Renaye Kahler (my brother Dave’s wife) died on Oct 28, 2009 from a short illness with cancer. Her funeral was Nov 2, 2009. London, my daughter who is age 12 (who refers to Dave as “Uncle Ernie”), wrote the following on the eve of her Aunt’s funeral.
I never expected Aunt Renaye to get cancer; none of us did. It was tough for everyone. I don’t even know what Uncle Ernie and my cousins Brianna and Jeremy were thinking, but it was really hard for me.
I’m a sensitive person and I cry when I’m upset, over big things and little things. I often cried myself to sleep after we found out she was going to die. It was terrible not knowing when and this made me more upset.
It was about twenty-five days till her 50th birthday. “Let’s bring her two balloons every day,” my mom said. “Let’s celebrate every day we have.”
So we did. We brought Aunt Renaye balloons every day.
I enjoyed talking with her. I loved seeing her smile when I told her about funny or exciting things that had happened at school or at home. But it was so painful to see her so weak. She had lost all her hair because of the chemo and her skin was slowly turning yellow because her liver was failing. But her eyes were bright and alert. She was fighting.
One day when we came over, Aunt Renaye was sleeping. Soft music was playing while someone rubbed sweet smelling oil on her hands. It was the last time I saw her. A day later she died.
The next day at school was stressful. I was scatter-brained and seemed to forget everything. My stomach churned uneasily every second of the day. In my mind I knew she was gone but my heart refused to believe so. My friends asked what was wrong, but I lied and told them that nothing was wrong. I was just too sad and confused to tell them about something I hardly understood myself.
I reached the point where it didn’t feel right for me to be happy. I just couldn’t do it. Mom told me that she felt the same way. “I just tell myself that it’s what Renaye would have wanted, for us to keep living our lives and be happy.” I told myself that too, and it worked. I could finally smile again.
That Sunday was the visitation at the funeral home. I was grateful that Mom didn’t tell me until it was forty-five minutes before we had to leave. The news ruined the rest of my day after that. I held back tears until we entered the chapel. Once I saw the casket I lost it. She was dead. She was really dead. I finally got it.
We came up to Uncle Ernie and he gave me a big hug. “It’s just a shell. She’s gone to a better place,” he said. I knew he was talking about Renaye.
I cried through the slide show of family photos and I finally decided that I just wanted to go home. As we were leaving we ran into Uncle Ernie again. He and Mom got to talking about the balloons that we brought over.
“I’ve ordered 50 latex balloons to release at the funeral,” Mom said.
“Can I bring my shotgun?” Uncle Ernie asked.
Mom smiled. “I don’t care what you do, David,” she said. “Renaye would be laughing her head off. ”
I laughed silently to myself as I imagined 50 balloons bursting in the air, Uncle Ernie with his gun below, and Aunt Renaye laughing and smiling beside him.
Fifty balloons were released at the burial in honor of Renaye’s 50th birthday which would have been twelve days from now on Nov 14th. London’s “50 Balloons” story was also passed out to those in attendance.