First of all, to all of you who buried loved ones in the culturally normal time frame closer to death, bless you. This is not meant to sprinkle regret on anyone. But sometimes life happens in different ways than is “culturally normal” and the way you mark a loved one can vary.
(Oh my. I just reread the posts on the process of Dad dying. So fresh. So far away. Still tears.)
His death was rather unexpected and planning a memorial service was a bit like planning a wedding reception in under five days when you are exhausted and in shock and having to make a ridiculous amount of decisions. Because he was cremated and we didn’t have a burial plot we liked prepared—we had one, but decided not to use it and to wait for the right place—there was no urgency.
And time went by.
We chose a place in the mountains and while they can do winter burials, it didn’t seem necessary for the cemetery workers to go to all of effort of digging up frozen ground. My sister Elizabeth has been spectacular about working with Mom and the cemetery folks on all of the details (mainly getting a headstone and this special box you have to bury an urn in and coordinating the date and time).
Saturday morning found two cars of Youngs, Smiths, and a Purdie driving up the mountain for the burial.
It was just our family and the cemetery allowed us to do whatever we wanted. While it is a bit odd to wait 2.5 years to bury someone, I recommend it.
When a loved one dies, you think you know what you are mourning. And you are right. And you are wrong. Waiting a bit helps you to know what it is you have actually lost. We have now lived with his absent presence for long enough to know what is fading (and not so important) and what will live on and on. Unlike the memorial service where you need to focus on many aspects, here, we could focus on Dad.
In this picture we are getting organized. Wasn’t it a lovely day?
We brought his picture for our time together. The roses are from his sister and the zinnias are from his garden, Dad did love his zinnias! I’ll tell you about the whoppers and cookies in a minute.
We took some photos of our family together.
We then gathered in a circle a spent time sharing a memories and what we miss. We cried. We laughed. We ended by each eating a whopper and cookie in his honor. He is like me, related to amazing foodies, but having a rather easy to please palate :)!
Grief still hurts and is exhausting. I’m sure there is a scientific reason about why crying makes one tired, but in the moment, who cares about science? You just know you are weary.
Dad gave us a gift in our grief because our grief is out of abundance. Abundance of his love for us, his enthusiasm for life, his being more interested in who we are as people than what we do, his love for the Lord, his generous spirit. Granddaughter on the far right brought the giraffe he gave her. Each girl cried (we all did!) as we shared. While they will forget a bit about their grandpa, they can’t help it :) . . . I can see that they will remember what is important.
Waiting more than two years may not work for your family. But if you aren’t quite ready to bury them (for any number of reasons!), don’t think you haven’t “done it right.” There are many ways to mourn a loved one.
We left to have lunch together and as we were leaving town we stopped by to see the finished result. It is still surreal to see a parent’s name etched in stone with a date when they died. I think it always will be . . . and that’s okay. The strangeness reminds me death is not supposed to be familiar, life is.
My dad lived a life that mattered. He made small investments every day in people and projects. His legacy is deep and wide. What you do today is not-insignificant. Be kind to strangers. Be there for your family and friends. Approach your work with seriousness, but make plenty of time for fun. Make funny noises when you think that will make your family laugh when they recall it. Be willing to take a stand for what is right.
It turns out that an ordinary life is the real fairy tale.