Friday, December 29, 2017

Saying goodbye.

Yesterday we made the trek up to my father's funeral. I dug this old Navy charm bracelet out of a little box of keepsakes I have. Dad gave it to me when I was a kid and I wanted to wear it one last time. When we arrived at the funeral home, I was taken aback by the sight of the open casket. It was a custom my father didn't care for. In fact, he and I sat outside at his father's funeral, both wanting to remember the man as he was when living. But Dad's wife must have taken some comfort in it, and I don't begrudge her that. She and I have had a pretty hostile relationship the last many years and that just seemed to fly away in the face of our shared grief. When she hugged me, weeping, I had yet another burden removed from my heart.
The graveside service, in the bitter cold, was a military one. My sons and brother served as pallbearers, my brother-in-law (an Episcopal priest) performed the service, and the sound of a passing train in the distance merged with both the bagpipes playing Amazing Grace and then the bugle playing Taps. The flag covering the casket was folded and presented by a Naval officer to my dad's wife and all the military men attending saluted the flag and my father.  Afterwards, a soldier offered me a casing from one of the bullets fired during the gun salute. My dad's wife, his kids, and their families gathered at a hotel following the service, to have a drink in his memory. I went with bourbon, knowing he'd approve.
My father would have loved everything about his funeral, including that his kids were all there in his honor. Dad rests now in a family section of the beautiful Lexington cemetery, buried in his dress uniform and surrounded by ancestors from the past couple of centuries. It suits him, and I'm glad he's at peace.

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