If you can imagine a large bell in the instant after it’s been struck, how it reverberates with the sound and vibrates with the blow. Mom and I were kind of like that all day yesterday and today. We had an early breakfast at IHOP — the full treatment: Eggs, hash browned potatoes, sausage, toast. Not something either of us eat regularly, so it was a treat, and fortifying. Even eating at a leisurely pace, we still got done in good time, and were able to stop by the bank and by the pharmacy to get a prescription before we had to be at the funeral home.
Fortunately, my mom is the poster child for advanced planning. She and my dad had made as many of their final arrangements as could be made ahead of time; burial plots and vaults were bought and paid for 20 years ago. She had started obituaries for both my dad and herself and kept them updated. She has all the relevant paperwork organized and readily to hand — insurance policies, Social Security information, my dad’s discharge papers from the Marine Corps. (The lady who was making those arrangements said she needed a copy of dad’s form DD214, which mom didn’t have. That caused some concern. Once we got back to mom’s house, I looked through all dad’s military papers and didn’t find one. I did a little on-line research and discovered that the reason dad didn’t have a form DD214 was because he was discharged in September of 1949, and they didn’t start using form DD214 until 1950. However, he had the form NAVMC-112-PD and the form NAVMC-78-PD, which is what they used until the form DD214 replaced them. I scanned them and emailed them to the lady with an explanation.) She was able to pull together what she needed to take to the funeral home in less than an hour — So much easier on her than if she’d had to scurry about hunting all those papers down.
We managed to get through the details in about two hours, choosing the casket, deciding on details of the viewing, the graveside service and the memorial service, and one of the funeral home people took us out to their plot, which was already flagged out for the grave to be prepared. Even so, it was an emotional mine field. As I sat in the tastefully appointed meeting room at the funeral home I found myself imagining how devastating it must be for someone who had just lost a child, or a sibling, or a spouse suddenly and traumatically to have to make final arrangements.
Mom asked my brother if he would play something on the violin at the service, but he said he didn’t think he could. I already know I’m going to be pretty much a basket case so I understand his demur perfectly.
Because my dad was a member of the Armed Services, the government will provide him with a grave marker. It will list his branch of service, dates of service, rank at discharge, honors, and hopefully there will be room for “Semper Fidelis” (Always Faithful), which is the Marine Corps motto; but, it also pretty much sums up my dad’s whole life. There will not be a military presence at the grave side service. No color guard. No bugler. Mother didn’t think she could hold up in the face of “Taps.” I know I couldn’t. I couldn’t even handle the sight of Marines in their dress blues.
We were offered what are considered “traditional” options — having the casket in the church (either open or closed) during the funeral service, then following it to the cemetery, remaining at the grave side while the casket was lowered into the grave, or the more modern option of having pictures of our loved one in a slide show at the viewing, all of which options we declined. A previous pastor had introduced the practice at our church of having the graveside service first, then going to the church for a memorial “celebration,” a practice which has been continued and which we endorsed. As my mother noted, all those options we declined were such an ordeal for the families. I agree with her entirely.
That afternoon, we went to IH, the assisted living facility, and packed up all dad’s stuff and took it back to their house. Mom couldn’t bear to deal with it just now, so it’s all stacked in the garage. We had taken a large and a small rolling suitcase to pack his clothes and supplies in, and I rolled out the big suitcase where we had packed his talking clock. Every time the suitcase jarred, the clock would announce the time. It was hard to hear it go off multiple times as I rolled the suitcase out to the car.
The wheelchair and the hospital bed had already been picked up by the hospice agency. The people will go get his lift chair Friday and bring it back to their home. We left the table I’d brought at IH to be passed along to someone who needs it since neither I nor mother have room for it. The rolling walker he had been using belonged to the late father of a long time church friend. She had lent it to my dad to use as long as he needed it. When she came by Tuesday afternoon to visit with my mom, she mentioned that someone else was in need of the walker so she took it with her when she left, and would pass it along to them. The shower chair had belonged to another friend who lent it to us. The walker without wheels that she put by his side of their bed to keep him from rolling out was mine from when I broke my kneecap. It had already been lent out multiple times in the interim. No doubt someone will need a transport wheelchair, and my mom will lend them the one she got for my dad. Such is the support network my mom is a part of. They help and sustain each other. They are already closing ranks around her, ready to be there when she needs them.
Wednesday, we meet with the pastor of the church my mom attends, to arrange the graveside service, the memorial service, both of which will be on Thursday morning, pick the hymns and the order of the service. The associate pastor, who came by to visit mom Monday as soon as he heard, contacted a member of the choir, who is going to sing “The Lord’s Prayer.” (If I haven’t totally folded up by then, that will do it.)
The viewing is going to be Wednesday evening. That’s when the emotional ordeal will begin. Both my dad’s nieces, CL and EL, and their mother and respective spouses are coming Wednesday in time for the viewing and will stay for the service. My mother’s nephew will be coming over from New Mexico for the memorial service
Tonight, I stopped off at the florist on the way back home from mom’s house and bought two yellow roses. One of them I got at the request of my dad’s oldest brother’s daughter, who is unable to attend, and one of them is from me. I made some bows for them, and I made a little card for mine using the picture at right. I’m going to place it in his hands in the casket at the viewing. It’s supposed to rain Thursday.