October 1, 2013
This last week has been probably one of the most morbid in the Cullen household in a while if ever. Last I left off we were in New York City after getting the devastating news that Bella’s mom was killed by a subway train and pushed in front of it no less than by her own husband who it was discovered to have a benign tumor in his brain. On top of the usual process of grieving, Bella also had to deal with the fact that Phil was pretty much an adult orphan who was now very mentally unstable due to the accident (All photos are below).
That was what we had to deal with that very first night. The next day two things had to get done. The attorney from California was flying in and we were all going to go over Renee’s Last Will & Testament. Usually it’s just the family present when attorneys review these documents but Bella wanted Edward, Esme, Rogue, and I to be present with her and Charlie. Secondly, we were allowed to go the Medical Examiner’s office to view Renee. Because of the sheer impact of the subway train hitting her, we knew the probability of Renee not being in good shape was high; but according to Rogue, that’s why the medical examiner took an extra day to make her presentable if you will for viewing. He didn’t want Bella and Charlie to see her all mangled by the train.
The meeting with the attorney was held first. He got himself a room in the same hotel as the rest of us; he had requested a small conference room from the hotel in order to fit us all. His flight landed at 1pm and our appointment with him was at 2:30pm sharp. The conference room was on the 2nd floor of the hotel and we arrived there at exactly the appointment time and entered the room. At the desk sat a man in his mid-50s with brown hair and very sharp features. His name was John Simms. He stood up as soon as he saw us enter and came around to shake hands and offer condolences. Once we were all seated with Bella and Charlie nearest to him, he revealed a large white envelope and took out what was the Last Will & Testament of Renee Dwyer.
Bella shuddered looking at it as Edward rubbed her back soothingly. We all took a deep breath as Mr. Simms began to explain:
“I will spare you all of the legal overtures, Mrs. Cullen. I think you’ve had enough to deal with. When I drew up the original will Mrs. Dwyer not yet remarried and just divorced from Mr. Swan at the time wanted to be cremated. She came back to me once remarried to Mr. Dwyer and asked to have the will changed. I’m not sure if you remember your grandmother, Marie Higginbotham but she and your mother were never particularly close. That all changed just before Ms. Higginbotham passed away.”
“No…..no…..I remember my grandmother. She was always very nice and sweet to me but I do recall there being some sort of strain between the two of them. I was just a child so I never understood why.” Bella said as she concentrated very hard on the remnants of her human childhood. As vampires it’s hard for us to remember our human lives directly after being turned, let alone to when we were human children; so the fact that Bella even remembered that much was astounding. The attorney nodded and continued:
“So at the end of Ms. Higginbotham’s life she and your mother reconciled. Your grandmother realized how wrong she’d been about how she treated her daughter, apologized, told her how proud she was of her, and told her she loved her. Your mother was moved to tears as she had never once heard your grandmother utter those words to her before. I was in the room as I was your grandmother’s attorney as well. That night she left us peacefully, in her sleep holding your mother’s hand.”
We were all deeply moved by what the attorney had just told us; Esme, Bella, Charlie, and even Rogue had tears in their eyes. How much must it have meant to Renee to hear all the things she never heard in her life from her mother at the very end. I could tell Bella staring off into the distance. Mr. Simms let everyone digest that part before continuing once he knew Bella’s attention was once again refocused on him.
“So once Ms. Higginbotham was buried and your mother remarried to Mr. Dwyer, she wanted the Will changed. Both she and Mr. Dwyer wanted to be buried together and next to her mother in Downey Cemetery in California. Apparently, the Higginbotham clan has a few plots all bunched together. Your mother never purchased her own plot or one for her husband but her wishes were thus. She wanted to be buried next to her mother. As creepy as this may sound; the cemetery where your grandmother is buried is a quiet and peaceful place that has a year round caretaker that keeps the grounds immaculate.” The attorney once again finished speaking to let us process this next portion.
“So my mother wanted to be buried next to my grandmother. That makes sense. Especially if they made peace; that is something I never knew about. I will honor my mom’s wishes.” Bella said quietly and thoughtfully. The rest of us nodded.
“What about Phil?” Esme voiced…..though she instantly regretted saying anything. No one was sure Bella wanted anything to do with Phil at the moment if ever.
“Why don’t we take this one step at a time just like we discussed yesterday. We’ll go see Renee and then go from there.” I said.
