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 Three Days with Gene

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scottn
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PostSubject: Three Days with Gene   Wed Feb 22, 2012 6:56 pm

Three Days with Gene
By Scott Newport


When someone comes into your life for the first time I don’t think you ever take the time to wonder how much of an impact they may have on us.

I met Gene last week on the second floor of a beautiful painted brick building with bright wood trim that outlined empowering roof pitches. The carport at the entrance was grand, with ornate pillars holding up the roof. My wife Penni and I sat down with him around a medium sized mahogany conference table. Gene is a funeral director. We had set up a meeting with him to plan the homecoming for our seven-year-old son, Evan.

Actually, the first time we’d met Gene was when our son was three; we’d always known Evan would die young due to his complex medical condition associated with Noonan syndrome. That day four years ago, as I watched Gene shed tears in response to Evan’s story, I knew he would be a source of comfort—for Evan, predictably, had crept into his heart.

The morning of our son’s death was a Friday. I knew I’d have to make the call to Gene. Later that day, Gene’s crew came to our house and watched as Noah, Evan’s 11-year-old brother, and I carried Evan to the funeral vehicle. “Hey Dad,” Noah whispered, “It doesn’t look safe.” I assured him it would be okay.

Paddy, a funeral director himself, looked in from the other side of the car and told Noah, “You can follow us if you like. You know…to make sure Evan arrives safely.” Paddy was just awesome as he squinched his large linebacker frame into the back.

Talking through the details of your child’s funeral is, I’m sure you can imagine, a crushing experience. But as we talked with Gene, he lightened our burden a little. He shared his memories about the day he’d first met Evan. And Penni asked about his children, especially his daughter who has Down syndrome. I don’t know if what Gene did next was in line with his profession but he showed us some pictures and short videos of his daughter. Penni just insisted and Gene smiled with us as we saw her in a cheerleading competition. In that moment, I knew that Gene smiled for Evan too.

Thursday, six days after Evan died, was the viewing for close friends and immediate family. Somehow, I survived the intense sense of loss. I occasionally saw Gene glance in the door. I started to walk over to him and before I could say anything, he said, “I got your back.” I went back to my friends.

Friday was a totally different event as hundreds of people showed up. I was exhausted after the first hour and a half and asked Gene if it would get busier. He looked at me and said, “Scott, it’s going to get very busy—especially between five and seven.” It was only half past three.

Saturday, the day of the funeral, we pulled up to the church. The Royal Oak firefighters were going to be pallbearers and the big red engine was already in place for the processional to the cemetery. One of Gene’s crew waved to us and gently held his flat hand out to the place where the front of the car should stop.

We made our way through the large church foyer and there was Evan in front of three large Christmas trees with towering windows behind him. The crisp December morning was bright, the skies were blue, and the sun shone brilliantly. There were picture boards of Evan’s life nearby and flowers of all colors. White balloons floated high in the air and the strings gently moved as people passed by to see Evan.

“May I have your attention,” a strong voice commanded. I turned and saw Gene. He stood tall at that moment in his long black jacket. I hadn’t realized it but he’d only been an arm’s length away from me. “It’s time to enter the auditorium and make your way to your seats,” he said.

Gene then asked the family to come together around Evan and pay their last respects. The pastor asked us all to hold hands and we prayed. Gene gently asked everyone to leave except for Penni, Noah, Chelsea, and I. He then—and I don’t know how he could do it—but he asked Penni and I to put our hands on the lid and close it. Man, that is a heavy thing to do. Gene locked the casket and we filed into the sanctuary. Gene led the way, followed by an immaculately dressed firefighter, and then us.

After a perfect celebration of Evan’s life, Gene asked us again to stand up and follow Evan out. The firefighters did a formal salute as they loaded the coffin, which was draped by a University of Michigan flag, a fitting tribute to the medical team that served Evan so well these past seven years.

With lights flashing and the fire engine leading the way, we couldn’t help but notice all the cars that had pulled to the side of the road out of respect for our son. The Hearse, just ahead of us, had a white balloon tied to the back door, signaling that a child had died.

Noah kept looking back and said, “Mom, look at all those people following us.”

As we entered the cemetery we could see off in the distance a large green tent. We knew it was for us. Winding through the maze of burial spots and evergreen floral arrangements, we finally saw Gene. He never waivered. He marked the exact spot for our car to stop with his large bare flat hand out. I couldn’t believe the precision of it all.

He told us to stay in the car as his large crew waved in vehicle after vehicle, showing them where to park. When it was time, Gene opened Penni’s door and led her to a seat by Evan. We watched as the firefighters placed Evan above his final resting place and they stood directly across from us, behind Evan as though they were going to protect him ‘til the end.

Gene asked everyone to get as close as possible around us inside the tent. The last service was peaceful and at the end we all sang hymns, starting with Amazing Grace.

