I couldn’t sleep.
Tomorrow I’d be viewing the body of my Dad. I was relieved he wouldn’t have to face years in a nursing home, but his passing still came quickly after a fall that caused a brain bleed.
In one way or another, I’d been preparing for this day my entire life… learning and absorbing his qualities of creativity, generosity and humor while fighting those characteristics I resisted.
The healing energy work I’ve done, specifically in the last six months has helped beyond words. Bursts of sadness will most likely continue to visit, but for the most part I feel happy and grateful.
The hour I spent alone with his body in a private room was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. I’m no expert in what to do in a case like this, but I had read The Tibetan Book of the Dead, the work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and many others.
The funeral director showed me into the back room where they’d been preparing his body. I didn’t know what to expect, but the instant I saw him the fear dropped away, my heart opened wider than it’d ever been and love poured out.
It was so peaceful. This sterile little room with just him and me. The busy traffic I’d been in, the noise, the mind chatter… vanished. Just this sweet, sacred moment.
Some people are afraid of dead bodies. For me, it was simply confirmation that his spirit had moved on.
Like the crab shell you see on the beach… my friend explained to me a while ago how the crab actually crawls out of it and leaves the remains behind. That’s exactly what I saw in my dad’s body. A shell that his spirit had been living in.
I brought the Graceful Crossing Meditation that I’d been listening to the last 10 days. There was my iPhone recorder, laying on the metal slab, playing the sweetest music ever. Inaudible words in the background from a man who’s had 2 blissful near-death experiences.
It’s strange that I should feel so happy, but I did.
I had frankincense and myrrh essential oils, pouring several drops on my wrists and chest. I felt like a little child wondering if I’d get in trouble for putting a few drops on his green scrubs with the faint red leaf design. That hesitation only lasted a second and soon my intuition guided me to put drops where it felt appropriate.
I couldn’t stop looking at his face.
I’d never seen him like this before.
So peaceful. No words of wisdom as he used to call our banter. No questions. No answers. Just peace.
We had a meaningful conversation 2 days before he passed. I shared how much I learned from him and my feeling that the learning would continue. He surprised me with a story of how he watched me on my horse and admired how much balance that took.
Being able to stand on our own two feet was a bittersweet metaphor after he lost his balance and fell. And, even though I moved 1700 miles away in 1984, I always felt I could lean on him.
I said I’d see him again soon on FaceTime. He replied, “well… either that or in the next world.” We said I Love You and hung up.
Now, in this little funeral home room, the conversation was different… just my random words filling the air. Bouncing off the white walls back to me. I don’t know if he could hear them or not, but it felt good to say them.
I’d glance at the long surgical scar from time to time and feel sad for all he went through. I looked at his index finger where, as a four-year old, the tip of it was cut off by the lawn-mower he’d been riding.
I touched his feet and remembered all the foot rubs I’d given him. His hands, so strong and powerful, were now cold. But somehow it didn’t feel strange to cover his hands with mine. I put my ear to his chest. No heartbeat.
After 45 minutes I felt compelled to do some Reiki. I said a prayer and went to work. After the final sweep from head to toe, I felt the unexpected essence of his mother at my left side. I just shrugged my shoulders and whispered… hello. There was a palpable feeling of gratitude. Maybe it was from her. Who knows? Right now, I’m simply enjoying the mystery.
Time stopped and yet accelerated when we began picking out the casket, writing the obituary and making picture boards and a DVD of our favorite pictures for the visitation. There’s something interesting about a time like this when the ego just… disappears.
Mom, Jacci and I made decisions easily from a place of honoring the man we loved.
We didn’t want the typical, formal picture by the closed casket, so we chose this one of him riding off with a smile on his face. It reminds me how important it is to be happy, not just for ourselves but to uplift the energy of everyone around us.
My dad always had claustrophobia and joked about wanting a flashlight in the casket. When Mom and I walked up to the casket at the visitation, we saw it neatly placed in his hand. That really choked us up, but it was a good kind of crying.
The DVD people saw while standing in the long condolence line included funny and sweet pictures with instrumental music like the Monkees song I think I love you. (We used to sing this to him when he’d ask “What do you think?”)
I didn’t know someone snapped it years ago, but looking at it now I see his visionary qualities and remind myself they’re in me too.
My sister Jacci and I brainstormed on how to make this send-off special and unique for our one-of-a-kind Dad.
He loved shopping for and buying farm equipment so we thought, “Why not take a little detour from the church to the cemetery and drive by the implement shop?”
The Lakeview Funeral Home liked that idea too, so we called Rabe International to let them know a funeral procession of police escorts, a hearse and 14 cars would be driving through for one last look at the newest models of tractors.
Mom and I snuggled in the front seat of the hearse with heightened senses after the ‘sold-out’ service, extraordinary music and touching words.
We were overwhelmed when we first saw the tractors lined up as if to greet us. Lights on in the middle of the day. Around the corner were 16 men in their work clothes, standing in front of the implement shop to give their last respects to Weldon.
I looked back at the casket and thought of one of my Dad’s favorite phrases… precious cargo.
No one had been buried in this quaint little cemetery since 1971. I scooped up some of the darkest, softest dirt in both my hands and tossed it on top of the vault. Then my yellow rose.
Little by little I saw his grandchildren and great grandchildren toss in a little dirt. They looked at their flowers, then the hole in the earth. It was as if their little minds were trying to decide to keep the flower or not. Then, ever so gently they’d toss in a red rose, yellow rose, red carnation and a sprinkling of beautiful, organic soil.
The tombstone will be this rock Dad, Joyce and I are sitting on. It was chosen by Mom and Dad straight from their land. The names and dates are being engraved now. It’ll be delivered to the grave in the spring.
It felt good to have a candle vigil going at the house. It burned non-stop (except at night) from the time I got there to the day I left. I’d move it from his bedroom to his office to the kitchen to the living room. When Mom and I came home after settling some accounts, we were surprised the candle was still miraculously burning. The minute we sat down, the candle went out.
After the funeral, the hardest part was when I’d see random people around town. They’d give us their condolences, but inevitably started crying for their own loss. I knew he had a lot of friends, but to see the depth of their love was touching.
Business associates or friends, it didn’t matter… they all had pretty much the same thing to say about him. Humble friend who always had time for them, a visionary leader with a quick wit.
As fate would have it, my college boyfriend’s dad died a week before mine. A couple days after the funeral we met half-way at the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa. We shared memories of our dads and how we planned to carry on the qualities we loved about them in our own lives.
The grotto is a mesmerizing place with thousands of crystals from all over the world built by a guy who simply wanted to give back. I love hanging out there surrounded by rose quartz, amethyst, petrified wood, agates and shells. It’s kind of wild to see this work of art amongst all the hog CAFO buildings that are so prevalent in northern Iowa.
There were many magical moments in Minnesota. (way too many for this blog) I think when a loved one passes we have an opportunity to peak into the other side. My goal is to maintain the open heart I experienced the first two weeks of December.
I’m sharing a few of the special moments with you partly for my own healing, partly to honor my amazing father and also to encourage you to see the sacredness and beauty of this experience called death.
My family is currently sending thank-you notes to the 500 or so people whose sympathy cards continue to flood our mailbox. Every once in a while we’re surprised by a Christmas card that sneaks in to remind us that life goes on.