06 November 2005

The Long Road Home

I'm not really sure what to write here. I feel like I'm foolishly bursting with all sorts of crazy emotions. I don't know whether I should be telling you about the crazy, glorious, heartbreaking circus that the last two days have been, or ruminating on the nature of connections to loved ones. Or both. Or neither.

My mom, my siblings, and I decided that the thing to do was to have a single day of public viewing for my dad -- partly because a couple of us had commitments, the canceling of which would have proved disastrous for everyone involved, and partly because we had an innate sense of just how devastating a drawn-out mourning process would have been... so we had a marathon session on Friday.

The family arrived at noon and had a couple of hours alone with my dad. Those of us who had watched his precipitous decline were taken aback by how he looked in the coffin.

You know how sometimes yougo to the theater, and your friends are involved and -- regretably -- they suck, but you have to tell them how good they were? That's been my experience of most corpses in the coffin; you're expected to tell the family how great they look, when in fact they look nothing like the person you remember -- garish makeup and scary red lips and the like.

Well, I might be in that little pink cloud that your theater friends are often in -- the one that allows your friends to believe the lie when you tell it -- but I have to tell you, the funeral director, who happens to be a really close friend of my dad's, did an absolutely amazing job.

He somehow managed to make my dad's corpse hold onto my dad's "I know something you don't know" smirk.

It was shocking, unsettling, and beautiful.

I was really taken aback by how many people came out to see my dad. The public viewing started at 2 p.m., and right from the get-go the place was chock full of people. The family dined in staggered shifts at a nearby friend's house, but the crowds just never stopped. We were kicking them out at 9 p.m.

All in all, a delightful day of anecdotes and memories, jokes and reminiscences.

We buried him Saturday morning at a lovely funeral mass -- presided over by another person who knew and loved him, his pastor at St. Columbcille -- and the brief ceremony at the cemetary was lit by the most extraordinary mix of sun and dirty-cotton-ball clouds, pregnant with the threat of rain. It made for those lovely shafts of light spilling from above that you always see in ridiculous paint-by-numbers religious paintings.

I'm so glad I got the chance to get right with my dad long before he died; I'm so grateful that he knew that I loved him, and that I knew he loved me. No regrets. No missed opportunities.

I hope he's at peace, whereever he is. I'm melancholy from missing him, and loving him still; it was great to say goodbye in such a joyous way.


ron Schulz said...

well said my brother. keep the thoughts coming, as they are universal and articulate the best of all our sentiments i am sure.



Anonymous said...

great glob joe.dyslexics of the world UNTIE!!!! yer everlovin brudder