With the last note of our singing still in the air, Gene motioned us to the side and the grave attendants came in to lower the casket. I don’t know if you have ever seen that but it is a very powerful sight as those long straps eerily sway and unwind oh so slowly.

Penni said we should sing, so someone started singing Jesus Loves the Little Children. We all joined in, even Gene and his staff. Gene handed each of us—Penni, Noah, Chelsea, and myself—a white rose. We dropped them on top of the coffin.

It was now time to place the first bit of dirt on Evan. I grasped the wooden handle of the shovel Gene said was just for me and I plunged it into the large mountain of clay.

As I threw the first dirt on the casket engraved with Evan Harrison Newport, words I had never planned broke from my lips: “This is for my son.”

Penni was next. Then Chelsea. Then Noah. Others followed. Gene was last.

Gene guided us again, asking us to look up into the fresh winter sky. He passed out the white balloons that had surrounded Evan over the last three days. He gave Noah the one that had been on the back of the Hearse. “Noah,” he said, “This is a special one just for you.”

We let the balloons go.

As they wandered off to a faraway place, family and friends started to interpret what they saw in the sky. Gene said, “It looks like a giant flashlight.” Evan’s favorite toy.

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PostSubject: Re: Three Days with Gene   Wed Feb 22, 2012 7:18 pm

Thank you for sharing that, I realize it must be painful. I can't even begin to imagine. God bless.

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PostSubject: Re: Three Days with Gene   Wed Feb 22, 2012 10:35 pm

Oh, boy, that was a whopper. Beautifully written, and a wonderful tribute to Evan, as it is a step in the healing process. What a blessing Gene must have been too. I am so glad that you had him to lean on. It's not always easy to see or feel our Lord in times like that, so when he sends others to help comfort us, it is just another way He reaches out to us in our pain. I could visualize everything written here, since I recently attended a funeral for one of my son's friends. Watching the heart break of the parents over the unexpected death of their beloved son, just tore my heart out. To keep from totally falling apart, I just kept telling myself that our lives are very, very temporary here on earth. In a blink of an eye, we will be with our lost loved ones once again and the Lord will wipe away our tears forevermore.

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PostSubject: Re: Three Days with Gene   Wed Feb 22, 2012 11:49 pm

All the more reason to get busy and plant those seeds, death is less tragic when you know where they went. Praise God Blue

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PostSubject: Re: Three Days with Gene   Thu Feb 23, 2012 5:56 am

i had an unexpected encounter with a 'ron' yesterday, he was sitting on a stump behind a country store. i was turning around with the semi to access the street i live on and i struck up a conversation with this very lonely looking older gent. what a story he had to tell. he was healing from a car accident in which 90 bones were broken, including his pelvic bone. this was a while back, he was sitting because he'd walked as far as he could. i dropped the truck by the house and got in my p.u. came back and gave him a ride to the assisted living home where he was staying. he was so lonely, he just couldn't stop talking. great stories, some real life challenges, he is all alone in the world now. he lost his mom, baby sister and wife within a seven month period. this man was so happy to have someone really listen to him tell his story, he had been a sailor and the G/D word had slipped out of his mouth 3 times, i told him to please really consider what he'd just done. about the third time i didn't say anything but there was a tear in my eye, he put his head down and said he was sorry, i said :"don't tell me...i forgive you, tell him." i gave him my phone number, he loved my dog and couldn't get enough of mr. clooney, they became fast friends and i really think it did his heart good. when i dropped him off, i could see a change had come over him and as it turns out he has a poem to share which i will post here when he is ready. i hope i see him again. jody and i will drop by this weekend and see if we can't get him out for a while. it's amazing scott how God works, i've been really feeling your story along with others and then God sends someone who needs what we are being taught and how and when, to share it. by the time i dropped him off there was a glimmer of Hope in his eyes that was not there in the initial encounter, i thanked God that i stopped to talk with him or he with me...two plus one make three! He had a piece of jewelry around his neck that caught my eye, it was the pearly gates of Heaven carved upon a single piece of whale bone, he got it in san juan puerto rico. he'd spent his entire life all over the world as a sailor.

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PostSubject: Re: Three Days with Gene   Thu Feb 23, 2012 5:50 pm

Wow, that's so cool oneagleswings. Praise God. I hope you're able to see him again too. If he doesn't know the Lord, you may be his last chance for him get to know Jesus before it's too late. The Lord works in astounding ways. When we share our pain (such as Scott's story) or our time (such as oneagleswing's story) with others it really can have lasting effects of which we may never fully understand or know about until we, too, are standing at the pearly gates.

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PostSubject: Re: Three Days with Gene   Thu Feb 23, 2012 6:48 pm

i don't know who is finding who, sometimes it's like that but you may never see them again you just know that you can't ever forget them.

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