Friday, November 30, 2007

Funeral Preparations

Yesterday morning, the first after Father-in-law's death, I awoke early after a fitful night's sleep. My eyes were still full of tears and my legs felt like they were made of lead.

After morning barn chores------death doesn't disrupt that routine------I headed to Father-in-law's house and spent most of the day alone there, straightening things up, doing his last piles of laundry, washing his last dishes, and picking up his shoes sitting forlornly here and there. Many tears were shed, and somehow I felt closer to him than when he was alive. He had been somewhat difficult for me to get close to; he was kind of prickly, and had the tendency to interrupt people and jump from subject to subject. Also, I was exasperated years ago with the way he dealt with his wife's illness, but I'd managed to shove that to the back of mind in recent years when his own health started failing.

In his closet I had no trouble locating a suit for him to wear for burial. It was if he had it picked out already. It was hanging right in the front and had a tie on the hanger, too. In the inside pocket of the suitcoat was a program from my daughter's wedding in August. He had often stated how much he enjoyed being in attendance at her wedding. On the lapel was a tiny gold butterfly tack pin. He must have liked butterflies, for his house has several walls decorated with them.

Father-in-law had remarried only a year after his wife passed away in the mid-1990's, stating over and over that he couldn't stand to be alone. That second marriage didn't go so well. He had always been dead-set against people getting divorces, but he ended up getting one several years later. He was still basically miserable, always pining for the old life he'd had with the mother of his children. Recently, in the last couple years he did keep company with a widowed lady who was an old friend. Husband just rolled his eyes at first, but the two were a comfort to each other and brought reminders of the old days. I've noticed that myself as I get older........I tend to feel younger when I'm around old friends I knew from my younger years. It must be a common human experience.

Actually, I feel more sympathy for that grieving ladyfriend of his than for us, his family. I've been trying to phone her often to keep her updated on things. She was important to Father-in-law and she deserves respect for that reason.

Yesterday afternoon, Husband and some of his brothers, and one sister-in-law, met with the funeral home director. I had made up my mind early on to not get involved in that. Husband was a bit irked that the one sister-in-law went along. Ah, well.....I'm just trying to keep a smile pasted on my face and be pleasant to everyone. The funeral is not until Monday, so it will be a long weekend. I will try my best to hold on to my little bit of sanity.

More and more family members will start pouring in from other parts of the country------Montana, Tennessee, Virginia, Minnesota. I pray for travelling mercies for all of them.

Today, the family met with the pastor who will do the funeral. We have no permanent pastor right now, just a vacancy pastor who has never even met my father-in-law, so we asked a pastor from a neighboring town to do the service. He had visited with Father-in-law on occasion, and Father-in-law spoke positively of him. Today's meeting was interesting, though, because one of Husband's brothers is Baptist and he kept insisting that the pastor not use written prayers, but instead "pray from the heart". I just chuckled to myself since I am familiar with the views from both the Lutheran and Baptist angles. There's good and not so good aspects on both sides. The pastor kept trying to be pleasant about everything while at the same time indicating his view of things. He said he would try to read the prayers as if they were "from the heart".

The pastor also listened to the family relate memories of Father-in-law, and he took several pages of notes, saying he would try to incorporate some of the stories into the sermon. That I was impressed with, for many confessional Lutheran pastors will not consider doing such a thing.

After the pastor left, we sorted through piles of old photos that had been lugged down from upstairs. Such a lump came to my throat as I gazed at photos of a young, strong father-in-law, newly home from service in the Marines, smiling happily at his lovely wife-to-be. And then there they were in their wedding picture......and then a small white casket holding their infant daughter......and then there they were with three little boys on their laps........and then surrounded by six handsome sons.

Husband's mother always mourned for her lost little daughter, however......she would talk about that occasionally. Today I learned that the little girl had died three days after birth of a navel infection that went undetected there in the hospital. So very sad and unnecessary. Things might have gone quite differently had that baby girl husband would probably have not been born at the time he he probably would not have become my husband!

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