March 24, 2014


Over the weekend, we celebrated Dad's life with family and friends. It was at once joyous and melancholy. Inspiring and exhausting. Welcome and dreaded.

First we gathered in the Columbarium of my parents' church with a small group of friends and placed Dad's ashes in his final resting place. I had taken SB there several months ago, and she selected the specific spot. At the service, she helped my mom and me place him there.

It is a beautiful location. I hope to return to take more photos of the entire area, because it is so special.

Next up was the Celebration of Life service. It was intensely emotional, to say the least. We had selected Dad's favorite hymns. Our pastor gave an amazing eulogy, comparing my dad to a piece of jazz music. It was so perfect. (I will try to get the text from her so I can share with you.)

Dad's best friend shared some favorite memories. Many of which made people smile and/or laugh. Which was appropriate. He did an excellent job.

Then it was my turn to go up. I knew I would not be able to speak about my dad without losing my composure. So I had selected a poem I found online and read it aloud. I believe it reflected how he would have felt about the situation:

Feel No Guilt In Laughter

Feel no guilt in laughter,
he'd know how much you care.
Feel no sorrow in a smile
that he is not here to share.

You cannot grieve forever;
he would not want you to.
He'd hope that you could carry on
the way you always do.

So, talk about the good times
and the way you showed you cared,
The days you spent together,
all the happiness you shared.

Let memories surround you,
a word someone may say
Will suddenly recapture a time,
an hour, a day,

That brings him back as clearly
as though he were still here,
And fills you with the feeling
that he is always near.

For if you keep those moments,
you will never be apart
And he will live forever
locked safe within your heart.

- Unknown

SB came up to the lectern with me. When I walked her through how the service would go in advance, she asked if she could do so and I said yes. While I read the poem, she held my hand and peered around the lectern at all the people assembled in the sanctuary. She held a small bouquet of white tulips a friend had brought for her.

When I was finished, I picked her up. I explained that in the Presbyterian church, when a child is baptized, the entire congregation is charged with helping to raise that child in the faith. To teach her the lessons of our Lord and Savior.

In a similar way, I asked my father's friends to help keep his memory alive for my child by sharing their stories. I explained most of her experiences with him, while incredibly special, occurred when she was too young to form long term memories.

Her recollections of him tend to be general rather than specific. She remembers him as a silly man who made her laugh. Someone who gave great hugs and shared his crackers with her. I asked those assembled to help her get to know him better as she grows and share his legacy with her.

Then SB told me she would like to say something. I moved her closer to the microphone. When she began to speak into it, she was frightened by the volume of her voice. She jumped back and said, "Oooh! That is loud!"

It was a nice moment of spontaneous comic relief. I whispered in her ear she could simply say, "Thank you for coming." Which she did. Later, I learned she had wanted to ask, "How do people die?"

Big question, little girl. Big question.

There was a reception immediately following. I could not believe the size of the reception line that formed. I could see no end to it. Mom, hubby and I stood as one by one, all the mourners came to share their love with us.

One the one hand, it was wonderful to hear the expressions of love for my dad. On the other, the last thing I wanted in that moment was to have to talk to and be touched by all those people. Part of me desperately wanted to retreat, but I did not.

It was exhausting. But I got through it.

That night, a very small group gathered at my mom's house. One of her neighbors graciously provided a delicious dinner. We spent hours laughing and crying as we remembered Dad.

At the end of the night, hubby took a photo of what Mom dubbed, "The FOS Group." That stands for "Friends of Sam." But, my dad would have used an entirely different set of words for that acronym. Especially on that night.

It is done. And now, we work to return to a sense of normalcy. Things will never be the same. He is gone. But life does go on. And here at home, I am surrounded by visual reminders of the love so many felt for him, and do for my family.

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