Today is the day that we share our Shayna with the world for the last time. Our hearts are ripped wide open, but we have to get through this. We want those who knew a little of the story of this very special girl to come away knowing more and being nearly as amazed as we were to have had her.
The celebration isn’t until 4 o’clock PM. So, we have a lot of time on our hands. Ty and I love to throw parties. We have an annual Kentucky Derby Party which takes days to prepare for and that first Saturday in May we are buzzing like busy bees getting things ready. This is different. Everything has been done. Friends have coordinated all of the food, etc. We have nothing to do. As the hour approaches, we nervously wonder what it will be like. People have told us to not put any pressure on ourselves. We have been given a room we can escape to if it becomes too much. I’m an introvert. Kayla is an introvert. We dread the thought of facing God knows how many people for 4 hours. Family visitation at 4, public visitation 5-7 (isn’t that too long?) and the ceremony itself at 7 lasting about an hour.
I huddle with Ty and Kayla before we leave. I give them permission to opt out any time they feel overwhelmed. Go to the other room. Leave the building. Whatever. This is going to be a long, grueling day. Take care of yourselves. Let’s take care of each other.
As we pull up to the church (my brother driving us), I see the hearse. Another wave of cold reality splashes over me. I hate funerals. I hate hearses. I hate all that stuff. I barely will glance at a funeral home as I drive by. I know this hearse has brought my baby’s body to the chapel for the last time I will see her. I sob uncontrollably.
I regain my composure. I don’t have time to indulge myself. I have to be here for Ty and Kayla. We get out of the car and slowly, slowly march towards the chapel. Kayla pulls back. She doesn’t say anything, but she just doesn’t want to go in. Ty and I gently each take an arm and lead her into the building. As we enter the chapel, we see the casket up front with our baby’s body in it. We all hang at the back. They are still arranging the mementoes on the lower half of the casket. The Girl Scout sash, the volleyball uniforms, the basketball uniform, the penguins all around. Shayna, although in the body of a beautiful woman, was still very much a kid.
We slowly approach the casket. I haven’t seen her in a week. The last time I saw her at least she had her color. She doesn’t look like my Shayna. Her color has changed. They have tried to do the best they can with the makeup. Her lips aren’t the same. Her hair isn’t done the way she would have done it. Shayna would have been appalled. She was a makeup and hair girl spending hours and hours on YouTube and in the mirror perfecting her technique and she had perfected it, too.
I explain to Ty and Kayla this is the best they can do. Shayna’s body is not Shayna and it’s already changing.
The chapel seats 250. We have been in Cincinnati for 18 years and know several people, but I would not term us social butterflies. They have asked us how many will attend. We truly have no idea. This isn’t an RSVP event. We figure a lot of kids will show up from the high school, but we think they’ll just pop by, pay their respects and be off.
Family visitation goes well. Not too crowded. Then, five o’clock rolls around. Time for everyone else. Wow. Who are all these people? They open the doors on the right side of the chapel. The guest book is there. We have taken a scrap book and removed the pages. We have provided Sharpies so people can express themselves. The pages are scattered on tables as you enter so many people can sign at at time. Ty and I just happened to end up on the other side of the chapel so what happens is as people come through the line to view Shayna, they exit where we are and everyone wants to talk to us.
The tears are flowing freely. Former teachers, coaches she never got the chance to play for (varsity basketball and varsity volleyball), team mates for club volleyball, former basketball team mates. Many, many wearing purple, Shayna’s favorite color. The outpouring of love is overwhelming. Ty and I stand for two hours greeting each one. I took a break of about two three minutes to step outside where I realized the line to get in had gone out of the foyer, out the door and around the corner. Shayna touched a lot of people, deeply.
I had three friends show up that I had never met in person. One guy flew in from Atlanta that morning and back out that night. Facebook friend. Another Facebook friend drove four hours. Another Facebook friend, who lives in Cincy came.
We started the service with a looping video of Shayna’s favorite songs and pictures of Shayna living, loving laughing- just being Shayna. I have over 2,000 pictures of Shayna. I was only able to share about 200. I shared her own video production of the song “Domino”. I shared Shayna and her cousin in their original composition “Peanut Butter & Jelly” complete with choreography.
We then had Shayna’s friends do a musical number for her. They followed that by sharing personal memories of Shayna. The high school principal read Shayna’s favorite teacher’s thoughts on her. Lastly, Kayla, supported by her friend gave her thoughts on her “Baby Duck” as she called her.
I gave the minister a six page eulogy to work from. He got a good bit of it in. I am SO proud of Shayna. My heart bursts with pride every time I think of her accomplishments, the things she overcame, her spirit and what I was finding out was her ability to touch people.
We played a Wiz Kalifa song that Shayna and I had both liked. It’s a current song and the gist of it is one friend has gone on and one is left to carry on until we see each other again. God only knew that would be our song. I will play it until the day I die and think about Shayna every time. The intent was to put up the version of the video with lyrics so people would know what the message was. The audio wasn’t working for some reason though. So I had to scramble to find it on my iPhone. I pushed my way to the back to see if we could plug into into the sound system. That took a while because the room was standing room only and there were still people in the hallway. Nope, no plug for an iPhone. So I pushed my way back to the front and held my iPhone up to the microphone. I asked people to sing along. It was magical.
We ended the ceremony by releasing balloons into the sky. Some say that represents a releasing of Shayna’s spirit. I’m still processing that. Some say her spirit remains with us for a time or visits us. I don’t know. I will always hold her close in my heart. In this life, I will never release her. But, I have to release the flesh, the beautiful, beautiful baby girl I had to lit up everyone’s day with that killer smile no longer can do that on this plane.
It’s a big loss for the world. Big loss I tell you. Shayna is doing fine where she is. But, here we mourn what we are missing.
As I retire for the evening I write this:
heart is full tonight and this time not of grief. That will return the
in morning, but the outpouring of love tonight for Shayna and for us
was overwhelming. I’m going to guess 500 or more people came through.
The line to see Shayna and greet us went on for two hours and extended
outside the chapel doors, outside of the outside doors and around the
corner of the building. Shayna touched SO many people. And they
came out in droves to honor her life. Thank you for one of the most
memorable days of our lives. To know that our little girl touched so
many makes us even more aware of how special she was. Tomorrow I will write more, but for tonight- thank you, thank you, thank you.”