The attorney promised to stay in New York long enough to know what all of our wishes were; which included Phil. Mr. Simms said that Phil’s Will was attached to Renee’s and it gave Renee or her next of kin the power of attorney if anything was to happen to him; be it death or incapacitation. Which once again meant that Bella had Phil’s life in her hands; literally. We all stood up and shook hands. We had to get to the Medical Examiner’s office. In the meantime, Mr. Simms would make some phone calls to Downey to make arrangements to a funeral home out there to prepare for an incoming funeral service and body. Meanwhile, we all hopped into the six seat limo. It took about 15 minutes with the traffic in Manhattan to get to the Coroner’s office.
We got out and Rogue led the way; apparently she’s already been here. No surprise there really. As we entered the building, lots of NYPD officers and detectives were milling around. We took the elevator into the basement section. When it opened, you could instantly smell it; death. It was unmistakable. It had a smell like nothing else even when masked by the even nastier smelling formaldehyde. Being a physician, I’ve been in my share of morgues before but it was still disconcerting being there to identify and claim the body of a loved one. Rogue proceeded to lead us down the hallway to the office of a Dr. Philip Kilter; pretty appropriate name for his job since everything that involves death is usually off kilter.
Dr. Kilter was a very small very peculiar man. He shook our hands and had a very squeaky voice like that of someone who had just inhaled half of a helium balloon. But he had very kind, very educated eyes. He led us down yet another long hallway to a room separated from all of the others. It was very cold in the morgue that even the vampires shivered; some more for the effect then the actual cold. Before he opened the door, he hesitated and met Rogue’s eyes who nodded at him. Then he opened the door to a room that held only one table of a body covered with a sheet. Bella and Charlie walked forward cautiously behind the doctor while the rest of us stayed towards the back. As he approached the table he said:
“Are you ready?” Looking from Bella to Charlie.
When both nodded, he put both hands on the sheet near the head and slowly pulled it down to reveal Renee’s face; he left the sheet lying just beneath her shoulders; no need to see the full extent of the damage to her body. Her face was bruised but not badly. It was obvious that most of the damage was done to the lower portions of her body. She lay their peacefully with her eyes closed. Bella and Charlie just stared at her and then closing her eyes, Bella leaned into her father for support; we could kind of tell that he needed support himself which I readily stepped up and gave him. He looked at me with eyes full of pain but appreciation.
“I know it was a naïve thought but I was still somehow hoping you got it all wrong and it wouldn’t be her under there.” Bella whispered. Everyone’s heart broke especially Edward’s who could barely keep still. He finally came over and took his wife in his arms while she sobbed. Here was the final confirmation that her mother was really, totally gone and there was nothing anyone could do to change it.
Dr. Kilter then said that he would be able to release Renee to us tomorrow. This gave us enough time to make the call to our plane’s location to let them know as well as ask Mr. Simms about his progress with the actual funeral arrangements. He said the funeral home was all set to receive us all as was the cemetery. So the next day we would get Renee back to us and fly her out to California to prepare for a service and burial. We needed a few more days to figure out what she would wear, pick out the casket, really look at the cemetery and make sure Bella was happy with the location. There was still a ton to do.
Bella asked if she could just spend the rest of the day alone with her father so they could discuss everything. None of us had a problem with that. So once out of the morgue, they hailed a taxi while the rest of us got into our waiting limo to head back to the hotel. We had no idea where Bella and Charlie would go or how long they would be there. But we knew they would be back before nightfall. Once back at the hotel, we all took out phones and called our family, Watchers, including our family in Denali as well as those at La Push. Just about everyone wanted to come down for the service. Many didn’t know Renee personally but wanted to be there to support Bella and Charlie.
Just as predicted, Bella and Charlie returned at 7pm. Both had determined and more peaceful looks on their faces. We all sat down to hear about what they had decided. Bella was the one who spoke; her voice solid and sure for the first time since this whole thing began.
“Dad and I visited the 9/11 Memorial. It was only fitting; those people lost their lives suddenly and so did my mom. It really was a peaceful place. We sat and spoke about everything. It was quite daunting when you thought about it all together. But when we started compartmentalizing like you said Carlisle, it was all very doable, hard but doable.” We nodded as Charlie continued.
“The body will be released tomorrow and before we take it to California, we need to head to Jacksonville to close the house and pick out what Renee will wear. We won’t sell the house because perhaps someday Phil may want to live there. Speaking of Phil, Bella honey, do you want to tell them what you decided?” Charlie brought the attention back to her and she nodded.
“Yes. The bottom line is, is that my mom loved Phil and vice versa. What he did was horrific but it was an accident. I can’t continue to punish him for something beyond his control due to a health condition. So what I have decided was that, I will use the money in their bank account to pay for his operation and all of the other medical bills here in New York and then while we are out in California, I will also buy him a plot as well next to mom as well as find him permanent residence at a mental facility in Downey so he can be near my mother. I will give Mr. Simms the Power of Attorney over Phil as he seems quite capable once Phil is moved down there. That is the best I can do for Phil.”
