Last weekend was a long and emotional one for the family, as we laid Dad to rest. We had the viewing on Saturday, followed by the funeral on Sunday. In hindsight, we were fortunate to have even had either as the coronavirus has exponentiated fear, panic, and limited public gatherings of 10 or more people, effective in Virginia the day after Dad’s funeral.
The viewing was held on Saturday at Oakey’s Funeral Home in Roanoke from 2pm – 4pm, with private family viewing that morning. My Dad had served as a minister at the large Baptist Church next door to the funeral home for over 30 years, and had often been to the same funeral home to give funerals and comfort to families over the years. One of the funeral staff members had worked their his whole career and fondly remembered Dad from his many visits there over the years.
We had a family viewing in the morning prior to the public viewing at 2pm.
The funeral parlor was adorned with flowers from family and friends, and a small poignant arrangement was placed on Dad, which said “My one true love, Mable”. I get teary eyed as I write this a week later, but it’s because it was truly one of the best marriages ever, that lasted nearly 65 years. As I was cleaning up their closet a couple days after the funeral, my sister and I found a huge stack of love letters my Dad had written to my Mom while he was in seminary; a sign of true love from many years ago, pre-email.
At the end of the last post, I amended it to include a video tribute I did for Dad. We showed the video as a background loop on the overhead TV’s in the funeral home. Here once again is the video tribute I made for Dad, which includes the family, Elk’s Home (assisted living facility), the Peak’s of Otter, and a few other places Dad has been and/or we’ve talked about in my travels. The video is made up of four songs, and the last song “I can only Imagine”, I took the liberty of imagining what Heaven would be like by inserting some beautiful scenery, mixed in with Dad’s final days in the hospital. It’s a bittersweet video, but happy that he’s now in peace and in his heavenly home.
Mom was much better than we expected at both the viewing and funeral, both physically and mentally as it had been such a stressful last month for all of us, but especially her. I think it helped bring closure for her, and like the rest of us, she knows Dad is in a much better place, and she will join him in Heaven one day.
I was composed throughout the viewing until the very end when I (and my brother and sister) each wrote a note for Dad, leaving in his casket. While I know he was in body only and his soul is in Heaven, it was sad as it was truly goodbye for us on earth, knowing when I left the funeral home would be the last time I saw him (the casket was closed after we left). While it was a 2 page personal note, the first paragraph is shown below in my messy handwriting.
The funeral was held the next day at St. James Episcopal Church in Roanoke. It was a beautiful Christian service and a nice tribute to Dad, complete with a choir singing, and Communion offered.
The graveside service was held immediately after the funeral, a short procession away. As it was slightly drizzly, the short service was moved indoors to the large mausoleum at the cemetery.
After the pastor spoke, my sister Jenni, followed by myself, and then brother-in-law all offered a short eulogy.
As I spoke, I offered a couple lessons I learned from Dad over the years, which I’ll quickly summarize:
- Attitude is everything. I learned this from my Dad during my first part time job at the local cafeteria when I was in high school. A positive attitude (even when you have to do things you don’t like) goes a long way to success. “Attitude” can make or break a marriage, friendship, neighborhood dispute, job promotions, and overall career success. Stay positive and don’t blame others!
- Sense of Humor. Along with Attitude, a sense of humor goes a long way towards happiness and success. Dad always had a good sense of humor and funny (sometime corny) jokes to share.
- Love of Travel. Dad instilled in me the love of travel. Not just to see places, but to learn from them. When I was in second grade he took me to the Baptist Foreign Mission board where the missionaries are trained and dispatched from. I remember clearly the bible verses that were etched on the walls there, and have provided me comfort throughout my years on the road: Matthew 28:19 – 20.
- Be a leader, not a follower. When I was a little boy we attended the circus at the large coliseum in town. At the end of the show as everyone was leaving, we were following the crowd in the direction everyone was going, when my Dad said, let’s try this door son. I said, but everyone is going that way (assuming they knew what they were doing.) We took the door he chose and the stairs quickly led to the exit, at which point, we were now the leaders, not the followers. Basically don’t assume the crowd or majority always knows what’s right. Dare to be different!
- The Lord is MY Shepherd. In 2004 I was diagnosed with a brain tumor, something my Dad had when I was a teenager. Scared to death, my parents immediately came down from Virginia to be with me. Fortunately it was a lesser type of anomaly (venus anginoma) but I still went thru a battery of tests in the hospital. During one carth-lab test I was especially nervous, and right before I was sedated and wheeled in, my Dad took my hand and squeezed each of my five fingers while saying these five words, one per finger: “The Lord is MY Shepherd”. Dad wiggled my fourth finger back and forth while he said “MY” Shepherd. Basically saying, do not be afraid. Later in the nursing home I repeated this saying on my Dad the day before he died, at which he even in his very weekend condition, smiled.
At the grave-side service I was teary-eyed as I said the last paragraph about The Lord is My Shepherd, and it was truly something memorable I remembered from the heart.
After the service as everyone was leaving, Steve (DOS), myself, and sister Jenni and husband Lawrence remained behind for a few minutes while they drove my Dad’s casket down to his final peacefully resting place, which is surrounded in the distance by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.
Yes, Dad is no longer living on this earth, but he is rejoicing with others in his new Heavenly Home. Godspeed.
Thank you for reading this very personal post, and may God Bless You!