Most all those that know me are already aware how much I adore art. I have since childhood and still continue expressing myself through the creative processes before me to this very day. My father was the greatest artist I’ve ever known. Yes, he could paint, draw, design, and create things that would blow your mind. All the things I witnessed him create, became a work of artistry that, in the end, captured and amazed those he shared them with. Watching those reactions toward my father, with what he made with his hands, was truly a joy to see. Even his handwriting was the most beautiful and artistic form of penmanship I’ve ever seen in my life.
My father’s birthday is coming near and that is why I am writing this. We lost him many years ago, but I think of so many of these things about him on some days, because I am so very much like him. I am my own constant reminder of the man who was my father. I was quite fortunate being able to share so much depth with him on many occasions, moments I shall always remember. We didn’t always agree, but he knew he had to “agree to disagree”, at times, because I was as strong as he, he was pretty much looking in the mirror and there’s no point in arguing with yourself. There was much respect there toward me from him and he made sure I knew that. He knew I was a “ballsy” woman, yes I had a set and definitely knew how to use them, mine are just tucked up tight inside and I call them ovaries.
He was a decorated Navy Veteran and they came and gave his soul the proper send off. It was beautiful and honorable, to say the least. The night before I had been up all night going through the boxes he gave me of my mother’s personal things, putting together a bit of my father’s life. That was not easy. I wanted everyone to know the man that I knew, the love that once was and just what he brought to each and every one of his children. You see, I had already lost my mother, his wife. Just 11 days prior to her, I lost my grandmother. She was a member of our household for most of my life and my father held much respect for her. She, too, had a set. I then lost my sister, his oldest child. I lost my grandparents, his parents. There had already been a great deal of loss within our family, in so many ways. I was filled with so much, going through all of the memorabilia. It truly tore at my heart strings that night but I felt they were all in the room with me while I sat there alone, surrounded by so much emotion. Not just by the emotion in the letters, the emotion in the photos, the emotion behind why so much had been treasured all those years, but also by the emotion in the air around me. I knew it wasn’t all mine, there were several others feeling a great deal as well and we were all there in the room together that night.
My father used to tell me that he hoped to die right there in the house that he had pretty much built for his family. He did. He hoped to be alone when his time came. He was. There were a great many memories in that house for him, as for us all. Some were wonderful, some not so much. Regardless, he could not let go. He was desperately trying to hang on to that which he still had, a lifetime of memories. Sadly though, I truly believe what bothered him most, was that he was not proud of every single thing he did in his life. Some of which he never forgave himself for. He was a proud man. He was a veteran. We all know, in times of war, some will see things we couldn’t even imagine. He never knew how much of it I knew about, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that, I knew it would only hurt him. I was not able to tell him that this knowledge never changed the way I looked at him or how much I loved him.
My mother was very angry at my father at the time of her death and that will and cannot ever be changed. My father laid her to rest engulfed in roses and orchids, both her favorites. He deeply missed being “in love” with her, it had been far too long. One thing was certain, no matter what my parents may have said to each other, no matter what they had done to each other, they were each a part of the other. Neither complete without the other. They had once loved each other deeply. Years of anger, un-forgiveness and blame had tarnished those rooted emotions and were allowed to take precedence, quite unfortunately. This is why I needed to do this for my father’s funeral. I wanted all those attending to remember the love that had started it all. For us, music was a huge part of our lives. My parents had a song. You knew that no matter what they were doing, even if they were fighting, when that song played, they’d both meet at the source and dance to it together, embraced in each other’s arms. I decided to make a recording of all those songs that meant so very much to them. I called it “To Mom & Dad, With Love” and along with some of the letters, photos and various other chosen items, I arrived at the funeral home the following day to help lay my father to rest.
It was a beautiful service. I felt I had done what I’d set out to do for him, for them both. I was satisfied with what had been put together. We were all feeling a great deal of emotion on that day, of course. Those songs played softly and we all enjoyed sharing all the memories that went along with them. Then, my parent’s song came over the room. I looked at my father’s body lying there adorned with his service medals, looking so peaceful and I couldn’t help myself. I took my brother’s hand and asked him to dance with me, next to dad. So much love was felt there at that moment. I couldn’t help but completely believe that my parents were dancing together to this song along with us. The funeral director said he’d never before seen anyone ever slow dance at a funeral. My brother and I knew that we had certainly done the right thing, honoring both of them that day. My dad remained a very proud man, no doubt in my mind.