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The Funeral Day

Last July, as our days in Europe were winding down, my dad spotted a trophy shop and suggested that we buy Shane a memento and have it engraved with, "Our Hero." I chose a statuette that reminded me of Shane---a strong and sturdy bronze man, holding a laurel wreath in his hands to symbolize victory. He cried when we gifted it to him.

Shane truly deserved a reward for his mighty efforts over the past year. The travel to Europe was draining, the treatments that followed grueling, both mentally and physically. He went from disdaining the term,"cancer survivor" to openly acknowledging that he would fully claim that title if only he could overcome cancer. And he never stopped trying. Even at the end he would say, "If I can just get 20% better I'll be able to fight this." And I believed him, but better never came.

In a very last minute decision, I chose a theme of laurels for Shane's funeral--they graced the program, the tables at the reception, and we even laid a laurel wreath on Shane's casket. He was a hero in my eyes who ran the good race.

Many years ago I watched the movie, Go Toward the Light (based on the true story of a boy who died of AIDS contracted through blood transfusion). My sister and I saw it over and over again and one part in particular stuck in my impressionable young mind. The opening scene is a grandfather crafting a casket for his grandson, not yet dead. Once I began planning Shane's funeral (two days after Jacob's birth---oh how cruelly ironic that was) I knew right away that I would ask my brother-in-law Dave to create a casket for Shane. He took on the task humbly and willingly. I asked for a simple pine box and he gave me a work of art. I am deeply grateful that he included Nate (his son) and Micah in the creation and sanding of it.

We followed Shane's funeral with a graveside dedication, given by our good friend Eric. While Shane's casket was lowered into the ground, we sang "Families Can Be Together Forever," accompanied by our talented violinist niece, Lindsay, who played beautifully in spite of her frozen hands. Then, following a Schwab family tradition instigated by my dad, we filled in Shane's grave, one weighty shovelful of dirt at a time, dear family and friends joining in. It was that physical labor kept me from losing my calm---I can't quite explain what it is to see your husband's body lowered into the ground, the last earthly remnants of him about to be covered. The finality of it all rattled me. Thankfully, the work of laying spade to earth kept my hands full and my heart calm.

After the cemetery, we trooped back to the church for a reception. One thing I loved about the entire day was the intimacy, I knew and treasured every single person who attended. It's unusual in the LDS world to have a by-invitation only funeral but it felt right for me at that moment in time---everything overwhelmed me, even extra people. I was able to spend time with every single person and feel their love and support. We opened the floor for a few people to speak and I'm grateful to Dallin, Shaunee, Bryan, and Ryan who shared some excellent stories. Ryan, thank you for making us laugh by sharing your text exchanges with Shane; we needed that levity.

I think Shane joined for the day; I felt him close as Micah played two of his own hymn arrangements at the end of the service. And another confirmation of his presence came when I saw the grave marker provided by the cemetery---a crown of laurels at the center.

*Thank you to my stepmom Lestelle for the beautiful photos you see here.

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