It has been nine days of lots of emotions. The drive to Idaho helped me reflect and gather my thoughts. My dad lived a full life, and contributed to the lives of so many people by simply being a fun-loving, caring person. This was very evident from all the messages we received, and the packed church for his funeral. The service truly reflected my dad…religion was downplayed, but evident in the caring and sharing. There were some moments of reflection, and laughter broke out several times. We had a photo display with pictures that spanned his lifetime, from a very young boy growing up in a working class home through the stages of his life through being a grandfather. Photos from his grandparents’ house, with his mom and her sisters, from the navy, his wedding to my mom, their first child, the growth of the family and its contraction as my sister no longer appears and then my mom deteriorated before leaving us. But it also showed how his family grew with my brother’s family growing and then my own and then my sister’s. There were photos of his active life, goofy faces he would make, even a “fashion show” he was part of for Mother’s Day at the church.
There were people there from throughout dad’s life, and people I have known all my life. There were also people I had never met before, people whose lives he touched in his simple, caring way. Dad always liked to see people laugh and be happy. He hated to see anyone sad or down. It did not matter who you were, he did not care. If you were sad or unhappy, it bothered him and he would do what he could to help. It was the essence of the man.
We had a closed casket funeral. We wanted to remember him as he was, not as a lifeless body in a casket. And the photos brought him to life, back into our lives. He was present with us, in the thoughts and hearts of everyone there and everyone remembering him this past week. It was also the time I broke the most. My dad was one of those people who is everyone’s friend, every kid’s father, and the town shared it with us. It was still very deeply personal, feeling the pain of loss, of not having someone in my life who has been there for me for fifty years.
We have also spent the past week working on his effects…in his house, in a storage unit, the knickknacks accumulated over seventy-nine years. Some things have only emotional attachment, loaded with memories, and you look at some things and think “why in the hell was he keeping this???” But that was also my dad, the ultimate pack rat. But even the things we want to keep, that mean something to us, are just things. Dad lives on in us.
Dad’s funeral was on Friday. On Saturday, I stopped in to see a friend I have not seen in years to talk and catch up. He was doing well, back to his normal jovial self after getting through years of medical issues I can definitely understand. It could not have been two hours later that I received a call from him…he had just learned his father had died as well, a week after mine. His father had been sick for years, and now my friend and his sisters and just beginning to go through the same things I just went through with my brother and sister. My friend and his family are definitely in my thoughts.
I also found out today another friend’s parents are in bad shape…people I had seen at my dad’s funeral. His father suffered a severe stroke while driving with his mother, crossed the median and oncoming traffic before hitting a tree. His dad is in pretty bad shape from the stroke, and his mother has a compression fracture in her spine so she is in considerable pain. It has not been a good August. But that is also part of life. These people enter our lives, and they never leave because they are part of who we are.