Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Until We Meet Again

Is it possible for someone to grieve over the loss of someone they have loved their entire life? My sister Amy and I can attest that this is true, even after 11 years since our fathers' death in 2001. Some may ask why we are so interested in our dad after all this time, but in truth, we have always wanted to know him, to talk to him, to put our arms around his neck and just say, "Daddy, I love you and always will." When our parents divorced I was only six years old and my sister was only eighteen months. We never had the chance to know our dad like so many daughters have the chance to do in their lives. As children growing up we were told lies. Lies that forever changed our lives. We were told that our dad didn't love us or he would want to be with us. To grow up thinking this all your life, is very traumatic for a child at any age. It changed the way we thought, the way we showed our emotions, and the way we showed our love to those around us. For me personally, it hardened my heart in a way that I cannot explain. 

Just recently I found out from my sister that dad did try to visit us but was told that he wasn't welcome there and he was forced to leave. (I think my mom was at work at the time, so if you are thinking it was her that told him to leave, you can just get that idea out of your head. She was shocked when I told her this new information. She had no idea that my dad and uncle Stewart had driven from Maryland to Florida to come see us, and only to be told to go back home.) So he left. I never seen him again since that day, even though I didn't know it was him standing on the front porch trying to look in. I believe he just wanted to see our faces just one time before he was forced to go. In the back of my mind, I knew someone had come to visit, but I didn't realize it was our dad. He was coming to see us! We never knew until decades later. Sometimes, and I speak for my sister Amy when I say this, "What would our life be like right now if only we were given the chance to truly know him?" I can only say that we wish things had turned out differently. To turn back the clock is an understatement. I would love to just start over, knowing what I know now, I think our relationship with our dad would have been quite different. It could have blossomed into something really special between us and our Cornett family.

Before dad's funeral our Aunt Evelyn called my sister, Amy, and told her she needed to come see dad because he wasn't doing well and should come to his bedside before he passed away. I wasn't able to go because I didn't have the money for plane fare, and I had no one I could ask for money except my husband at the time. Needless to say, I was told we didn't have the money. The one thing I asked for I couldn't have, which hurt me even more. I wanted to see my dad desperately but I couldn't. I felt trapped. I felt cheated. All I can remember is breaking down in tears and running back to my lonely bedroom and just thinking that this could have been the last moment I would ever get to spend with my dad. I don't know how long I cried, I just remember that I looked horrible with red, puffy eyes and a shiny,red nose that I probably could have passed for Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer's twin! I am glad my sister was able to pay her last respects even though I couldn't be there with her. 

The following is my sisters story, painted by her for me so that I could envision what it was like to be in her shoes while she visited with our Cornett family in Maryland and what the funeral service was like. 

Amy's Story

Amy With Grandma, Lucia Rose Cornett

I remember Aunt Evelyn calling me one afternoon, saying dad was in the hospital and he was not doing good at all. She said if I wanted to see him I should make it up there really soon. I was able to get a flight out, but a little too late as dad passed away the night before my flight. I got on my flight anyway; I just wanted to see him at least once. My flight landed in Baltimore, Maryland where Uncle Kyle and Aunt Evelyn were waiting for me. They held up a sign that said "Cornett" so I would know who they were. They seen me in pictures through the years, but had no idea what I looked like now, I was 21 or 22.

We left from the airport to Lucia's small but welcoming home and we were supposed to go to a funeral viewing of a lady, named Edith Cox. At first I wasn't exactly sure how we were related ( I figured we must be from Scotland or the lady from there because when we went to her funeral there were men dressed in Tartan plaid kilts and playing "Amazing Grace" on bagpipes.) It turned out that Edith Cox was my grandfather, Walter Allen Cornett Sr.'s sister.The men playing bagpipes was pretty neat to see in person. Not everyone can say that they went to a funeral where there was bagpipes playing. What a cultural treat even though it was for a sad occasion. Kyle and Evelyn waited for me in the car while I changed my clothes. I came out of Lucia's house with my shoes in hand because I was trying to hurry, when I got in the car Evelyn said " We sure can tell your Bill's daughter, because he would always walk around barefoot too". I went to the viewing where I met some of the family for the first time ever in my life. Everyone acted very excited to finally meet me and some I think were even surprised to see me and asked which daughter I was, Kelly or Amy?

I stayed with Kyle and Evelyn the few days I was there, they lived in Westminster,Maryland. They drove me around and showed me the hospital where I was born, the house we used to live in and where mom used to work. I also seen Amish people too which was kinda neat. Pennsylvania is really beautiful and I thought to myself that I wouldn't mind living there. 

