August 8, 2020
We had Dad’s Celebration of Life today. It was a beautiful Saturday, sunny, with just a light breeze blowing. The Tobacco Roots served a backdrop for his last celebration.
We won’t get to have birthdays with him any more. No more Father’s Days. No more Christmases or Thanksgivings to share. So, I wanted the day to be perfect.
I spent the last two months, along with my mom, working on this service. From writing the biographical information to figuring out music to putting together a slide show to loop all day. We spent days cleaning and landscaping and grooming, until it was about as good as it was going to get.
And I cooked and baked and planned.
The day was about as perfect as one could be. Did everything go according to plan? No.
I didn’t think about needing a special cord to plug my phone into the speakers. So, I didn’t have the background music I had spent hours preparing. Because it was outside, the mic picked up the wind and noise and it didn’t work to put my phone to the mic. It was too late to burn a CD. And I almost cried.
Some of the people who told me they were coming to the service didn’t show up. So, we started about a half hour later than scheduled.
I forgot to bring a copy of a poem I had been working on to the service, so I had to sprint to the house and print another copy as quickly as I could.
But the important things worked. Two of my sons helped read parts of the service. All three of my boys did a special ‘Final Ride’ with Grandpa. And Mom was presented with a gorgeous picture of Dad from last year’s reined cow horse events.
Although the crowd was smaller than I had anticipated, those who did show up were the ones who truly wanted to be there. As I told everyone, Dad would have loved that day: a bunch of people he could chat with and a house full of food.
Dad was not a perfect person, or an angel, and I didn’t try to put him on a pedestal. But I did share some of the lighter memories I treasure of him. Because that is what I want to remember. Not the fights or the yelling from my childhood. Not the frustration of growing up with someone who was incredibly smart and incredibly old-fashioned.
I want to remember the night he and Mom took me dancing to a dive of a bar, where a high school girl friend and I could dance with all the cowboys. I want to remember how he always had a few extra dollars to slip me when I went out with my friends. Or how he made sure my car had gas and insurance and decent tires.
The day wasn’t perfect but it had perfect moments. Like when my youngest broke down reading his grandpa’s bio. Maybe that sounds odd for a mom to be happy for her son to cry. But he hadn’t shown much emotion, so I was happy that a newly celebrated 18 year-old could show that he cared for his grandpa.
Or when my three boys led four horses into the arena, one for each of the and one for Grandpa, who couldn’t ride with them any longer. His saddle had backwards-facing boots, and Cyris led his horse while Sylvis and Garris flanked, one on each side.
When Cyris reached over and grabbed Grandma’s hand because she was crying.
When I felt peace settle over me. I wasn’t ready for my dad to die. I don’t think anyone ever is. But I didn’t want him to go out the way he did. We all expected him to have a bad horse wreck, which is probably how he would have preferred things.
But I believe he was watching us from above and that he approved of what we offered as his celebration. It was a simple, outdoor potluck where folks could share memories and stories of ‘Edgar’ moments. We didn’t have a stuffy, religious ceremony. He wasn’t a church person. I like to think that he was with us in spirit.
And now, we can begin to heal from his traumatic passing. Mom has moved in with us, so we can focus more on her and what she needs. I think Dad would prefer that. He was a caretaker, and never liked having undue attention on himself.
So, rest in peace, old cowboy. Ride those heavenly horses. Just check in with us from time to time.
Love you Dad.