March SOLC#15 Day 19
This past December was the 40th anniversary of my father’s death.
It’s hard to believe. It seems like an entire life time ago.
I was only 12 years old, so I’m not fully aware of the chaos and fighting amongst family and friends that ensued immediately after his death. Because of this, I think, we never had a funeral or memorial service for my dad. I don’t know all the details, mainly because of my young age at the time, but I do know this. The only thing close to a service was when the three of us, the women he left behind, spread his ashes in Lake Michigan on a snowy, frigid January day in 1975.
These thoughts flooded my mind yesterday morning as I drove to work. A song came on the radio that jogged the memories loose. What if we’d had a funeral for my dad….what would it have been like?
Would we have walked in to a beautiful church in Chicago with music streaming from the past? His favorites like Richie Havens, The Beatles and Blood, Sweat & Tears would evoke memories of him sitting in his big chair playing cards or reading a book on history while listening to these classics.
Would his colleagues from the newspaper and TV have talked about the incredible gifts he bestowed on the world in the form of video documentaries that he made about children in need of foster care and adoption? He worried about many social issues and made sure the world heard his voice.
Would we have compared his giant physical stature, standing at almost 7 feet tall, to his equally giant heart? Someone would probably have shared stories about his gentle and kind nature. How he cried when he had to bury my sisters gerbil in the back yard. Or, they might have told the standing room only crowd how hard his hands were shaking after he spanked me for running across the library parking lot without looking both ways. He vowed to my mom on that day that he would never ever touch me in anger like that again.
Would his old war buddies have shared stories about him serving in the Korean War? I wish we could have heard them, because I have no knowledge about this time period in his life.
Would we have looked at pictures from the day he married my mom? About their early days as a married couple when they considered adopting an African American girl who would have been my oldest sister. Her name was Robin. I would have heard more about their decisions and what ultimately led us to being a family of four instead of five.
Would my sister have shared stories about how she and I traveled to Chicago each weekend to visit him after he and my mom were divorced? She probably would have talked about the fun we had watching the fireworks from the hotel pool balcony and how much he loved taking us to dinner to show his girls off to the world. At 10 and 17 she and I thought we were so special riding the train to the city all by ourselves. She watched out for me. Made sure we were safe.
Would my mom have shared stories about the man she was married to for 27 years? Recollecting the heated arguments he would get into with our neighbors (mostly about politics and religion) while sitting outside on the porch on long summer nights. Recalling how loud and demonstrative he would get in order to make his point and then seeing him afterward laughing and having a good time – never holding a grudge.
Would his youngest daughter have shared how much she loved her father who, to her, was bigger than life? Would she have remembered with friends and family how much fun it was for this little girl to sit in his massive lap? How he would shake his leg and it felt like the ride of a lifetime. Or, about the love he instilled in her for swimming and all things water. The memories of the biggest splash in the whole wide world that his 400 pound body would make when diving into the deep end. And, about the regular Sunday visits to the neighborhood library where they’d spend hours together silently reading side by side. Yes, I think I would have.
I guess a memorial service can indeed happen at any place, in any form, at any time.