After Dover was over we flew back to Virginia Beach, where a whole gang of Mike and Bre's friends had gathered at the house. They needed to be there as much as we needed them to be. I think that night is when people started to arrive from all over the place. Some of their friends had since left the Navy so they were broke college kids. By that weekend we had 7 blow up beds filled, the sofas were taken and the upstairs bedroom was filled with sleeping bags. I don't think we ever counted how many people were staying there but it was more than I would have ever thought possible.
Alot of VAB friends opened their homes to people they'd never met, but those closest to Bre and Mike didn't want to leave her.
The funeral was set for the 18th - and I have to say here, Mike's mom was and is a freaking rock star. Since Mike and Bre were married yet, she was the next of kin - so any decisions that had to be made were directed at her. She always picked up the phone and called Bre to include her in any decision - from funeral and burial, whether or not to cremate, songs, ceremonies, ect. I owe her so much. So they decided on the funeral to be held in Philly - ah, let me back up. They decided on cremation as Mike's Page Two said he wanted to be cremated and shot into space - so cremation it was (we're still working on the shot into space thing - he's such a brat). So he would be cremated at Dover and then Bre was to assign one of the Navy personnel to accompany him from the moment he was cremated up to the funeral.
Ian is Mike's best friend. Ian's wife Christine is friends with both Bre and Mike, but she has some social issues that makes it hard to be close to her. Plus she has a rivalry issue that puts pressure on the friendship. Plus, she's insecure so she sees slights where no slights exist. So prior to Mike deploying Christine got her feelings hurt because there was a get-together with some of the girls and she didn't get a personal invitation - long story short - she deleted the 5 from her facebook page, including Bre and Ian got irritated with Mike. So the four always got together before one of them deployed - Bre tried calling and Christine wouldn't answer - then Mike tried calling Ian with the same result. Mike finally texted Ian "dude, if something happens to me you're going to feel like the biggest douchebag". Mike left and Ian usually checked up on Bre while Mike was gone but nothing. Bre was pissed, she called me one night and told me the whole story and said "I swear to God if anything happens to Mike Ian better not show his face". Ian and Christine were the first ones over. Ian did feel like a douchebag. Bre named Ian as the person that would look over Mike. Ian sobbed. It was probably the kindest thing Bre will ever do for someone.
On the second Sunday after Mike died people started showing up to the house with grills, steaks, beer (lots and lots of beer), tables, tents, chairs, ect. Bottles of Jameson were opened. Toasts started flowing. It was as close to an Irish wake that I'll ever come. Mike's life was celebrated to the max, and those Seals and Support Teams can celebrate! My mom even took a few shots of Jameson. :)
So the Navy flies Bre and I up to Philly on the Tues before the funeral. The rest of the bunch is caravaning up the next day (Rob was getting into VAB the night we left). The Philly police pick us up at the airport, I can just imagine what people were thinking when we were escorted to a waiting patrol car. They took us to the downtown Sheraton, where the Sheraton had given us the Presidential Suite thru the weekend. I can say this, Philly loves their boys. We were treated like visiting royalty. Our rooms looked out over the church, Cathedral Basilica of SS Peter and Paul - a very old and beautiful church. We were told that Mike wouldn't be there until the next day. Bre was holding up, but very haunted. I played with her hair that night until she feel asleep.
We were also told that the idiots of Westboro were making plans. I think the Warriors Watch Riders, the Philly PD AND Mike's Command were all hoping they would. :) They never showed. Cowards.
Mike was escorted to Philly by the Philly PD, Warrior's Watch Riders and Ian. The closed down the highway along the way. It was very touching. The Philly FOP donated their building for a reception afterwards.
The morning of the funeral it was raining. It felt like even the heavens were crying. We had walked to the church at 8:30. Tons of pictures were placed around the church, few flowers as we had asked for the Neads Foundation to receive donations in lieu of flowers and Mike, in a plain wood box with a brass plack on top. They asked the family along with Bre to form a greeting line and for 4 hours they stood in line greeting the hundreds that came to pay their respects. I pulled up a chair behind Bre and had her lean against me. Then their came a time that I made her take off her heels and slip on some flats I had in my purse. (I'd actually been thinking I'd need them later :) ). At 1 the mass started. It was not as emotional as I had expected, I think ceremonies are a bit numbing.
There was a bit of levity when Mike's aunts cell phone went off. She dug it out of her purse and it said "Mike". Her boyfriend's name is Mike, but Bre and Mike's sister Kaitlyn swears it was Mike interrupting his own funeral, especially after Mike the boyfriend says he didn't call.
After the ceremony we walked out to the fountain area in front. People lined the streets, most with video going so who knows what's on youtube out there. The military had filed out first and were standing at attention, Ian gave a eulogy that was sad, funny and very touching. And then they gave the 21 gun salute and played Taps. I always cry during that part in a movie. I sobbed that day.
The Philly police transported us to the FOP lodge where they had dinner being served upstairs and the liquor and beer was flowing downstairs. Not too many people stayed upstairs very long. We actually left pretty early but the stories we heard the next day - we'll lets just say Mike was famous for dropping his pants when he got drunk - there was much pant dropping (including my husband's I heard) in Mike's name that night. I don't think anyone was feeling very good the next day. As it should have been.
Next up was the memorial for the Gold Team and the burial at Arlington.