Toeay is the 4 week anniversary of the day that we laid Daddy to rest. It seems like it was yesterday. And it seems like it has been months.
There are so many moments from that week and just before that stand out in my mind.
- On Valentine’s Day, I slipped on black ice and got a concussion and a fractured tailbone for my troubles. Daddy called me on the 19th of February to wish me a happy birthday and to find out how I was doing. He kept asking me if I was going to have surgery. “Surgery??” “Yes. Is the doctor going to remove your tailbone?” “Goodness, no.” He was quite concerned that I would not have a tailbone to sit on for the remainder of my life. When we finished the call, he said “I love you” and I responded back, “I love you, too, Daddy.” I had no idea at that moment those were the last words I would hear my Daddy speak to me.
- My parents went to live with my sister and her husband several years ago. My sister has at least a dozen crowns in heaven for taking care of my mom while she lived and then my dad. I can still see her in my mind’s eye standing in the front doorway crying as my husband and my oldest nephew helped me walk from the car to the door.
- Before the medical examiner left with daddy’s body, he allowed my sister, Marie, and I to say goodbye. He didn’t realize the paramedics had left the tube in my daddy’s mouth and his eyes were still open. I don’t mean to gross anyone out but you have to know what I saw. My sister pulled back the sheet and quickly covered him back up when she saw the tube and his eyes still open. But here’s the thing: his eyes had a glowing light shining from them. Now I’m sure some medical folks will disagree and say that’s not possible, but I know what I saw. His eyes were radiant. I truly believe that at that last second as he passed from this life into heaven, he saw God and he saw my mom. I hope that picture stays emblazoned on my mind forever.
- I remember sitting at the funeral home on Wednesday morning thinking how organized my dad had been all his life. It was apparent again because he had completed a “pre-needs” form when he worked at the funeral home. My sister and I had to make only one decision that morning. By him preparing ahead of time, it made that appointment just a little easier.
- The visitation was overflowing with people whose lives had been touched by my dad. Kids, now grown, who were touched in Sunday School when my dad was the children’s superintendent; five men who were Scouts when my dad was Scout Master; friends and family members.
- The private moment my sister and I had together before the family gathered one last time to say good-bye. We mentioned how, for some reason, daddy’s death and that week had been much different than when my mother passed just six months before. We acknowledged that part of the difference was mother’s passing was expected–daddy’s was not. But then I said to my sister, “But we were daddy’s girls.” And her face lit up and she looked so pleased, and said “Yes, we were. We were daddy’s girls.” I had always said that she was mother’s girl, but I was daddy’s girl. I said that because a) I stupidly believed it, and b) she got all of mother’s domestic genes. My mom could cook, bake, sew, clean, decorate, entertain–you name it–if it was domestic, my mom had it. And my sister has it. I, on the other hand, didn’t receive any of those domestic genes. Rather, I got all of my dad’s organizational, administrative genes. Not that I’m complaining because those genes have served me well. My point is (finally) I didn’t realize that I had hurt my sister by saying I was daddy’s girl. So, Marie, this is my apology to you. Daddy always loved you, cherished you as much as he did me. We were, and always will be, daddy’s girls.
- The military honor guard at the graveside. Taps. The folding of the flag that had draped daddy’s casket. Such meticulous precision. The presentation of the flag by one of the highest ranking Navy officials. The moving words that he spoke about my dad.
- Walking away from his graveside, still in shock and denial. I finally understood what my mother meant all those years ago as we began to leave the graveside after my grandmother’s burial. “I don’t want to go. I can’t leave her here.” I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to leave him there. Even though I knew “he” wasn’t there – just his empty body – I still didn’t want to leave him.
- The calls, cards, emails, prayers, food, flowers and donations to daddy’s church . . . such an outpouring of love.
We, my sister and I, our children and grandchildren, can’t thank you enough for all that you did. We are still in grief mode. In fact, I told someone the other day that I didn’t think I had really grieved. That I haven’t had time to grieve. That will come and with that grieving comes the knowledge that God will be grieving with me. And that this is not the end. We will see both Daddy and Mother when we get to heaven. I imagine what it will be like seeing them, waiting at the gate. And there is a gleam in my eye.