Viewing and Funeral Services

I hear there is a way to download your blog and so I decided it would be good to continue adding a little to it so I will have a complete story that I want to save and share with our children as they get older, and someday our Grandchildren can learn about ‘Uncle Stephen.’

Stephen passed away on Thursday afternoon, January 24th.  Friday we met with the funeral home.  We selected a beautiful pecan wood casket with a dark natural wood finish.  The lining was an off-white color.  Very simple and elegant.  We selected a spray of white roses and lilies, with an accent of bluebells for the flowers.  We were able to purchase 3 plots in the Alpine cemetery.  It’s nice to know now where Jeff and I will be laid to rest as well.     Part of the cemetery property in Alpine has a very steep slope to it and so it cannot be used for burials.  It has been used, however, for sledding.  Sledding at cemetery hill is a tradition in Alpine.  Josh liked the plot we chose for Stephen because he can go by and say hi to Stephen and then go sledding.  Stephen would be happy with that.

Sarah wrote the obituary for Stephen and she did a fabulous job.  Part of her training in school was to write press releases.  I think her skills helped her write a beautiful obituary.

We spent other bits of time writing short memories for the funeral, gathering together some photos of Stephen and some memorabilia we wanted to display.   Stephen’s dear friend (famous for the ‘see you again’ video he and Stephen made), Daniel Glade, came over and helped me put together a slide show of pictures that we could show at the viewing.  It was so wonderful of him.

Jeff and Jared got a new suit and the girls and I went shopping for something special to wear.  Lucky Nathan fit perfectly in one of Stephen’s suits and so he had the honor of wearing it to the funeral.  He looked great in it.   Josh is still growing so fast he got a Walmart suit!  It looked just great and probably won’t fit him in a month even though I bought it big.

Sunday evening Jeff and I went to the funeral home.  We had asked if we could dress Stephen in his burial clothing.  When members of the LDS church worship in temples, we wear special temple clothing.  The clothes are white to represent the fact that we must repent of all our sins through the atonement of Christ and be pure in order to return to the presence of the Lord.  In the temple everyone is dressed in beautiful white and there is no distinction made between wealth or status.  All are equally loved and valued by God.  If someone has gone to the temple, then we bury them in their temple clothing.  My parents had purchased all new temple clothing for Stephen.  As we arrived at the funeral home, I asked Jeff, ‘are you sure we want to do this?’  He said that he was certain he wanted to.  I was a little worried.  We had allowed the BMT Doctors to have an autopsy performed so that they could learn exactly what had caused his death.  We knew that Stephen would want that because he wanted to help those who came after him.  He had benefited so much by the cancer patients who went before him.  I just wasn’t sure how his body would look and how I would handle it.  From the moment we entered the room with his body I was overcome with a feeling of complete joy and happiness.  I am certain he was in the room with us and was letting me know how completely happy he was.  I couldn’t quit smiling the entire time we were there.  I didn’t want to leave when we were done.  He looked great and his body was just as cute as ever.   From that time on I have never been quite the same.  I still feel moments of intense and painful sorrow but when I think back on that moment, I can’t help but smile and know that he is happy.

Monday we went over to the funeral home about 4:30 pm.  We spent some time with just our kids and then we had invited family members to come around 5 pm.  The official viewing was from 6-8 pm.  What a wonderful, uplifting experience to be surrounded by family and friends who love you and love your son.  We heard the most wonderful stories of how Stephen had affected other people.  I was worried how we would hold up under such emotional circumstances.  I can tell you now, that the prayers of others, through the spirit of the Lord, absolutely carried us through this and the next few days.  I felt as though we were being help up by angels.   What a wonderful feeling.

Tuesday morning we woke up to a huge snow storm!  It was snowing unbelievably hard.  We laughed.  Stephen had done everything the hard way right to the end.  Not by his choice.  However, it was such a pure, white, beautiful day that it was fitting for him.  We had a short viewing before the funeral.  Then all of our extended family gathered with us and my father offered a family prayer.  It was a prayer of comfort and peace.  Following the prayer,  those who wanted to, came forward to look one last time at his body.  Our kids wanted to place a few things in the casket with him.  He had worn his ‘swimstrong’ band and a balance band on his wrist since the day we launched a ‘SwimStrong’ fund raiser for him.  The doctors took them off during the last few hours in ICU.  We put those in with him.  He had a small stuffed bear named Braun braun.  I sent it to him when he was on a trip following high school.  For some reason, that bear went everywhere with him.  It went on his mission with him, to college, and to the hospital for each transplant or surgery.  We decided Braun braun needed to go with him.  A small donald duck had been hanging in his car ever since he could drive.  One of Stephen’s hidden talents was talking like Donald Duck.  He could have been hired by Disney.  So Donald got to go.  And finally, we put his missionary name tag in because  his heart was still on his mission.  Then they closed the casket.  I reminded all of our kids, and especially myself, that his body was all we were laying to rest.  Stephen’s, spirit, that is, who Stephen is, was not in the casket but was rejoicing on high with family and friends and most importantly, the Lord himself.

