hers.  When it came to the last two I remember saying when we looked in Jessica's "this can't be Laura's, she would never wear shoes like that".  So we claimed what was "ours" and put everything in the trunk of Tom's rental car.
Now we are off to Memphis to Joe and Janet's home to try to choose clothes for Joe to be buried in.  Janet's mom and dad were with the cousin/attorney leading the way in his car. They, too,  have clothes to be chosen..................on the journey we pass the site of the crash.  An hour and a half later we pull up in front of Joe and Janet's new home (they haven't even finished unpacking).  On the front lawn are ribbons, balloons, teddy bears and a plethora of memorial things that friends, neighbors, church people and strangers have brought.  The entire state of Tennessee is in a state of shock and mourning for this beautiful little family that the neighbors call the "Brady Bunch" that has met a horrific fate on a "trip to grandma's house".  That is how this event is dubbed over and over again in the news and even in the courtroom 18 months later. A trip to grandma's house.
It's funny... somehow I liken this to my first experience with marijuana when I was 25 or so.  I'm stoned.  I'm having an out-of-body experience.  I'm hovering and looking below at the events.  Surrealism at it's finest! 
Thank you again for letting me tell my story.  Not so much for "letting" me, but for caring enough to listen........