Dad’s funeral was Friday in Knoxville and now we’re back in Chattanooga. It’s over. It’s really hard to believe, surreal even. It just doesn’t make sense that he was alive and well two weeks ago and now he’s buried in the ground. It seems cruel. As my wife said, though, at least my mother and I were with him when he unexpectedly died, and as much as I want to believe the CPR could have saved him, I’ve been assured it wouldn’t have, so we were with Dad during his last moments. That’s good.
We had the graveside burial service Friday morning, just for family. There were about 25 people there. They came from Georgia, the Carolinas, Ohio, Minnesota, Iowa, California, Virginia, Kentucky. Quite a gathering. The minister was good. I carried Dad’s urn/box to the grave site. Mom cried on my shoulder as the minister spoke. I shed a few years myself. When it was over, Mom got up and sung a song for Dad and then spoke — heck, she preached a sermon! Boy, did she go on. But everyone hung in there and we left Dad to be covered in earth. Mom’s going to be buried next to him when it’s her turn, and Gretchen and I are going to be buried next to them when it’s ours.
We went back to the church and had a lovely lunch, carefully prepared by wonderful cooks. It was delicious. We also got to speak with some of the family members. Soon after, we went into the church (we ate lunch in another building — there are five buildings on the church campus) and gathered in a side room to be taken into the sanctuary when it was time. When we were led in, I was a little stunned at how many people were there. I’d say there were probably 800 people in attendance. The sanctuary wasn’t completely filled, but the front was, and people were sitting on both side wings with some in the balcony.
The funeral service was lovely. We sang some of Dad’s favorite hymns, one of his favorite ministers read from the Bible and prayed, my cousin Jane read a nice poem she wrote in tribute, and three people spoke. I was one of them. People asked me if I was nervous in front of all those people, but I wasn’t. First, I read a poem Gretchen wrote in tribute to Dad, and then I read what I had prepared. I went on too long, but I had a lot to say and I felt good about it. I successfully tried not to get too choked up at the end. Then the senior minister preached a short message that was fitting and good, and the family was led out to receive guests. And let me tell you — that was grueling! Gretchen and I had picked out a number of pictures of Dad from various stages of his life and she had put them together quite nicely, so people looked at that, but it was essentially a madhouse. People were grabbing us and talking to us from all directions. It was overwhelming. I was proud of Gretchen, who’s typically a wallflower. She did quite well. And I was overwhelmed at how many people complemented me on my eulogy! At least 400 people said they were touched by it, that it was great, and some asked me to email them copies of it. Wow! And at least 100 people told us how great Gretchen’s poem was too. That was awesome. Unfortunately, many of our family members had to go, so it was just me, Gretchen, and Mom. The crowd was huge. I saw some of my friends, but could only talk to them for a minute — with apologies. I saw Chris, who came down from Virginia. All I got to say was hi and thanks. I saw Monica, who came up from Sweetwater with her boys. My friend Joanne came all the way over from Nashville, and I got maybe two minutes with her. Apparently Anthony was there and Little Amy was there, but we didn’t get to see them as the line was too long. I saw my old friend Eunice, and got to introduce her to Gretchen, which was cool. Arnold and Sarah were there, and Gretchen met Sarah for the first time. Robb and Wayne were there. And so many old family friends. It was truly overwhelming. And even though we had asked that all donations be made to Dad’s favorite charity, Mission India, Mom received some donations to her, which was nice and sweet.
The service was at 2 PM. We didn’t get to leave until nearly 5:30. We went back to the place we were staying and then went to a restaurant to meet with 10 family members for dinner. When we returned, some visitors came to see Mom, which Gretchen and I thought was kind of rude. We were beat. It was 9 PM. Why were they too good to stand in line like the rest? Why did we have to stay up entertaining guests after such an exhausting day? And when they started talking regressive conservative politics, I got ticked off and stormed out. Mom was embarrassed, but I didn’t want to embarrass her further by saying something rude to these people, so I left. Most of the people in that church are very nice people, but it is a conservative, evangelical church, and Gretchen and I don’t have much in common with their political and spiritual beliefs.
We finally drove back to Chattanooga yesterday, just beat. And Gretchen and I went out to get a TV to replace the one that was stolen last week, and I ordered a new customized computer to replace the stolen one. I hope it gets here soon and I hope that my backup works, or I’m screwed.
It was a good day, a good weekend, and one that honored my father, but now I feel empty and hollow inside and I miss him, as do Gretchen and my mother. I worry about my elderly mother who doesn’t want to live in that house alone. I can understand that. But she won’t move to assisted living and we don’t have the room to have her move in with us. Her house is too small for us to move there, so we’re talking about the possibility of selling both houses and buying one big one for we three to live in together. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we try to sort this out. Gretchen and I skipped church today, because we’ve had our fill of people for awhile. I guess things will get back to some sense of normalcy, but it’s still going to be strange. I really miss Dad.