February 20-25, 2012 – The family Celebrates the Life of Jerry Tittle

The loss of a loved one…

It was Monday night, February 20th…  Mike and I were downstairs at Steve and Nancy’s, probably trying to figure out what we were going to have for dinner, and when my phone rang, Mike answered the call.  I had stepped outside and when I came back in Mike said it was my dad.  I said “Hi” and he told me that he wasn’t finished talking to Mike yet…  so I handed him back the phone.  Daddy asked for him to put it on speaker phone, so I did.  All this seemed a little weird…  then he asked if we were sitting down?  The first thing that came to my mind was that he had spoken to my son, because Tommy had just had a birthday and I had sent him a letter and thought maybe Tommy and Daddy had talked about it.

The words that I heard from the phone were ones that were hard to hear and even harder to believe…  “Jerry is Dead”.  I was numb…  they had just been out to visit a couple months ago and they were looking forward to coming back in the fall.  Jerry was working on getting his back rehabilitated from his accident and he was so hoping to be able to do a lot more on there next visit.

Wendy and Jerry had been spending the weekend at their place up by the Buffalo River, that they call “Graceview”.  It was their place to get away from all the hustle and bustle of the “Big City” life of Little Rock.  A place where there is only 60 miles of paved road in the whole county.  Their road is not one of those paved roads…  The way I understand it, neither Jerry nor Wendy were feeling too good, and Wendy was in the kitchen when she heard a thud from the bedroom.  He had fallen from their bed and on the way down to the floor he hit his head.  Wendy performed CPR on him for 45 minutes before the ambulance arrived.  He had gone into diabetic shock and they say he was probably dead before he even left the bed.

When I spoke to Wendy that night and she told me what happened… I didn’t know what to say.  “Are you ok?”  Why do words like that come out of people’s mouths?  Of course she wasn’t… but I didn’t know what else to say, but then I said “I’m Sorry”.  Those two words are almost as bad as the first… so non-comforting, so inadequate… nothing I said was going to make it better…  nothing I said was going to bring Jerry back.

Immediately after we hung up the phone, Mike was on the phone trying to make arrangements to get back home.  I was completely useless, I couldn’t believe what was happening…  this really hit me hard.  I think partially because he was such a kind and loving person, but also because I felt like I didn’t really know him that well.  Sure we had been family for years, he and Wendy met the year Mike and I were married in 2004 and then they were married in 2006.  Tommy played with Hayleigh and Brock in the summertime and we spent time together at the lake and camping.  It just seemed like I had missed something where he was concerned and in a way I felt guilty not knowing him better…

We flew home on Wednesday and Mom & Dad arrived at the airport to pick us up.  As soon as we could get there we were at the farm sharing hugs with Wendy and Daddy.  Wendy and Jerry had moved into the upstairs apartment where I use to live when I met Mike.  I was glad she was there, so Daddy could look over her and take care of her, because I couldn’t.  She wasn’t alone and that was comforting to me, a little…  We spent that afternoon talking about what happened and was going to happen and I told her I would be out the next morning to help her do whatever she needed me to do to help her.  She told me she needed to go shopping for some clothes for the services, and I guess that is one thing that I am pretty okay at!

The next day I arrived back at the farm and took care of some “technical” issues of scanning some pictures for the video that I wanted to make, and then when she was ready we were off.  The first stop was the church to take care of some issues regarding the memorial service.  Then we went to SONIC!  We don’t have those in Breckenridge and so when she asked me where I wanted to go to get some lunch… that was the first thing that went through my mind.  I know call me crazy…

We did our shopping and found her something to wear for the visitation and funeral… she didn’t really want to wear black, but she didn’t want people to get the wrong idea of her either.  So we found something a bit in between.  I think we found the perfect thing for her to wear…

She wanted to go by the funeral home to see if they had Jerry ready for viewing.  It really wasn’t time, but she really wanted to be able to see him before everybody else showed up and the funeral home also had some pictures that I needed to scan for my video.  When we arrived they said they had just finished and had him in the room.  The casket flowers had also arrived and it was nice to be able to see them for her approval.  The flowers were beautiful, but I could tell by the look on her face and the sound in her voice, that something wasn’t quite right.  I remember asking her if this was what she had ordered and she said, “Well…” and after a period of silence, “I thought it would be more woodsy!”  The funeral director said that he would get it fixed right away.  What it was…  was there were too many roses, and she had wanted there to be more sunflowers.  I was really glad I was there for her… at the funeral home, when she saw Jerry for the first time and also being able to spend some quality one on one time with her.

After leaving the funeral home we went back to the farm.  I had a few more photos that had to be scanned then we all had to get ready for the visitation.  We were staying at Mom & Dad’s and I had A LOT to do…

The visitation went well…  I thought.  I met some people that I had not met before, like Jerry’s Mom, Sister and his ex-wife, Hayleigh & Brock’s Mom.  When I was introduced to Mama Jean, she said to my dad, “Jack she is precious”, then daddy replied, “No she’s not!”  I thought that was funny!  Everybody knew me as the one who makes the cornbread.  I didn’t realize I was famous for my culinary skills… I thought that was even funnier.

