Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Checking in

I didn't think I'd feel like blogging so soon -- Tom has to work today, so we returned from Wilkes-Barre last night -- but I've got so many thoughts running around in my head that I think it will help to get some of them out.

The services for my dad went about as well as these things can. My sister-in-law was a champ throughout this whole nightmare: her training as a nurse helped us navigate the medical stuff, and her common sense and caring helped take care of dozens of details of planning and logistics at a time when my mom, my brother and I were shellshocked and unable to deal. One thing for which I am profoundly grateful is that we all were on the same page when it came to making decisions throughout. It was a great relief to find we all agreed about the important issues that had to be decided.

In the past, I've never been a big fan of the open-casket "viewing." But after my grandmother's death a few years ago and now this, I can better understand why it's done. The last time I saw my dad in the hospital, he looked so jaundiced and so unlike himself that it freaked me out. There was something comforting about seeing him one last time looking like his normal self. (He would have been thrilled beyond belief by how elegant -- not to mention skinny -- he looked in his suit.)

The other thing about the viewing that blew my mind was how important and meaningful the support of those who attended was to my family and me. People from every phase of my dad's life came: a childhood friend who remembered playing baseball in the vacant lot with him, former students (one of whom brought me to tears by saying, "You don't know me, but many years ago your dad was my high school teacher and he encouraged me to go on to college and even helped me find a scholarship I didn't know about. Now I'm an engineer and I wouldn't be if it weren't for your dad"), fellow teachers and administrators from the school district he retired from, hunting buddies, dear friends of my brother's and mine from grade school, high school and beyond, coworkers of my brother& my sister-in-law & my aunt, my mom's church friends, friends of my nephews (teenagers in ill-fitting suits who took the time to come and say awkwardly but so sweetly, "I'm sorry for your troubles"), neighbors... the outpouring of support for us and love for my dad touched my heart. My dad would have been so proud to know that there was a line out the door of the funeral home for most of the afternoon, and he is probably bragging to St. Peter about the fact that the mayor (!) showed up, along with doctors, lawyers and even a judge, to pay their respects.

Apart from the love and support they offered us, and the memories they were willing to share, it did me a world of good to see how many lives my dad touched in positive ways. The teachers he worked with, and then supervised, loved him and how he always stood up for them. His hunting buddies told us how in the middle of the night, they would wake up to find one of the hunting dogs curled up in bed with my dad. Little League coaches told how he never missed my nephews' games and sometimes would act as announcer over the loudspeaker, leading to the nickname "The Voice of Lee Park". Cousins of mine who lost their dad at a young age sobbed as they talked about how my dad was like a second father to them. It did me good to see my own memories of my dad rounded out and edges softened by the memories of others. It made it easier and even more meaningful to deliver his eulogy the next day.

Right now a different phase of the journey is beginning. I have always been someone who finds comfort in routine, so I'm going to spend the next few days, until school starts again, easing back into some semblance of a normal routine (hence this blog post). I have so many kind and sweet messages to return, and thank-you notes to write (two breathtakingly beautiful flower arrangements arrived, reducing me to tears -- knitters rock!) so be patient as I work through them. I also want to get back to BBF as I think I will find some pleasure and comfort there.

Thank you all for your support and friendship and love. If it weren't for the fact that I couldn't rest for eternity lying under a quote from a Jewel song, I think I'd want my epitaph to be "In the end, only kindness matters."

20 comments:

Cynthia said...

My sympathies to you and your family for your loss. My dad died when I was only 8...I can imagine how you feel. I'll be keeping you and your family in my thoughts.

the hanged man said...

Carol, let me again offer my condolences to your family and support if there is anything you need.

If you'd rather not use a Jewel quote as an epitaph, how about a line from Philip Larkin that never fails to move me:

"What will survive of us is love."

Jodi said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Carol. It sounds as if there truly has been a celebration of your father, and he touched so many people's lives.

Geek Knitter said...

May you and your family continue to find comfort. Peace to you all in this hard time.

Anonymous said...

There is so much grace in what you wrote. It almost feels like a gift--you've experienced a loss and shared it with us. Thank you. Letting people close at a time like this isn't easy. I hope the new year brings you peace and happiness.

Rebecca said...

Your father sounds like a lovely man and it's a great thing to have love for your father/uncle/friend/teacher in common. Thank you for sharing the experience. I wish you peace.

Bridget said...

It is always amazing to me to meet people who knew someone in a totally different context than I knew them - makes them seem in some ways a different person, in other ways, much more human. I'm glad you had the chance to find out new things about your dad.

And I hope you will just take your time on your trip back to your routine existence. There's a lot to be said for "normal" sometimes ...

knittinggolfer said...

Wow! How eloquent. I am sure you father was proud of you and you show he had reason to be. It seems like a strangely rewarding experience...I have always thought Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn were on to something.

Wishing you comfort as you return to your routines.

Gwen said...

So Sorry.

Knittah said...

Carol, I am so sorry, but I know what you mean about the importance of that extended circle of people whose lives were touched by your dad. Can I do anything for you?

Rows Red said...

I am awed by how well you have expressed such a complex thing as the death of a loved one. You have my condolances for your loss, the very idea of losing one of my parents is crazy-making. May your wounds heal in their own time, and may be it as soon as you need that to be.

anne marie in philly said...

another quote (from "the wizard of oz") - a heart is not judged by how much you love, but how much you are loved by others.

kinda fits what you discussed above...

call me if you need anything...{{{{{HUGS}}}}}

Fredda said...

Carol, thank you for sharing over the last few weeks. It's never easy, but we find strength that we never knew we had.

Take comfort in knowing that you and your father had a "special" relationship that no one else shared. Functional or dysfunctional...it was everything he had, and it was just for you.

My thoughts are with you and your family.

Terri said...

I am so sorry to read of the passing of your dad. Your family is in my prayers.

Ali P said...

What we know of a person is always but a facet. I'm so glad that having other's share their memories with you brought some comfort and relief. You are in my thoughts.

puffthemagicrabbit said...

Hugs.

(btw- I've already claimed that epitaph- so there!)

I'm glad you were able to hear about so many different sides to your father's life. Its nice that people shared so much you couldn't have known.

FizzTheCarbonated said...

I'm very sorry for your loss, and I hope your pain is eased. We lost my Grandmother a couple of weeks before Christmas last year, and it was so hard on my mom... But going back to Kansas and spending time with my cousins and having that entire side of the family together for a giant dinner afterward? A very fond memory. The good memories can make things bittersweet, instead of just bitter.

Sleepycat said...

Delurking to offer my condolences as well. My father passed last spring to pancreatic cancer and I know exactly what you mean about the viewing. It was like the previous 6 months hadn't happened and he looked at peace and pain free.
[[[hugs]]]

Carol said...

I'm glad it was such a positive experience. I find funerals extremely hard but you've found so much peace from your father's. I hope that peace continues for you. Going about your 'normal' routine when nothing feels normal isn't easy. Huge hugs to you. xx

Anonymous said...

Dear Carol,
So sorry to read of dad's passing. I am sorry for your loss.
I've enjoyed reading your blog for years - about yarn and knitting and your wonderful family and your positive outlook on life. You never let me down. Thanks for sharing!

Lisa