Sunday, August 10, 2014

One year later

Not too long ago, I was cleaning out my voice mail and, as I went through them (there were something like 21 just hanging out; clearly the chore needed doing), I found messages from my Mom and both of my brothers, but not one from my Dad. At first, it made me a little sad that his voice wasn't there. But then I got to thinking (and laughing), Dad wasn't a big leaver of voice mails. He'd call (this happened typically after he was retired and had a question about something -- usually computer related -- in the middle of a workday), and not leave a message. Then, two minutes later, he'd call again. Sometimes, he'd even call a third time, say 10 or 12 minutes after that. I can't tell you how many times I told him, exasperated, "Dad, just leave me a message the first time. I'm not ignoring you, there's a reason I'm not answering the phone." He'd say ok, but then of course do it again, although after the third (or, miraculously! sometimes after the second) then would leave a message. It was usually very short and along the lines of, "Hey, Anne, it's Dad. Can you call me?" Hence, why I probably didn't save any of them.

Somehow, today marks a year since he died. It doesn't seem that long ago, truly.

Ironically (fortuitously?), a year ago this morning -- but several hours before his death -- Mom and I had visited the funeral home to make arrangements while my Uncle Joe sat at the hospital with Dad. We also had an appointment at the church later in the afternoon to discuss the funeral mass, at that point not knowing when it would be.

Leaving the funeral home (my brothers were at the house), Mom returned to the hospital, Joe went and got lunch and I went to my friend Michele's to pick up a food basket. She'd baked all sorts of things and put them into a care package with fruit and snacks we could grab on our way out the door to the hospital, since we didn't know how long Dad had. I was sitting at her kitchen table when mom called me just after noon to tell me he was gone, sooner than anyone expected. Despite the suddenness, Mom said she was ok to go ahead and keep the church appointment. After I hung up, Michele held on to me as I cried, then, being a practical Louisiana native, poured me a fortifying shot of tequila, the only liquor she had in the house at the time. She then (also practically) made me a turkey sandwich so I wouldn't be driving with only liquor in my belly. I'm pretty sure I was a bit stunned, because it wasn't until I was in the car, driving to the church, that I remembered to pray for Dad's soul.

Anyway, in picking out readings and music (which went smoothly), there was one song I wanted in particular, "The King of Love My Shepherd Is." The priest and deacon didn't know the tune, so I pulled out a hymnal and sang the first verse. My Uncle, who had joined us (Daniel was manning the fort at home and Ethan, who had actually been on the way to the hospital when Mom called him with the news, stayed with Dad's body until the funeral home came to collect it. It was a three-hour wait, and I have always been grateful he kept that vigil), suggested I sing it at the funeral. Reticent to do it alone (although I love to sing and have sung with choirs, I'm fairly self-conscious about singing by myself. I don't think I'd sung a solo in church since high school), I persuaded Joe to sing it with me for the presentation of the gifts.

I'm so picky about liturgical music, and a lot of people tend to play the cadence far too slowly. I suppose they're being reverent, but it's a Celtic tune and should be somewhat lively, to my mind, especially as the funeral mass is one of resurrection, and I didn't want it to be dirge-like. Fortunately, Bill, the retired music minister who played at the funeral mass (and who traditionally played everything super slowly), played it perfectly, without my even having to ask. This man, too, gets it just right:

 A couple of weeks ago, the date of Dad's death had actually slipped my mind. I was driving home from work and trying to remember, and it took driving past my doctor's office to jog my memory, "My doctor's appointment was the 5th, and then he died five days later." I wasn't sure if it was incredibly lame that I couldn't remember, or a (sort of) good and healthy thing, in that I wasn't completely fixated on it.

There are days when things he would like surround me, days when I can hear his voice, so clearly in my head, reacting to some sort of news item. There are days when I mourn with tears, and then there are days when I barely think of him at all, so caught up am I in work and preoccupied with my own thoughts.

But part of that last, too, is my confidence in the Father. Though we none of us can really know the fate of those who have passed, I know as surely as I type this that Dad is with God, and there is no need for worry, only continued prayer. As I pray for him, I hope he prays for me.

May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.