The funeral was so wonderful.   The music was so beautiful and the talks were so comforting and inspiring.  Jared, gave a life sketch of Stephen.  He did a great job and captured the essence of Stephen’s spirit and personality in it.   Then Sarah and Jennie talked about some of Stephen’s wonderful character traits and shared some memories.  They were so strong and did a fabulous job.  Our brother-in-law Mike Hawks gave a fantastic talk on life and the plan of salvation.  Then Jeff and I gave a few words of thanks and our Bishop, Bill Hesterly spoke some incredible words of peace and comfort.  Lastly, Elder Corrbridge of the first quorum of the 70 gave a few thoughts.  We had been blessed to have Elder Corrbridge, on assignment from President Monson, come to Stephen’s room at LDS Hospital and visit with him and give him a blessing about 2 weeks before he died.  His support and love was so touching and it was really nice of him to come to the funeral with us.  He gave some great words regarding the blessings of the Lord.

We went from the church to the cemetery.  It had continued to snow all morning.  A few men had stayed in the parking lot the entire funeral just plowing and shoveling snow to keep the walks clear and the parking lot accessible.  I didn’t know if we would even be able to get to the cemetery. You have heard of police escort before?  Well we had a snow plow escort.  The city had a snow plow waiting for us.  First the snow plow went, then the Hurst  then the funeral procession.  We made it!  At the cemetery Jeff gave the dedicatory prayer which designates the spot as the final resting place for his body and asks for the Lords protection for it.    Following the prayer, some of Sarah’s friends had arranged a wonderful surprise   They had brought tons of yellow balloons.  They gave one to all of the cousins and a few others.  Then on the count of 3 we yelled ‘Swim Strong’ and let the balloons go.  It was so special and made each of the little children feel like they had participated in the funeral.

Following the cemetery, we returned to the church and the ladies in our ward had prepared a wonderful meal for our family and extended family.  We were able to visit and enjoy each others company.

It was a great experience.  Very emotional, very spiritual and very special.  It is a time we can look back on and draw strength from as we now go on and learn how to live without Stephen here.  Each person in a family is such a treasure and plays and important roll.  No one can take their place.  There is no way around the gaping hole that he left.  It is not easy but I know Stephen, and I know he wants us to be happy and enjoy life as much as possible without him.  We will miss him until we are together again but we know we will have the comfort and peace to make it until then.

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About Jane Griener

I am from SLC, UT. I grew up in a wonderful family in the south part of the Salt Lake valley. I have 4 sisters and 2 brothers. I married my best friend, Jeff Griener when we were 21 years old. We have 6 children. 4 boys and 2 girls. I've had many adventures in business and life. Too many to tell about in a simple 'about you' spot. My life is centered around my family and they are the most important factor in my life. I like gardening, photography, cooking, knitting, graphic design and lots of other things. I speak a little spanish. Fall is my favorite season of the year, but I think having all 4 seasons is what makes me love fall so much. Religion plays a big roll in my life. I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Striving to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and become a better person each day is my goal. Well, that is a bit 'about me!'
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4 Responses to Viewing and Funeral Services

  1. Kate Landro says:

    Dear Jane,

    this was just amazing. still crying but so happy inside too. weird. Thank you for finishing this.

    HUGS! Kate

    ________________________________

  2. Dani Harding says:

    What a wonderful journal you have kept! I so wish I could have been there, I was so impressed with his strength and happiness through it all! You are all amazing! Hope you are doing well!
    love,
    Dani

  3. Beautiful! This made me cry! You will be happy you recorded all of this 🙂 Thanks for raising such an amazing son! We love you! -Taryn and CJ

  4. Sharon Griener says:

    I’m so glad you finished writing your blog and so sorry I wasn’t at the funeral. I love you all so much.

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