I’ve needed some time away from blogging since my father passed away on December 30th. It was genuinely the best thing that could have happened, both for him and for those of us who loved him. He was diagnosed with dementia over 3 years & 10 months ago, and his mind as well as his personality was almost completely gone a year ago, along with his quality of life. His passing on was more merciful than it was heartbreaking.
My Dad was a highly intelligent man with a very charismatic personality, and a great sense of humor. He accomplished a great deal during his long life, and he also touched and improved the lives of many others with his articulate wisdom, his delightfully quick witted and clever sense of humor, and his sincere compassion for other people, that he shared with both his words as well as his deeds. He continued to live a very full and active life well into his senior years, until the disease of dementia finally so thoroughly destroyed his mind, that it robbed both him and us of his very identity.
The total degradation of his mind and personality was a very long and agonizingly slow process that was far more heartbreaking and tragic for him and those closest to him, than his final liberation from all suffering, that came from the release granted on the morning of his death.
Per his wishes, my father’s body was cremated two days after he passed away. His memorial service was held on Saturday, January 12th. All who attended, agreed that Dad’s memorial was a beautiful and truly moving tribute to his life. My mother contributed the most to the content of Dad’s memorial service, and her thoughtfully artistic sensibilities combined with her deep love of her husband of 65 years made his memorial a very worthy send off for Dad. His memorial included some moments of genuine grace and beauty that I will never forget. Moments that evoked powerful feelings of both happiness and heartache within me and many others there who loved my father.
While Dad never had a daughter of his own, he treated my first and former wife, and also my current wife, as if both women were his own daughters. He made them both feel loved just as much as if he was their father. They loved him just as much in return, and both my ex-wife and my current wife attended his memorial service. It was a somewhat surreal moment for me, when I watched them embrace, and whisper words of comfort to each other for the shared pain of loss they both felt, for the man who had loved them like a second father. My ex-wife and I also embraced, and for that brief moment, all the pain and bitterness of our past no longer existed as we comforted each other with a gesture that felt pure and natural, instead of forced and awkward.
I had not shed any tears for my father, from the morning he passed away on December 30th, until his memorial service two weeks later. My tears finally flowed freely but not profusely, and without sobbing, while singing the first hymn of the service, “Morning Has Broken”. It was one of my father’s favorite hymns, and also one of my favorite songs from the years of my teenage youth, in the version covered by Cat Stevens. Singing that hymn was powerfully evocative for me of the time when during my adolescence, my Dad was teaching me with his words, and by his own life example, how to be a man.
Including contributions from my mother, myself, my wife Jean, and other members of our family, the Minister told the story of my father’s life, skillfully and effectively, in a way that even those who didn’t know him well, were able to gain a sense of who he was.
I was moved to tears again by the music at the end of my father’s memorial service, while a man who is a pianist for the orchestra that plays with the Boston Ballet, played a perfect rendition of “Grand Waltz Eb Op 18″ by Chopin. This is music that was very dear to both my mother and father, and it was my mother’s choice to have it played as the postlude for her husband’s memorial service. Mom’s choice was the perfect choice to close out the memorial that was more a celebration of my father’s life, than a mourning of his death.
When the music concluded, over one hundred people who were there, broke into spontaneous applause. It was truly the perfect ending for Dad’s memorial service, and a unique moment that I will never forget, for the rest of my life.