This evening was the time for viewing and reception at the funeral home. I'm not sure if this custom is international--in fact, I don't even know if it's national--but just in case: this is a time family meets at the funeral home to share their grief and memories and to speak with friends who have come to share their grief and memories. It's a powerful and moving experience, because it's one of the few times I can think of when a large number of people come together because of totally unselfish love for someone else.
It's an event colored by sorrow, of course, because it exists only because someone we love has died. But there is much to celebrate and appreciate about the experience. There are so many people who have memories of our loved ones to which we might not otherwise be privy, and they're willing to share those with you.
There were many people from the many facets of Dad's life--his family, his golfing friends, his co-workers from the newspaper days, his neighbors, those who knew him from his days in governmental service, those who were helped by his generosity and benevolence. Each of them knew the same kind soul, but each of them also knew things that others might not have otherwise known.
Dad's sister Barbara is an amazing font of knowledge of family history and of details about Dad's childhood and early life. I could talk with her for ours... for days... and still only touch the surface of her immeasurable treasure trove of memories.
Aunt Jean and Uncle Red have always closer to us than any other relatives--I spent many weeks of my childhood staying at there house with my cousins. They, too, have wonderful memories of Dad and Mom, and have always been generous with those memories.
There were people I barely knew, but they knew Dad well, and were saddened by his loss. They told me about their connections with him, and it reminded me that even as close as we all were to Dad, there were many hours in every day that he spent with others--and they have much to tell us about Dad.
Sometimes I wish that I could write all of it down as they talk, to preserve those memories before they dissipate. So many vignettes, so many fragments of a complex 75 year long life... and so much compassion, so much empathy, so much sorrow, and so much joy.
A sorrow shared is half a sorrow, someone once said. In that case, my sorrow was reduced to a tiny fraction of its former self tonight...
Tomorrow we bury Dad. There will be more moments of emptiness and loss, more unpredictable moments of emotional turbulence... and more memories of joy and pride and happiness. And always, love...