Saying Goodbye

We laid my father-in-law to rest on Saturday. 

The visitation was Friday. When it was just family, I looked at all the flowers there, and when I saw a large, pink arrangement, I already knew before I read the card. It was from my sole sisters, the loving term my running friends and I have chosen for our core group. Pink for my running team, the Pink Nation. Adjacent to that was another arrangement from my best friend and her significant other. She is one of my sole sisters. 

That was the first time I cried that night. The second time was when I saw my parents and brother who had made the trip from Hampton Roads. Seeing the sheer number of people who came out to pay their respects, including many old friends I haven’t seen in years, prompted more reasons to tear up. 

My wedding anniversary with my husband was Sunday. It’s not the first time a funeral was involved in our anniversary weekend. My husband’s cousin Ronnie passed away a few years ago, and we celebrated his life as part of our anniversary. When I saw his son and daughter walk into the funeral home, who are about the same age as my husband and me, I couldn’t help but think of the mixed emotions they must be feeling as well. 

The service was beautiful. The current pastor at my in-law’s church officiated, and our former pastor sang a hymn and delivered my husband’s eulogy. His words were beautiful and perfect, capturing every aspect of his dad and the influence he had on his world. 

The graveside service was brief, but touching. From watching our friends who served as pallbearers carry him to his final resting place, the perfect fall weather with crisp air and bright sunshine, to the bumble bees who were delighted to busily collect nectar from the funeral flowers, to the care and precision with which the Army soldiers folded the American flag draped over his coffin, there were so many things to notice.

Their church hosted the reception. I’m still a bit bitter that the church where they have their plots refused to host us, but there’s not much we could do about that. But their church was warm and welcoming. I also got to catch up with their previous pastor, a woman who I still regard as a friend and perhaps the most influential pastor in my life, even in my present state of deconstruction from the Christian faith. 

The flowers after the funeral.

Now the fight or flight is over. All the ceremonial duties are done. And we are left with memories of my father-in-law and the care that our community showed to us during these final days. The next step is to establish the new normal, whatever that may be. 

Grief is a strange thing. We go on with our lives because we have to, but may find times during the day when we think about the person we lost. Maybe we’re running errands, thinking about something they would need or want, and then realize they aren’t there to receive the gift. Maybe it’s a time of day passing, our brain telling us it’s time to do a caregiving ritual, like helping put someone to bed or change them, and realize that burden is done, with both relief and sadness in that realization. Maybe it’s something we see that sparks a memory of them, and suddenly our state of feeling OK is no longer that. 

Hopefully soon, our voids in life will be replaced with good memories of who my father-in-law was before he became ill. My daughter says she struggles to remember what he was like then, which I can understand, especially as we navigate this new world. 

___________

Are you navigating a new world without one of your parents? I’d like to hear about it. 

As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Published by annecreates

I am a physical therapist, wife, mom, runner, artist, and vegan. I'm passionate about helping others find wellness, speaking about the human experience, and in fighting for social justice. Assistant Coach for the Sports Backers Marathon Training Team. Current ambassador for: Boco Gear, SaltStick, Noxgear, and Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon 2022.

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