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."