I dreaded the day of dad's funeral because I would be seeing him for the first time but definitely not the way I wanted. When we got there I planned on sitting in the back of the Church, the preacher introduced himself to me and told me to sit in the front row next to Grandma Lucia. Everyone who came payed their respects, he had an open coffin and he was wearing a shirt and jean overalls, he looked exactly like in the pictures he sent to me.  There was a little girl standing next to me, she was around 7 years old I think. She asked me if I was Uncle Bill's daughter and I said yes and told her my name was Amy. She said dad was her favorite uncle, she had a stuffed frog which dad had given her and she put it on dad's chest and she said she wanted him to have it. We all sat down and the funeral service started. The preacher mentioned both our names at the funeral. I was so upset that day that I ended up running out of the service, crying. Uncle Greg followed me out and asked if I was okay and tried to console me the best he knew how.

After the ceremony, all the family gathered at Lucia's house for dinner. They had foods like macaroni and cheese, pasta salad, dinner rolls but I can't really remember what else we ate that day. Lucia, Martha, Evelyn, Sue and I sat at the table and they shared stories with me. They told me that he loved baseball and he watched it all the time; I think they said his favorite player was Cal Ripkin. They also shared stories about his epilepsy. 

The night of dad's funeral we (me, Kyle and Evelyn) spend the night at Lucia's house. I think it was because they didn't want to leave Lucia alone; we stayed up late talking about dad and they were telling me what he was like and that he thought of me and Kelly every day and was always talking about us. He would check the mailbox every day, excited when he got another letter from us in the mail. They explained how he came to have epilepsy, that there was an auto accident he was in when he was 18 years old, the car overturned and he hit his head. He had epilepsy ever since that accident; he was also on anti-seizure medication but still had seizures pretty much everyday. They would try to hold him down when he would have a seizure so he wouldn't hurt himself, but he was just too strong. We talked for a long time, for hours it seemed, about dad, about my life and they asked about Kelly and what she was doing now. They asked about mom too. They told me they really loved mom and they were sad when they split up so many years ago.

That night Lucia told me I could sleep in dad's room, so I did. When I went into the room I just looked around, I guess it was just so I could see if any of his belongings would tell me a little more about him. He had a simple room, a twin bed and a dresser with a mirror. On the dresser he had photos of me and Kelly and our children, ones that we sent him throughout the years. There was about four pictures altogether set in photo frames. I remember he had a small box of baseball cards that he had apparently collected. I lay in his bed for the longest time that night but I just couldn't fall asleep. When I finally did sleep, I was awakened by someone touching my shoulder and whispering my name, but when I looked around I saw no one was there. I know this probably sounds really weird but I thought it was dad, you know like his spirit or something there to tell me he loved me and he knew I was there. 

I left on my flight that morning, Kyle and Evelyn took pictures of me and Lucia and everyone that was there. Kelly, I'm pretty sure you know from doing your research we have a pretty big family on the Cornett side. Thee family kept telling me " I bet you didn't know you had such a big family". When I met everyone they remembered me, but for me It was like meeting them for the first time because I was so young I was only a year and a half when mom and dad split up. I had no memories of anyone, not even the one person that I would love to have at least one fond memory of. We all said our goodbye's and the family welcomed me to come back anytime.

This was really hard for me to write, I think I cried most of the way through it. I just wish things could have been different; I wish I could have met him. I would have been happy with at least meeting him one time, just so I could say I knew my father. I'm sure he remembered me but I don't have any memories of him at all. The only memory that I can fall back on is seeing him laying in that coffin and wishing I would have gotten there sooner. I wish we could just turn back the clocks and go back but I know that's impossible. He left this world too quickly and way before his time, but I know he is in a better place now. Up in heaven with God and in no more pain. I just hope somehow that he knew that I was there, that I did try to be there for him even though it was too late. I love him even though we never met really, and I will think of him everyday for the rest of my life. I love you Daddy! 

Not only was my sister's story hard to read without tears flowing freely, but it was also hard for me to write it. I appreciate the effort she has gone through to share this memory with me. I believe that we have grieved our fathers absence from our lives for so many years. We still grieve to this day. We will probably always grieve for our daddy but as the days pass, the pain hasn't diminished at all for either of us. For me, knowing that I never had any closure with him makes it that much more difficult to talk about without crying like a baby. I wanted to tell him that I know he loved us and my sister and I share that same love in return. I hope he knows this, looking down on us from heaven above. I wish I could turn back time too, but I also realize that it impossible to do. One day we will be with our dad again and  be united as a family once more. 

Until we meet again....