The end of the visitation came and everyone had left, but Mike & I, Wendy and Jerry’s kids.  I was wanting everyone to leave, so Wendy could spend some time by herself, but the kids kept hanging around.  Of course I don’t blame them…  I just wanted Wendy to have her own private time to say goodbye.

It was late and I had a lot of work to do.  I had not even started the video and not having my computer with all my software was going to put a damper on my little project.  See my laptop that had the world of software on it, died on me the day before we found out that Jerry had passed.  So I was having to find software to install on Mom & Dad’s computer to get the job done.  I worked till about 1:30 putting this video together and setting it to music.  I had been smart enough to pick the music before we left home and I brought my external hard drive, the one  that stored all my music, with us.  I am not a complete dummy!

At 1:30 I hit the button to start rendering the video, keeping my fingers crossed that everything was going to work okay.  It said it had approximately 45 minutes till it was complete.  So I laid down and set my alarm for an hour.  2:30 the alarm goes off and I check the computer…  it said 1-1/2 more hours left till completion.  So I set my alarm again for 4am.  Alarm goes off again and I check my video…  45 more minutes to go.  This time I set it for 6am and prayed that it finished okay.  I have made, I don’t know how many, videos over the years.  Special videos for birthdays, Christmas, anniversary’s, you name it.  But I have never been so nervous as I was about this one.  It just had to be perfect.  It HAD to, no excuse, what ever it took…  I felt it was the only thing I could do for my sister and I wanted it to be perfect.  I couldn’t sleep… not really… I may have dosed a little, but this video just had to be right!  6am came and the video was done.  It might not be perfect, but I hoped everyone would like it.

Along with the video there were some photos that needed printing and put into frames.  We were going to have a table with all these pictures set on it, along with the TV that would play the video.  So now that the video was complete we set out to find where we could get the pictures printed.  Mom & Dad just had a black and white printer, however Walgreen’s would definitely be able to print them.  But what time did they open and how long would it take for them to print?  Mike was on the phone to Walgreen’s…  not open.  It was a little before 8am, oh crap, what if they don’t open till 9 or 10?  I had to be at the church at 11 to meet the folks from the funeral home so I could make sure everything was set just the way I thought it should be set, the way Wendy would like it.  Nothing could go wrong…  8am, Mike gets somebody at Walgreen’s and they are open and have one of those little do-it-yourself print kiosks.  I was there by 8:02, and was out of there by 8:10 with prints in hand.  Maybe things were going to be okay after all!

We were off to the farm, and back to the church with prints, TV, & video in hand.  Everything was set and working great long before anyone started to arrive.

Prior to the service, we decided it was best that we play the video at the end of the service…  good call!  I think it was a fitting finale to the tribute of a wonderful man.

You know its sad… you really find out who your friends are during hard times, and periods of sorrow.  I saw friends that I had seen in my recent past and I saw friends that I had not seen in years.  My mom’s best friend that Mike had never met was there.  Of course she didn’t recognize me when I stood to speak during the service.  I had changed…  and so had she.

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We moved on to the graveside service, where we all gathered under a canopy where there were a few chairs.  The wind was blowing hard and it almost blew the casket flowers off the casket.  The service was short, which was good, because there were a lot of folks uncomfortable in the cold and wind.  Hey not us…  we live in Breck-en-wind!  It was then time for them to put Jerry in the vault, and I wasn’t about to let Wendy watch this alone.  The ironic thing about this is, Jerry was afraid of heights and he was being placed on the top row of this Mausoleum.  But we knew, he was not there, he was not in the top of that place… he is in heaven with my mother.  I am sure she met him with open arms and they are now both singing and cuttin up, up there right now!

That night, people had brought food for the family out to the farm.  We sat around the table eating, laughing and sharing stories about Jerry.  I think he would have liked it that way.

The next day, Saturday, I spent it with Wendy, going through some things in the attic.  Old stuff of mine mostly…  things that I had not seen in years, things that I had forgotten about.  What do you do with those things…  you know those things you haven’t thought about or looked at in years, but don’t want to throw away.  And what about my old wedding dress?  The one that my mother and I spent so much time in making.  What should I do with that?  Memories…  some good, and some, well not necessarily bad, just not part of what makes you happy in life now.

We left Little Rock a couple of days later…  saying goodbye to old friends and our family once again.  Why is it that it takes the loss of someone special to bring people together?  Yes, I know we are all miles and miles apart…  but it doesn’t mean that we think of these loved ones less while we are apart, it just means that we need to take advantage of all those special and precious times we do have the opportunity to be together.  Dear Friends and Family…  WE love and miss you so much and look forward to that next special and precious time we get to spend together.

The Dance by Garth Brooks

Looking back on the memory of
The dance we shared ‘neath the stars alone
For a moment all the world was right
How could I have known that you’d ever say goodbye

And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance

Holding you I held everything
For a moment wasn’t I a king
But if I’d only known how the king would fall
Hey, who’s to say you know I might have chanced it all

And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance

Yes, my life is better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance