A Daughter's Perspective of Her Father's Funeral
We all have preconceived ideas of what a funeral should look like. If you know me or have read any part of this blog you know our family has experienced an awful lot of grief. Just the word grief is hard to say without swallowing hard. Everyone handles it so differently and even then, we have expectations for how everyone else should behave. Usually, some parts of our expectations hold true while others don't. In my own experience I have found that I have reacted in different ways to different circumstances where death and grief are concerned. The murder of a brother and the illness and subsequent death of my son, mother, and father have all been processed emotionally and internally in different ways. There are no wrong ways to grieve. Having said all that, I thought I would share my own thoughts from my Dad's funeral almost a year ago. In my previous post, it was noted in his obituary that he died on February 12th, but his funeral was on March 5th. There is a rather complicated and sad story as to why the long interval between the two dates that I won't go into here. It was very trying on both my brother and I. I am sharing the thoughts I wrote down to record as family history, but perhaps, there may be some comfort for anyone else who is walking this difficult path.
My impressions of that day were varied. I felt calm and peace. I knew in my heart God was in control and all would be well even if things didn’t flow the way I had envisioned and that was actually how it happened. Details pale when you think of the enormity of the loss of a loved one.
The weather was a factor and if it had been warmer and windless I suspect we would have lingered longer, but even in that, there was something positive. The wind was literally howling so all the many flags the Patriot Guard stood by and displayed flew straight out and glowed with color. In the pavilion, it seemed as though we all huddled closer as a family and I enjoyed hugs from family that I haven’t received in years.I have always imagined Dad’s funeral as military and I am happy we honored Dad in this way.
The Airmen in the Honor Guard were so young. I noticed one of them had his uniform pants badly hemmed and too short and I had to laugh thinking what Dad would have said to that young man. Their hands shook from the cold as they folded the flag in front of us and I felt compassion and gratitude. I wasn’t sure if they would fire rounds, but they did fire three rounds. I am never prepared when I hear taps no matter how many times I hear it played. It was perfectly played and beautiful. The musician in my daughter came out as she pronounced the pitch perfect. The fact that the wind was blowing and we were in the countryside made the song even more haunting and it gripped my heart. It was the only time I thought I would lose it, but my daughter and cousin wrapped their arms around me and their love and warmth held me together. I have seen the presentation of the flag to grieving families on television and wondered how that must feel. It was such an honor to have the flag laid gently into my arms and to hear the words quietly spoken, “On behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful nation….” What surprised me were the three shell casings that were presented too. Each represents something and I can only remember two; honor and service. Maybe you know what the third one is… I have tucked the shells into the flag and have lovingly placed in a case that sits proudly atop the armoire in my living room where I see it daily.
Cousins were there and ranged in age from 35 (my daughter) to 90 (Bill/Ben, still not sure). Good neighbors of Mom and Dad’s were there too. I was so glad to see them and felt as though I knew them well from all of Mom’s stories about their lives through the years. I learned that Mr. Garza started going with Daddy every time he went to the cemetery after his fall when he was hurt so badly at the cemetery. This was one of my biggest concerns for Dad and I never knew Mr. Garza was there. It meant so much to know and to be able to thank them both for their care and concern for Daddy.
I spent some time visiting with a few of the Patriot Guard and was very impressed with their military service history and dedication for doing what is right for all military. They “stand tall” next to their flags and do not move unless something is needed. Right after the flag presentation their leader approached me with a plaque and a sympathy card signed by all that were present. A few of us spent some time at the graveside after the service.
I had gone out the day before and tried to neaten up the graves. I also placed a solar powered lantern next to Mom and Dad’s headstone and a smaller version next to Kyle’s. At one point, when I was going to Tyler on the weekends, I took a solar powered lantern to Dad and we placed it in his backyard. He was so fascinated with the glow in the evenings. He would call me to tell me it was shining and he thanked me every time for giving it to him.
We promised Dad we would bury him next to the love of his life and we succeeded.