Saturday, April 22, 2006
My father used to take my sister and I to the beach when we were little kids. For some reason, when I found out that he had passed away 2 weeks ago on April 2nd, I remembered how his hand felt in mine while we walked down the beach together. It must have been a really long time ago because I can't remember going to the beach with him anytime in recent history, but there it is: perhaps it is what he wanted me to remember of him - a big strong guy taking care of me - rather than the little old man he had become at the end of his life.
During the past few years, I didn't feel like Dad was Dad. He used to be such a happy, active man. Recently, it was as if he was ready to go. He was tired all the time and not very happy with life. My sister did a great job making him as comfortable as possible and I am so glad that she had a chance to be with him and get to know him again. They were buddies. I felt so bad for her because they were so close and his passing has hurt her deeply - more, I believe, than she is allowing anyone to see.
She and my brother-in-law found him in his little home in Virginia. He went peacefully after 81 years, but it is still a shock to all of us. Maybe part of you thinks that your parents will always be there. I can't believe he is gone.
I can't remember most of the trip from here to Virginia. I cried most of the way and the rest of the time, I was in some kind of a trance.
The most difficult part of the 2 weeks I was there was cleaning out his home. It felt so disrepsectful; like a huge invasion of privacy. 81 years of a person's life amounts to an accumulation of stuff; stuff that no one else can value; stuff that we don't know the origins of. I took his dad-hat, his glasses, and one of his favorite sweaters (which is probably about 30 years old since he took such amazing care of his clothes) with me. I also took a really ugly blue glass decanter in the shape of an eagle that my sister and I had bought him many years ago as a birthday present. It meant something to him; he moved it through several different households. It now means something to me.
I never knew how proud he was of me. He kept all my cards and all the various pieces of work that I sent him over the years.
My sisters and I got to say goodbye to him. They wheeled him up in a gurney at the funeral home. I told him how sorry I was for not calling him enough. We thanked him for loving us all.
His memorial service was beautiful. It was grave-side at the small Southern cemetery where most of my dad's side of the family is buried. My cousin played "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes. Long before his death, I cried whenever I heard the song played on the pipes. I completely lost it during his service.
I was strong around my sisters. When I saw that they were being strong (probably for me), I was strong for them. It wasn't until I got back here that things have really hit me. Grief has been coming in waves. Sometimes, just when you feel like you are going to be okay for a while, you start crying again. Maybe a song or a picture will remind you. I'm just wondering if I will be the same me when time passes. I don't know how a person could be. Some of my very close friends have been changed dramatically by the loss of a parent. They are not the same people. I know I feel different.
We chose this poem for his prayer card.
Don't grieve for me, for now I'm free
I'm following the path God laid for me.
I took His hand when I heard him call;
I turned my back and left it all.
I could not stay another day,
To laugh, to love, to work or play.
Tasks left undone must stay that way;
I found that place at the close of day.
If my parting has left a void,
Then fill it with remembered joy.
A friendship shared a laugh, a kiss;
Ah yes, these things, I too will miss.
Be not burdened with times of sorrow
I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow.
My life's been full, I savored much;
Good friends, good times, a loved ones touch.
Perhaps my time seems all to brief;
Don't lengthen it now with undue grief.
Lift up your heart and share with me,
God wanted me now, He set me free.
I have gone to call him several times and have to stop myself. Why can't I just hear his voice one more time? I miss him terribly.