Saying Goodbye to Bubba

Martin Nilson Funeral.jpg

"We called him Bubba," My dad said as he stood in front of the family and a few friends gathered Thursday night in a little funeral chapel in Colonial Beach, "My oldest son couldn't say 'Grandpa' and so he called him Bubba...and Bubba he became." This past week has been difficult, beautiful, heart wrenching, and love filled. I find myself quite reflective these days....building an arsenal of memories and storing up words and pictures. As wise, 5 year old Nate put it, "I hope we always remember Bubba."

The morning after Bubba died, I took my cup of coffee and sat on a stool out in his of the few rooms untouched when he came home with hospice and the house filled up with medical equipment and family. It is the one room that is uniquely his, a project that he worked on as time and his physical ability allowed. It didn't matter that the place was never quite finished, that piles of tools and supplies cover every surface, the workshop was his... and I sat there quietly, in the silence of a mostly still asleep house, and leaned into the heartache of a loved one gone. The days passed rather quickly until we found ourselves standing in front of his casket with an opportunity to say goodbye. The service was beautiful, with multiple family members sharing and our old pastor, Bill, making the drive to be with us. We shared stories, words, scriptures, and songs to remember the life of a man who had deeply loved us and poured into our lives. The only oddity of the night, was the funeral director ending the service as I stood up to play the postlude, saying, "Has anyone lost a ring? We've found one and we'd like all the ladies to check their Well, this concludes our service tonight and we'd like a few of the gentlemen to help carry the casket out to be transported to our other site. Feel free to stay and mingle among yourselves." .....what??!?! :o) It's become the odd family joke since then...has anyone lost a ring?....especially when I pull out my guitar....We gathered back at the house for late night snacks and drinks. Nana had requested "six bottles of wine from that winery" earlier in the week for a "toast" and so the three bottles that had been picked up from Costco the day before were opened, poured and dispersed around the room. Nana asked if I would give the toast. As everyone quieted down, I said, "Tonight we want to take a moment and remember Bubba. So to our tenacious Bubba, who loved God, loved his family, and fought the good fight." (Brilliant, right? Oh man....somethings you don't get to prepare for!!). At least everyone yelled, "To Bubba!" and we drank.

Friday morning, we drove through the pouring rain up to Quantico National Cemetery. It is where our Grandpa Cox was buried two years ago, where when the army didn't show up, we settled for a pre-recorded taps, our family served as pallbearers, and the pastor and Bubba folded the flag. It was kind of fitting for who Grandpa was.But oh, on Friday, when we pulled around the bend towards the pavilion and saw the Coast Guard ready with full military honors...I did what Becky has done all week, exclaiming, "That's gonna make me cry!" It was an unexpected moment that held all the honor, respect, and dignity that my grandfather deserved. Recognition that he had led a good and faithful life and those he had served would now serve him. Those men in uniform stood proud, reverent, and strong. The brief service was deeply moving...from the carrying of the casket, to the 21 gun salute, to the lone taps player...and especially when the folded flag was presented to my nana....whew, I tear up even now. A fitting tribute to the life of Bubba. We stopped by Grandpa Cox's grave to place a few flowers before heading back home for an afternoon of more food and time with family. Things are much quieter now, as most of the visitors left at various points over the weekend, heading back to Northern Virginia, Maryland, New England, and Canada. I am the last to leave, tomorrow morning I start the long drive back to Fort Wayne...back to friends, work, and a little kitty named Mitch who must be very lonely by now... :o)

Yellow Roses Bubba's Funeral.jpg
Family Funeral Grandpa Cox Grave.jpg
Coast Guard Bubba's Funeral Quantico.jpg

I am grateful for the covering of grace and love. That our family will love on Nana, whose strong New England bred spirit will keep her up and moving even when the tears come. That these past couple of weeks have been a holy and set apart time for us to be together as a family. And that I had time to say everything I needed, to a man I love so dearly, "Bubba, you are the best grandfather."

To read the previous post about the week leading up to the funeral click here