Today will be our day off. I’ve got the guest book to drop off at my sister’s but it’s 4 am now so I’ll leave in an hour and be back before anyone ever wakes up – the joys of being an early riser.
The funeral service for my pop yesterday was perfect as could be hoped for. Not a large crowd, just a group of our closest friends and family. We sent him to God with respect worthy a King, even though he was simply our dad, or grandpops. When we picked the music on Wednesday (or maybe it was Thursday), the one song that was absolutely required to be in there was Amazing Grace. That song, loved or not, has a very special place in the hearts of most recovering alcoholics. I made it all the way to the ninth word in the song before losing it.
The rest of the service was absolutely beautiful, save the priest’s several nervous ticks (though for me they were oddly soothing, imagine that). After, my brother Chris, a Sergeant in the Army Reserves (previously Airborne in the Army) had arranged for representatives of the Air Force (my father was a weatherman) to send my dad off with full Military Honors. It was absolutely the perfect cap to the service. The five of us kids decided that my brother Chris would receive his Flag with the understanding between the five of us kids that if anyone should get it, it should be him – Military to Military. At first, I won’t lie, I was a little bummed out – there are good reasons for those emotions but in the end my feelings were mistaken, the right man got that flag. Even though he was not in uniform (regulations were checked) after the Flag was folded with precision and meticulous care, my brother took two steps forward as the second Honor Guardsman walked off and the first turned to Chris. He had the Flag out in front, carried in both hands, point of the all-too-familiar triangle pointing towards Heaven and my brother slowly raised his hand in a three-count to a perfect salute. The Airman raised his, matching my brother… And the most perfect rendition of Taps I’ve ever heard began. That scene said it all and will live with me till the day I die (thank God my awesome wife caught the whole thing on video just so I can be sure). It covered everything that my dad was to me. I know, if he was watching from Heaven, he was up there with a tear of joy in his eye, leaning into Jesus whispering, “Those are my kids”. He was so proud of us, to be able to reciprocate that simply couldn’t be beat. After his battle with Alzheimer’s, that took so much from him, to me it was our way to bring him back to whole, to say, “Screw you Alzheimer’s, that’s my papa and you can drag him through the mud but he washes up just fine”. The Airman and my brother lowered there arms… I couldn’t catch everything but I got the important part… “On behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful nation, I present this Flag”. That was it. ‘Nough said.
At the lunch following the service, presented by three precious ladies from the church (one knew us from when we went there as kids 36 years ago), one of the girls from the nursing home that he stayed at shared some thoughts and experiences she’d had with my dad including the fact that when my dad spoke to my brother Chris the morning that he passed, before he hung up he kissed the phone. We never could have known. Chris held it together like a professional through the Flag ceremony, but hearing that was just too much for him.
Next, my Isabella shared a few thoughts about how she’ll miss her grandpops that would have made him proud. Then a lady who played his wife in the Nutcracker Ballet… She said, with tears rolling down her cheeks, that she’d married my dad ten times and every one was special. Too cool. Then my dad’s favorite guy from the home and we were done. We packed up and left. Last night, the five us sat around the dinner table and opened and read his Will. We already knew what was in it, but we figured everything out and did the math anyway. Finally, we went out to dinner one last time together this go around as my brother flies back to Florida this morning (where it is currently 53 degrees warmer and with wind chill, will be 70 degrees warmer later on – S#!T).
So, today will be a day of rest and reflection, followed by a much-needed night at the bowling alley.
Thanks again to everyone for being so awesome through this.