“Will you see him?” Edward asked.
“Not until he is moved to California. I called the doctor at the Sloan-Kettering hospital and he said Phil is going to be going into surgery any day now. So best let that happen and have him heal before arranging transportation across the country.” Everyone nodded.
“Bella, we are all very proud of all of the decisions you’ve made. That’s a lot to digest, process, and implement in such a short time frame.” Rogue spoke for the first time with a satisfied smile on her face. She was right. We were all really proud of Bella.
“So while you were doing your thing; we called the family and Downey California is about to get really crowded. The Denali’s are coming, as is everyone from NH, even Sue and Billy.” I said as Bella and Charlie’s eyes got really wide.
“But it’s so hard for Billy to travel. He really doesn’t need to make the trip.” Charlie mumbled in awe.
“Well I told him the same thing but he wouldn’t hear of it. Besides he gets to see his son. He said you were there for him his whole life and it’s the very least he could do.” I said to Charlie with a smile.
“Also, it’s supposed to be a beautiful and sunny week in Downey all this and next week. I will make sure that changes; no need for anyone to sparkle.” Rogue said with a wink. We smiled knowing full well the clouds were about to visit California.
Because of the fact that Bella and Charlie had to go to Jacksonville to close the house and pack up, Rogue asked Alexander to fly down to help with all of the cleaning and ferrying people back and forth. Meanwhile, Renee was finally released from the medical examiner’s office and was put into a makeshift traveling casket. Edward, Esme, Mr. Simms, and I would accompany it to Downey California while Bella, Charlie, Rogue, and Alexander closed the house and found what Renee was going to wear as we laid her to rest. Everyone in NH came to Downey via Watcher so plane tickets weren’t required. Sue, Billy, and the Denali’s though, did fly on a plane.
Ironically, they all ended up on the same plane. We had gotten Sue and Billy first class tickets so he could be comfortable. From Anchorage, the plane made a pit stop in Seattle where it picked up more passengers including Sue and Billy. The Denali’s were also in first class and it was quite a surprise for them all to see each other. There wasn’t any tension at all or animosity. They spoke the entire time of the tragedy and how if in any way they could help Bella and Charlie get over this hump. Once they landed, there was a car waiting for them to bring them to the hotel. We tried to put everyone into the same hotel, if possible. Downey after all is not a big town. It’s smaller than Hanover in fact.
So while everyone got situated and Renee was taken to the funeral home to wait for the clothing and what not that Bella and Charlie wanted to go into the casket with her, Edward ever being the ingenious one decided to speed things along and took pictures via his phone of the different caskets that he then sent to Charlie’s phone as we all know what happened to Bella’s so they could decide on a casket and that would make it one less thing to do when they joined everyone. They picked a gold one that looked really comfortable with pillows and everything, it also looked very durable. The price tag was up there but money as mentioned previously is of no object to us.
Finally with Rogue and Alexander’s help and two days of almost none stop work, they were able to close the house get all the furniture and what not into storage and paid for the storage warehouse for 5 years forward. Everything else was moved in boxes to NH by Rogue and Alexander. These were Renee’s personal things. Things that Bella and Charlie would sort out much later and they were placed into the attic of the Cullen house. As for what she would wear herself both Bella and Charlie went immediately to a dress Renee loved dearly but seldom wore. It was a floor length dark sapphire dress with long sleeves. It was primarily made out of silk and lace. It was perfect because the way her body was traumatized by the train’s impact, it could hide all of her bruises and other things. They also picked out a simple necklace she had from her mother and a pair of black shoes on a small heel. The funeral home would do make up and such.
One thing I forgot to mention is that Renee was an organ donor so after making sure it was alright and honoring Renee’s choice, Bella had the organs that weren’t damaged by the impact donated to people who were on lists to receive them. She felt good about saving someone else’s life and knew it was something her mom wanted. So once everything was done in Jacksonville, the four of them joined the rest of us in Downey. Bella gave the funeral home the outfit she and her father had chosen. They decided they didn’t want an open casket as they’d seen her; they just wanted her to finally find rest where she belonged; next to her own mother.
Two days later with clouds hanging over Downey like a wet sheet of paper courtesy of Rogue, everyone gathered at the cemetery where Bella had scoped out the perfect spot for her mom underneath a willow tree that was on the other of her grandmother. She had bought two plots, signed over the Power of Attorney rights of Phil to Mr. Simms who assured her that he will keep her up to date with any developments of Phil and will make sure he gets the finest care possible. A priest performed a ceremony and after everyone laid white roses on the casket, it was lowered into the ground. Bella and Charlie stood watching everything. The funeral home also provided tombstones out of which Bella and Charlie chose one that would fit both Renee and Phil eventually. It was made of black marble and on her side had a bird flying off into the sunset and on his side had a baseball along with a bat carved into it in gold. The tombstone will eventually have inscribed on it; “Loving mother, devoted wife, and precious human being to all those who knew her. She is greatly missed.”
