Stop All the Clocks Post

The power outage still has over 9,000 people in the dark and cold. I know we're weather wimps here in California, but it's supposed to hit 38F (3.33C) tonight. That's cold!

Was thinking about the quote at the bottom of yesterday's post, then re-read the last paragraph about the permanency of loss and found myself floating back in time to the period when my parents died just 29 days apart. If only I knew then what I know now, I would have just moved in with them in the final months rather than agree to hire caretakers.

I had no real idea or understanding of the seriousness of their condition. The doctors glossed over it. My parents would just say "comes with the territory". I believed them and was lulled into a false safety zone. They were my parents...they "couldn't" leave. Life is so flaming fragile...I had no concept.

The end of April came and so did "the phone call". It was my brother. The doctor in the emergency room had called him since he had the medical power of attorney. My father had lapsed into a coma after another heart attack. The prognosis was bleak. We both knew (since he clearly told us more than once) that he had no desire to be put on life support. He was a strong believer in the quality of one's life vs. the length of it.

Afterwards, my brother told me that the doctor confided in him that he'd "never seen anyone so pissed" at death. He was enraged by it and that he couldn't will it away. Just like my Irish father to the bitter end. I always used to say "he may not be right, but he's never wrong". The following weeks were a numb fog.

My brother and I are so different. In times like that I fall to the earth like a dried leaf, where he instead, marshalls his forces. He took care of everything for the funeral. My dad was buried in a wooden coffin just as he'd wished. It was actually made by Hasidic Jews with no metal parts, only dowels and glue (according to the funeral director). I'm sure the director was not happy since the coffin cost only $600.00 (447.96 Euros). Most coffins today run into the thousands of dollars. It's a big business.

The casket was swathed in a rainbow of fresh flowers and not the "funereal" type. He'd found about half a dozen black and white photos of my dad from throughout his life, then framed them in an assortment of silver frames. Those sat among the flowers on the lower half of the coffin. It was amazing!

He read "Stop All the Clocks, Cut off the Phone" by W.H. Auden. It's a glorious poem, so perfect for the day. I read, "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost. It always symbolized my father's unique life. I also read Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night" because I felt it summed up my father from birth to death so perfectly. I sobbed through the whole thing.

A surprising number of people showed up at the funeral home. Apparently, everyone in small Midwestern towns reads the obituaries. Former employees and even his early morning coffee "buddies" from George Webb's made a visit.

We did not have any religious entity present because my father's wish along with the wooden box was to be stood up in the corner while everyone else had a party in his honor. So we kept it very simple. The family and close friends were invited back to my parent's house for an afternoon feast with food brought by friends, family and neighbors.

My brother seriously thought of handing out shots of whiskey to everyone there for a toast, but felt my mom might have a coronary, so he didn't. It was a very hard day. It didn't hit any of us, the permanence of death. As time passed, it settled in painfully.

To be continued in the next post....

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