I am sitting at a table in an unfamiliar room with Amy Parker. She has pretty blond hair and a soothing voice. She is careful with her words, like a flight attendant reading the safety script as the plane starts moving. “In the unlikely event of a water landing” means “if the plane crashes into the ocean.” Amy is just like that. She is helping us plan my dad’s funeral. We should not have been meeting so soon. Perhaps 10 years from now would’ve been a better time for this meeting.
Mom, Jeff and Rebecca are at the meeting too. Amy offers us beverages, as though this is an ordinary visit. But it is obviously not ordinary.
“Find out your dad’s wishes” a friend advised me a few weeks prior. Yes….I plan to, of course. We were lucky to have time from his diagnosis to his passing to go through everything together, neatly. Orderly. Checking things off a list. All the important things. What exactly are the important things to find out? I should’ve asked my friend some follow up questions.
“What songs do you want at your funeral?” I asked him.
I wrote them down. Thank God I wrote them down.
I had other questions, but the time was never right. If Dad was feeling good, I didn’t want to ruin anything by bringing up the inevitable. If he was feeling bad, I didn’t want to make it worse. I imagine this is exactly why my friend offered her advice.
My pastor said she would be honored to conduct the funeral. I love her so much. I wish everyone could have Pastor Marcy conduct their loved one’s funeral if a funeral has to happen. Marcy is warm and genuine and funny and feisty.
How many people would come to the funeral?
The funeral coordinator from church asked me this question. “How do we know this?” I asked. She told me a good starting point is to think about your last family gathering. How many people were there?
Five. There are always 5 of us. There were always 5 of us. Now there are 4 of us.
Rebecca designed these programs with so much love:
When I walked into the church, I saw the most beautiful bouquet of flowers. They were all white. They were gorgeous and perfect. The card told me they were from the people at work. It was February in a busy tax office, and yet they all showed up on a Monday morning at a church across town to celebrate my dad, which I will never forget.
Our friend Joanna offered to help with music. We have known Jo for at least 40 years, and she taught piano lessons to both Rebecca and me. I asked Jo if she would play the piano AND sing and she said yes. Mom and I were thrilled, and we knew this was exactly what my dad would’ve chosen himself.
I go to church fairly regularly, often enough that you would think I would’ve noticed my church doesn’t have a piano. So I asked Jo if she would sing AND play the keyboard and she said yes. It was beautiful. Amazing Grace…How Great Thou Art…My dad would’ve loved it. I hope he heard it all. I think he did.
We did get a little piano music after all because we had video of Dad himself playing the piano…there he was soothing our souls with hymns during the visitation.
Uncle John gave a eulogy. How kind and generous to agree to such a big request. His words honored my dad beautifully. I was touched….and felt a little guilty. I knew he would do a great job, but I didn’t consider his feelings as carefully as I should’ve. He had lost his wife so recently. To speak at a funeral so soon must have been painful. Still, he agreed and blessed us all.
Of course we served donuts – Dad’s favorite. There were plenty of leftover veggies but the donuts were all eaten. I knew we should’ve ordered 500 like I originally suggested. Can you ever have too many donuts? I think not.
People said my dad was funny…and kind…and generous. There was hugging and crying and laughter and stories. People took time off work and school to offer us their presence. When I think back to that day, just 10 weeks ago, my heart is full.
Not everyone gets to have what we had. The people…the love…the comforting memories…the music…not quite enough freshly baked chocolate-covered donuts.
Not quite enough time with Dad.
Forever missed, but remembered with a smile.