Once the news was out about the unexpected loss of Frank Stevens—husband, father, brother—family started heading from all points to Albuquerque. Funerals are always painful times, but somehow in the misery of the loss, there is a sweetness in the supportive camaraderie of family and close friends. We often think of funerals as unwanted events, something to avoid—and yet, it is at those specific bittersweet moments that family members minister to each other. The therapy of memories is so powerful a healer to those who are grieving, and yet, those remembrances cannot work their wonder if we don’t allow the memories to be coaxed out into the open. Funerals are times when those needed memories can breathe life back into our sorrowing souls.
Frank’s brothers from the west coast were there at his funeral to lend their support, as was his youngest brother, and his brother Ed, still in Chicago. Only a few days later, already returned home to California, Frank’s oldest brother John Kelly was writing to his mom, sending Agnes news of the week she had missed. The visit with the bereaved family had done its good, but there was so much more needed for the future.
Feb. 10, 1966
Dear Ma, Pat + Mike—
Bill + I arrived home safely.
Max fixed chop suey for dinner (very good) and I left immediately after dinner 5:35 P. M. and was home at 8 P.M.
Norma + the kids seemed pretty cheerful when Bill + I left but she will have some bad moments at times – especially after she is alone.
How much like many funeral visits in so many families was John’s observation in his letter that certain members of this family “took it very hard.” The report that “Sunday night when the family and close friends were allowed to see Frank’s remains was the hardest time” is so similar an experience to that which so many have had to endure. John told his mother about the children crying “so heart brokenly,” but it wasn’t just the young ones who were struggling with this loss. The “baby” of the previous generation, Frank’s youngest brother Gerald, struggled, too. John mentioned to his mom
Chip came in Monday night to the mortuary (his plane was late) when the Rosary was almost over. He was in a bad, emotional state—didn’t make a scene of course but cried like a little kid.
There is nothing so difficult to absorb as the sudden, irrevocable loss of someone you love.