Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Worst is Over?

My father was laid to rest yesterday. The ceremony was touching and beautiful - a real tribut to the man he was and the life that he lived. I was amazed - and yet not really so- at the number of people that came out to pay tribute and remember a great man.
Yesterday I had to read my father's eulogy - a conglomeration of words that could never possibly begin to describe who he was and what he meant to me. I did my best and most importantly, I kept my promise and I didn't cry. I held it together, at least while I was talking.
My dad's cousin, Johnnie Leckie was there, in traditional dress with his bagpipes ready. Their sweet and sad strains pierced right through my heart. I wasn't prepared for that. It was comforting to commemorate my father's life at the Church where I had so many times attended with my father as a child. I sat in stunned silence while my cousin, Tim, read the beautiful readings that he selected. ( Even though he doesn't usually "read" at his Church- that's an inside joke) I was amazed that a man who appeared as cold as Father Murphy usually does, could pull together a homily that talked about how my father inspired so many and like an eagle, only wanted to soar to God. My father would have liked that.
Finally, when the mass was over, it was my turn to speak. I felt my knees shake, I had to walk by my father's casket - which was so difficult - and then it seemed like an eternity all the way up to the pulpit. Thankfully I had printed out my eulogy, otherwise I never would have remembered everything I wanted to say let alone formulate a coherent sentence without a reference.
I don't remember the eulogy now, I only remember reaching out to touch my father's casket as I returned to my seat. It was the first time that I had done so. His pallbearers were comprised of friends and family who solemnly and with care completed their duty. I watched my father's casket go into the hearse and then, we were off to the cemetery.
My husband and I had fought all week to make sure that my father recieved full military honors. We finally got word on Thursday afternoon that the Air Force was coming from Andrews Air Force base to do the honors. When we pulled up, they were there waiting for my father. They gently lifted him out of the hearse and the honor guard carefully carried him into the chapel for the final words to be said over his body before being laid to rest. I watched them fold and snap the flag, making each crease crisp with pride. My father would have liked that.
When they were done folding, the captain of the honor guard held the folded flag until the Priest was done. Then came the moment that I both longed for and dreaded - the presentation of the Flag. I wanted the flag with all my heart - I already have plans to mount it along with my father's medals from his time in the service and his picture, but at the same time, I would much rather have my father than this flag to remember him by.
The sergeant handed me the flag and said some kind words about the President, the United States Air Force and a grateful nation. He placed the flag in my arms and I felt it's weight for the first time. He stepped back and gave my father his final salute. I will never forget that.
The airmen also coordinated a fly over. I didn't get to see the planes, but I could hear them - I remember saying to my husband, "They're coming." I saw the reflection in the memorial wall. It was an amazing and beautiful tribute for a man who had done so much and served his country so loyally.
They say the worst is over. I've eulogized my dad, and he's been laid to rest. Yet today, I feel the enormity of his absence more than ever. Today when I got home to Connecticut after the long drive, I only had one call to make. I will never share my good news ( in quite the same way) ever again. I wouldn't say that the worst is over. I would say that I will miss my father every day for the rest of my life, and that is just beginning.


Jen said...

That was touching, as always. Love you!

One Scrappy Gal said...

I just jumped on to your blog after being away a while and saw the post about your father. I am so so sorry for your loss. Sending you big hugs!! Is this the same sweet man I met at dance??

Thinking of you tonight.

Ken said...

I agree, that was touching. Thank you for posting it. I'm sorry for your loss. I can't say I know exactly how you feel, because I still have both of my parents alive, and relatively healthy. But I dread losing them, and I do know what is like to lose grandparents, close friends, and a best friend.

Hang in there and keep writing.

(It's Ken from tunasafedolphin "Everything Must Go")

Loud Larry said...

Although it's difficult today to see beyond the sorrow,
May looking back in memory help comfort you tomorrow.
~Author Unknown

Please accept my heartfelt condolences

snowflake said...

Thank you to everyone for reading and for your condolences. They are appreciated.
Ken, it was good to see you. I still read your blog loyally though I don't always comment.