Saturday, April 7, 2012

After my Dad's Death

Obviously I haven't blogged in a long time, my mind just hasn't been on that.  On March 8th my dad lost his battle with cancer.  He fought hard and for about 3.5 years, doing extremely well until the last few months.  He will be greatly missed!  I'm not going to get mushy and sentimental here, that's for real-life for now, but I wanted to share some of the things I've learned through his death.  While my experience and feelings are just my own, and some people will have very different experiences, I'm sharing my own perspective.

Knowing people are praying for you is comforting.  No matter how many seemingly generic "Our thoughts and prayers are with you" I got, I knew they were from the heart and it was comforting to see and hear those words.  Often times people just don't know what else to say, and that's fine, because there aren't any words that will make the pain go away.  But seeing and hearing that people care for you and cared for the person who has passed is soothing.

I've never been very good at sending cards, for anything really, so I was surprised how good those sympathy cards made me feel.  The ones with personal messages were particularly touching, especially when they contained specific memories of my dad.  I'll need to remember that sympathy cards are comforting to many people and I plan to make an effort to send them when I can.

A good funeral home director is incredibly helpful.  When my mom, my sister and I went to meet with him I was really impressed at how smooth he seemed to make everything that needed to be done in a short amount of time.  They literally walk you through the whole planning process and give you advice on what to do.  Of course my mom had a lot of extra things to take care of, but the funeral director, and our church's funeral planners made things as easy as could be expected.

There's a lot of hugging involved.  I hugged nearly every person who attended the funeral, and I was happy to do it.

And related to all the hugging - family.  Death brings family together, if only for a day for some.  Family members that live several hours away or whom we hadn't heard from in several years, showed up to pay their respects.  And even though it was for a brief time, it was good to come together to remember my dad.

I was incredibly moved to see a sanctuary full of people who took time off on a Wednesday morning to pay their respects, share their memories and our own, and celebrate the life of a wonderful man.  Just taking the time to show up to a visitation or funeral is meaningful to the family.

Military people are efficient (not that I didn't realize that already).  When we arrived at Fort Snelling National Cemetary at our appointed time, we were given a run through of the timing of the next half an hour.  The whole service is precisely timed, yet still meaningful.

My dad's Fort Snelling Service was beautiful and moving.  Other than the first woman we met who took us to the location and was a bit cold, I got a real sense of appreciation for my dad's service for our country.  Whether or not you agree that the U.S. should have been involved in any particular war, we should appreciate the people who risked their life to serve our nation.  Politics aside, the men and women in the military do what most of us can't or won't do, and they work hard to do it, and often die for it.  They should be thanked.  And a 21 rifle solute and gifting the family with an American flag is a beautiful way to do that.  I could have cried when the rifles went off, but I was worried about my kids reaction since it was very loud (they were fine, barely flinched).  I did cry though when the tall, dignified old vet presented my mom with the flag, and this tiny old woman gave the most sincere thanks to my mom for my dad's service for our country.  And when Taps was played, chills.  It was beautiful.

After the funeral, the family went out for drinks.  I think that going out afterward to lift ourselves out of the sadness of the funeral, and celebrate his life with happy memories and laughter is entirely helpful.  It kind of gave us permission to smile again while still grieving and remembering the good times.

I've been doing well for the most part, although I still very much miss him.  Tomorrow, Easter, will be one month since he passed away, and our first holiday without him.  I am sure he'll be looking down on us with his dad and smiling as the kids hunt for eggs, and we enjoy a big Easter meal together.  Because the biggest lesson to be learned, is how important it is to spend time with family while we still can.
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