Everyone wore black. Bella stood in between Edward and Charlie. Nessie stood with Jacob’s arm around her. Each person stood with their mate except Billy who sat in his wheelchair next to Sue who was on the other side of Charlie and Jacob. People sobbed but finally it was over as the casket was covered with dirt and people started leaving. After thanking the funeral director and priest, we all took our leave back to the hotel. We had it arranged that a local restaurant would cater a formal family dinner. Billy by that time had been caught up on the whole business of who the Watchers were and how they had granted us the power to eat human food; so he was not out of the loop. He still found it fascinating to see a vampire eat a bowl of soup and not cringe in disgust.
While we had been doing all this prep work for the funeral, we had heard from New York. Phil’s operation had gone off without a hitch. Rogue decided to speed his recovery along faster so they could move him to Downey before we all left it for the last time otherwise it would take another 5 months. So two days after the funeral, Phil was flown in with a few doctors to the new facility in Downey which would now be his home. Once he was settled in and everything that had happened in the meantime was explained to him including Mr. Simms’s having the Power of Attorney and how Bella moved him to be closer to Renee. He asked to visit the grave site and a nurse took him. It was there that he encountered Bella. She knew he was coming and needed to see him face to face one last time. It was still cloudy in Downey much to the dismay of its residents. But they would have to wait until all of the immortals left town to see the sun again…..sucks to be them.
When Phil saw Bella standing beside her mom’s grave; she had told everyone she wanted to do this by herself, he just stopped and stared at her. So she was there alone as Phil looked around. He knew the rest of us were in town as well. He didn’t know of course the sheer number of people that had arrived. Everyone was leaving to their respective homes the following days. All of the plane tickets were reserved and cars as well. Phil meanwhile, walked ever so slowly toward Bella and when he had finally approached her and saw the grave marker, he collapsed to his knees and began to sob.
“I’m sorry…….I’m so sorry……..I’m so so sorry……..Bella……….I’m sorry…….I’m sorry……..Renee…….my precious Renee……..I’m so sorry…….I wish I was dead……please bring her back…….Oh God why?”
He continued to sob into his hands as Bella turned away to hide her own tears that would never fall. Finally she kneeled down to his level and touched his arm which made the contact seem like an electric shock that jolted him out of his sobbing. He looked at her with more pain then she’s seen in a very long time.
“Phil, please stop crying. It wasn’t your fault. You didn’t do on purpose. It was an accident.” Bella said calmly.
“I’m sorry…….I’m so sorry…….how could this happen?” He looked at her with anguished eyes.
“Sadly, health issues make people do things they never would otherwise.” She said plainly.
“Thank you for moving me out here and closing up the house. I don’t think I can ever go back there again. But that’s not important……..” his voice trailed off.
“It was the least I could do. You were and are a victim in this tragedy as much as my mom was.” Bella swallowed hard.
“Will you ever find it in your heart to forgive me? I’ll do anything.” Phil asked as tears continued to stream down his face in rivers, hitting the ground forming small puddles. One never knew a human being could produce so many tears.
“I’ve already forgiven you Phil. But do promise me one thing.” Bella said quietly.
“Name it.” He said more strongly.
“Get healthy; both physically and mentally and live a full life. Don’t wallow away in your grief and sorrow. We were just shown how quickly life can be snuffed out. So there’s no point in wasting it on self-pity and sorrow. Grieve and then get healthy. That’s what you can do for me.” Bella said looking Phil straight in the eye.
“I promise…….from the bottom of my heart…….I promise I will get better. For you….for her…..for myself.” He said with fierce determination.
Then Bella hugged him tightly and after releasing him and looking back just once, he watched her walk away into the forest beyond the trees into her own life and eternity. He never saw as another woman with long black hair and piercing blue eyes appeared in front of her or that the woman wrapped her arms around Bella and they flew into the air. And along with them, they took the clouds as the sun came back long enough to set on the horizon. Phil stood there watching the empty cemetery before laying flowers on his wife’s grave and with a much more determined walk, went back to the car the nurse brought him in and they drove away.
From far above in the sky, Bella watched the car leave the cemetery and get on the highway. As they flew into the setting sun, Bella whispered:
“Farewell Phil, live in peace.”
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***Note: The photos used in the 9/11 Memorial collage below are my own that I took when I went there in 2011. ~xoxo Olga