One Year After The Journey Ends

Posted by: on Apr 18, 2020 | No Comments

One Year After The Journey Ends

The American Flag that covered my dad’s casket, which now sits in my house.

Saturday, April 18, 2020 (not 2019) – one year and one day after the end

For the past week, I have taken my own journey. It was a journey in time, back one year, during the last 6 days of my father’s life. As one of my friends pointed out while taking this journey with me, it was very cathartic. As I keep saying, this blog is keyboard therapy and that’s very much what this has been.

When my mom died, I wrote about that shortly after her passing. But when my dad died, I just couldn’t get my thoughts and my fingers to do much of anything, and I have not written many posts over the past year. For myself, I’m hoping my journey opens the doors and my desire to write more, and write whatever pops into my head…so watch out.

As with any moment in time like this, my journey did not end when my dad passed. The day after my dad died,  I attempted to get back to my now semi-normal routine as my family prepped for his upcoming funeral. I even spent a few hours in the office. As I left to go home, I looked up at the bright sunshine sky and got the strangest feeling that my mother was looking down at me. As I looked back at her, I said out loud “Are you happy now? You were right…I was the one.”

The next day was not only Friday but that night was the start of Passover, usually a first night seder with family. In mid-afternoon I picked up Allie at Newark Airport; Zachary and Rebecca would take the train home a couple of hours later.

At 5:30 the 5 of us went to temple for Friday night services, where my father’s passing would be announced prior to saying Kaddish, the Jewish prayer of mourning. Because it was the start of Passover, there was an unusually small crowd for Shabbat Services. The clergy at our temple is big on hugs, so there was plenty of those to go around.

As my family prepped for the funeral, my sister Marsha called me to let me know she liked to eulogize my father. Just as an FYI, neither of my sisters spoke at our mom’s funeral but (as usual) I was the closer. Marsha’s only request was the she not follow me because….I am the closer.

The real issue with the funeral preparations was getting food for the post-funeral gathering at Carol’s house in Westchester, as that day was Easter Sunday (on top of being Passover) and most businesses would be closed. Luckily Carol and her friends were able to pull it off.

Sunday, April 21, 2019, is the day of the funeral. Upon arrival at the funeral home in Yonkers, I open my father’s casket to identify the body and place a few items in. A few photos, some of his army memorabilia, and….most importantly…a bottle of Dewar’s.

Marsha is the first to eulogize our dad. As she speaks, I realize she is covering many of the same parts of our dad’s life I was going to. At the same time, I’m sitting next to my sister Carol, who has her eulogy in her hand and I can see that is also going to be talking about many of the same topics. At this point, I realize I going to have to ditch a good chunk of my own eulogy and do what I do, which is make stuff up as I go along!

At the cemetery, my father, a WWII vet and member of the greatest generation, is buried with full military honors. As is the tradition of the armed services, the flag is taken off his casket, folded, and given to the eldest son, which is me as I’m the only son. That flag now sits on a table at the front of our home.

After the funeral, we go to Carol’s house. The next night, it’s Marsha’s apartment in NYC. Tuesday is my house and we are done sitting shiva  – even though you don’t call it “shiva” during Passover, you just say you are “receiving guests.” It’s nice to be a Reform Jew – as I like to say “If we don’t like certain Jewish rules, we reform them. For the next 3 or 4 Friday nights, I go to temple during Shlosim, the Jewish 30 day period of mourning. It is my way of continuing to honor my dad.

It is now a year later. I will tell you that I take a part of my dad with me everyday, just as I do with my mom. I think we all do during this part of our lives. I also remember my dad with some of the things I took from his home. For instance, today I wore his Polo Golf windbreaker and I carry one of his handkerchiefs with me everyday. I also have his CCNY (where my dad went to college) golf shirt, which Linda and I got him for his 90th birthday. When Zach and Rebecca got married, we used his tallit to make part of the roof of the chuppah. Pictures, artwork, items he collected at his various army reunions over the years, and many other items serve as daily reminders of both of my parents.

My father’s journey ended a year ago. I think this year I have been on another leg of my own journey, one of remembrance and emotional healing. Honestly I don’t think this part of anyone’s journey ever ends, you just continue down your path. In the words of Dory, “Just keep swimming.”