Well, here we are. The day has finally come to lay my Daddy’s remains to rest at the Florida Veteran’s Cemetery in Bushnell, FL.
Christmas Eve will be the 10 month anniversary of his passing. It took that long for Mia to wake up, recover, learn how to walk and move and live on her own all over again.
It took that long for us to work up the nerve to say goodbye to him in this final and forever sort of way.
The circumstances of my Daddy’s passing were atypical to say the least. There was no way I could go through with a memorial immediately following his death considering we spent the next two months wondering if his wife would join him.
Once we realized Mia was going to make it, we realized we had a logistics problem.
- Daddy lived and worked his entire life in Broward and Dade County.
- He grew up in Keary, New Jersey and much of our family still lives in that area.
- But he and Mia had homes in Farmington, Maine and Merritt Island, Florida where they participated in their community via the Moose and Elk’s Lodge.
Where do you have a memorial for a man who lived, loved, laughed, and had meaningful relationships with people literally along the entire East coast?
The bad news is that there is no protocol or precedent for what happened to us.
The good news is that means we can pretty much do whatever we want.
And so this is what we’re doing:
- This morning at 10:45 me, Vince, Kellan, Cody, Cody’s Dad, Tracy, Mia, Cari, Cliff, Hunter, Corey, Lenny, Denise, and my Uncle Rich will gather at the cemetery.
- At 11am we’ll follow an Army Honor Guard to a ceremony site in the massive, beautiful veteran’s cemetery.
- The Honor Guard will play Taps on the bugle, fold an American Flag, and place the flag and my Daddy’s remains on an alter.
- While my siblings arrange photos and flowers, I will speak to the group to thank them for coming and tell them all how much I miss and love my Daddy. What I really want to say is how glad I am that we’re together, to personally escort him along this last leg of his journey since he began it alone on February 24th. And though it’s taken us 10 months to bring him the rest of the way, we do so with all the love we’ve had for him our whole lives.
- Then a priest will get up to give a eulogy and lead us in prayer.
- And finally, the cemetery attendant will tell us our time is up, he’ll take my Daddy’s remains and one floral arrangement, and we will leave.
It will all be done within 30 minutes. So many veterans are dying that 30 minutes is all we’ll get.
There’s a part of me that’s disappointed in the short time allotment… but that is far and away outweighed by the relief, almost peace, I find in the pomp and circumstance of it all.
It’s official, it’s dignified, it’s a real and true funeral. It’s what he deserves, albeit a condensed version.
And as for everyone else – family in New Jersey, coworkers in Miami, friends in Maine and Colorado and Tallahassee, I got creative and sent them this:
For those of us attending the services, I created a separate version of this memorial card and the back has as many photos as I could fit:
Once we leave Bushnell we’ll all head back to Orlando and have lunch at Season’s 52 on Sand Lake Rd. It’s a central location and pretty appropriate for the group… but if my Dad had his way, we’d be at Hooters.
I used to always joke with him that I would make sure he had former Hooter’s girls as care givers in his old age….
After lunch, I’ll take my Uncle Rich back to his hotel and I’ll probably go home to pass out.
And Saturday I’ll wake up to a world where my Daddy is dead and buried. How strange that sounds. How surreal it feels.
I miss him with every breath. I’m going to pull through, but God help me… this is going to hurt.
Wish me luck, people.