And there were friends. So many friends came last night to pay respects to Daddy, to comfort his children and to reminisce about this flamboyant man. Fifty of us and more gathered lovingly, with tears and smiles and even some laughter - which is quite a number to bid goodbye to a man who was not a public figure but who had lived almost 87 years. They came from all walks of his life: Neighbors, some he had not lived beside since 1977; Colleagues from work - though he'd been retired since 1979; Army buddies; Friends; Family; Brothers of brothers-in-law.
Each had a story to tell, unique and precious. I was amazed to hear from an elementary school girlfriend how much impact he had on her - although - once she tweaked the misty shroud of time, I remembered those moments, those times, which were so pivotal to her. Yes. He did have a way of making you feel special. I was touched to hear from a high school girlfriend how much she loves the old photos of him. It's true. I am so lucky to have them - and to be able share them. My opinion of Daddy was confirmed as workmates and army colleagues told of how efficiently, kindly, cleanly and thoroughly he organized things - how he made it easy for other people to do a good job. It's true. His work ethic was phenomenal and his teaching skills were beyond compare.
This gathering together before the ceremony of burial was an enormous boon. I had no idea how much these loving people could lift the hurt and sadness from my heart. I know that Daddy loved to gather people around him, so his spirit must be pleased right now, even though he always growled that he "didn't want a funeral". I always laughed at him and told him if he didn't want one, he better be prepared to come back and stop us, because I was planning to make it an Event.
Which we are - the sisters and I. But it will be an event of love and ritual and tenderness and thanksgiving and sorrow. An event of gratitude and honor - of respect and acknowledgement. We will give Daddy back to God with a tearful sort of gladness, knowing that in the grand scheme of things, the time we'll be apart is really very short - nothing more than the time it takes for one snowflake to fall and join the great swath that covers the forest.