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Christina, my daughter, accompanied me to Michael's funeral. She knew what an emotional wreck I was and she wanted to be there to support me. Many of Michael's family hadn't seen her since she was a little girl and all remarked what a beautiful woman she had grown into being. It was so good seeing all of a long overdue family reunion, but the dark feeling of why we were all there hung heavy in our hearts.

As I hugged each one of them, I held myself together. Each one felt good to hold and my thoughts overflowed with so many memories of better days and laughter filled moments. My history with each of them seemed so interwoven with who I am now as a person.  I felt I was truly among not only friends, but family as well. We all managed to laugh as we reminisced about the good old days before the graveside service.  Johnny teased me like he used to do and I remembered back to when he and I first got involved many, many years ago. Oh, what a handful he could be and oh, how I once loved him!  Everyone seemed instantly amused as Johnny and I fell back into the witty banter that was part of our relationship long ago.

I was okay until I saw the coffin being removed from the hearse. At that moment the reality hit me...Michael was gone! Oh my God, he was really gone and all I had left were these memories clouding my mind. Christy grabbed ahold of me as she saw my legs start to buckle. The family had the coffin reopened so I could say goodbye to Michael. That scene and Michael's lifeless body will be forever etched into my brain. Theresa hugged me and told me Michael had always loved me. All I could do is say "I know" as the tears burned my face.

As Randy, Michael's younger brother stepped into the preacher role he knew so well, he began to officiate Michael's memorial service. The Blue Angels were practicing for an upcoming airshow so they kept making flyovers which made the full military funeral more spectacular. With each word Randy spoke, his love for Michael showered over all of us. Finally, he read a poem Michael had written years ago for his mother and as the guns were fired and the last notes of Taps were being played, my mind flashed back to a time when Michael brushed my long hair. Just for a moment I could feel him with me as I whispered goodbye.

Gratitude statement: I'm actually thankful for still being able to shed tears for the people who I have loved and who are no longer with me.

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