After the farewell

Photo: elderly man and woman seated in a church
At a family wedding

I have made it past the memorial service for my father, and can now breathe more calmly. Since my father’s death, I have been zeroed in on organizing his memorial service and dealing with all the odds and ends that come into play when someone dies. My sister has had some health issues that took her out of action. My mom has been overwhelmed and exhausted by the loss of her companion of 63 years.

My father asked several years ago that I to give the eulogy (it may not be the appropriate term) at his memorial service. I did not know what I was getting into. It is so hard to absorb the death of a loved one, then look back on 89 years of life, parse the feelings that are stirred up, parry the regrets of not taking advantage of all the opportunities for sharing and then write something concise, coherent and meaningful.

Over the weekend and into Tuesday, I worked at a draft fitfully, but could never get myself to preserver beyond a couple of paragraphs. I proved to be more productive while driving on errands because the discipline of driving settled my mind enough to let deeper thoughts rise to the surface. Too bad I couldn’t take notes at the same time.

I was still hacking away at the text at 5:30 am before the memorial service. I finally gave up and got a few hours sleep. I woke up, shoveled the snow from our front steps, and then set out for the church to set up my computer with a slide show of pictures of my dad’s life, and then pick up my mother.

I had one mantra for the day: “Stop the body, pause the mind, breathe, feel; repeat.”

The memorial service went well. The sanctuary was almost full, including several colleagues from work who showed up unexpectedly. I spoke about my father. Others (relatives, pastors, friends) all got a chance to speak as well. It was amazing to hear how my father had touched lives. I was pretty numb for the rest of the afternoon, but it probably came across as being stoic and supportive of my mother.

After the service, cookies and coffee were served as people extended their condolences to my mother, sister and me. Around 4:30, a women’s group from Lakeview Church, where my dad had been pastor, offered the family a dinner. We then packed up and headed home.

I felt exhausted, but after a couple of hours, I recouped some energy and put my computer back together on its corner table. It was like plugging back into the outside world. After an hour of restoration yoga, I went to sleep around midnight and slept through to 9:00. After a leisurely breakfast with my family, I went to work. I need the daily route, the distraction from mourning and the change of scene.

My conclusion at the end of the week: I am glad that I had the luxury of concentrating on bringing closure to my father’s life, but that process has put me in a deep hole. I have so much work piled up that I would need another 10 days off to get me back on track.