Is is really one week from today my dad died?
We are in the phase where our language is scattered with phrases like, Can you believe it was two weeks ago we took Dad to the ER? Or Last Monday we moved him to hospice and this Monday we had his memorial service. Or Was it just a week ago we sat around his bed eating lunch, holding his hand and chatting?
Time is both disorienting and a comforting marker.
Here’s the thing “they” don’t tell you about death, when you are the immediate family, the day after your person has died you will be planning a gathering akin to a wedding. Except it is nothing like a wedding other than there will be a service, flowers, food, outfits to be thought of, music to be chosen, people to inform and invite, a power point to get together (which means photos to go through), an obituary and eulogy to be written, and phone call after phone call to be made.
Each path is influenced by the person and circumstances and our path involved Dad being relatively young (74), his death relatively shocking — somewhere between a heart attack or accident and a drawn out illness — and he was still an active participant in life.
We had three main goals for his memorial service
- Give people a sense of his life — knowing people might know this slice or that piece, but not know the overarching story
- Weave stories and honoring together
- Balance mourning and celebrating while pointing to the hope Dad has in Christ
And all of the minor goals like having enough food, not having flowers that were too “funereal,” and sticking enough tissues in your purse.
We thought maybe 150 to 200 might be able to attend. It was (word of the week) shocking to walk into the sanctuary and see over 250 people. The memory of so many giving up a Monday morning to be with us, is one that we will all have. But Mom, in particular as she has commented several times on it. It is a blessing to a wife’s heart to know her husband’s life rippled out far and wide.
After walking in to a bagpipe version of Amazing Grace, we said the Lord’s prayer together and two pastors spoke briefly with a word from the Old and New Testament. We sang Blessed Assurance and my sister Laura wrote a stunning eulogy I’ll share later (and if you don’t want to read it, no problem, but several people have asked for copies and linking it to a blog is the easiest way to get it out), my brother-in-law Del shared the impact Dad had had on him (and the sorrow he’ll have being the lone surviving male in our family :)), and I shared five life lessons learned being raised by Tom Young. We opened the mic for folks to share memories, all sang How Great Thou Art and ended with the bag piper leading us out to Ode to Joy.
A niece slid her hand into mine on the way down to the reception and said, “Aunt Amy, I’m so glad you’re here and not going back to China.”
The reception was part reunion, part reconnecting, part offering of condolences, part story telling, and all Tom Young. The man loved a good party! It was also part weird, for us, his family knowing that we’ve helped host other parties in his honor — birthday, anniversary, retirement and after this, there will be no major parties to plan for him.
Yesterday was airport day and the house is quiet. Was it just last Tuesday Laura and Sue arrived? We each have foggy brains as one sister forgot her purse at the house when she went to the airport, another had challenges covering a Valentine’s box with paper for her daughter, and this has taken a ridiculous time to type and I have no sense of whether it is of any value or pure crap. We are quick to offer grace to one another reminding each our husband, dad, father-in-law, brother, friend, and grandpa has died, it’s OK to be fuzzy for a while.
This was taken after the memorial service and reception were done. Thank you so much for your comments, cards, emails, flowers, calls, and love expressed in so many ways. I love the scripture that reminds us, we do not mourn as those who have no hope. We are mourning and will continue to do so, but it is laced with hope and love and faith.
On Monday morning Mom commented how strange it is to get dressed for your husband’s memorial service. I said it was supposed to be strange! Death was not the plan, life was. Again, thank you. Mercies woven in with mourning.
With blessing, Amy