My Dad wasn’t one for pomp and circumstance. All my life, I remember he didn’t want the formality of a funeral and a marker of his final resting place. He especially didn’t want people mourning him at the foot of an engraved headstone as a reminder that he was dead. And as I remember it, he loved using exaggerated words like blubbering and wailing to describe how people, meaning us, would be making a fuss over him. As I recall, relatives didn’t appreciate this way of thinking, but Dad was adamant and unrelenting.
Even the disappointment of his mother of him not wanting to be buried in the family plot could change his mind.
Dad literally just wanted to be cremated. And here’s where this gets bewildering and a little fascinating…
…for someone so adamant about people not mourning him, having no memorial and his remains to be ashes; he really didn’t care what happened thereafter! It didn’t stand to reason that he wouldn’t have planned this last detail of where he wanted his remains to be laid to rest. Oiy, Dad, oiy .
Dad had once explained he was not beholden to his city of birth or here, where he laid down roots as a young man, enough to be his final resting place. He had no personal desire of where or what was to become of his remains. Interestingly enough, he did have a special connection to a specific place in Old Strathcona. He took me there on occasion and spoke with fondness and such detail as he was walking me around his memories as we sat together on his hospital bed. I gently asked if he would like to rest there; and his only interest in the question was mistaken for me slowing him down. Dad told me to walk faster cause there was something else he wanted to show me and time was running out.
Sometime while back, Dad had mentioned the untimely death of a schoolmate in his youth and I learned this in part had jaded his view of loss and bereavement. Dad was angry that his dear friend died so young and so pointlessly. This had a great effect on him at such a tender age and stayed with him long after.
On one of our father/daughter trips to our hometown together, I asked Dad to take me to Gigi’s gravesite. He asked why of all the places to go, we should go there; he eventually gave in, and we went.
Dad felt this was an exercise in futility as I would merely be paying my respects to his father’s engraved headstone with remains in the ground. What was the point?
Dad could be so black and white on some things with no grey in the middle. Working in the research field, he was familiar with cadavers donated for science and reasoned that the remains were that of a shell, devoid of any human personality which made it special in life.
So to sum up, Dad felt there was no spiritual connection to the physical remains of a deceased being. And as for him, he would simply cease to exist when it was his time.
While I understood and appreciated this, I couldn’t reconcile what this had to do with us and how we may have wanted a commemorative marker to honor and recognize his presence on earth. (This would be that grey in the middle.)
He was our Somebody and I wanted the world to Know He Existed
Dad’s family was going to mourn and miss him whether he liked it or not! Besides, he wouldn’t be here, so what did he care if we had a headstone or memorial marker or not?
I suggested instead of him looking at it as a constant reminder that he was gone and us blubbering over our loss of him; what if he were to consider a memorial as a symbolic acknowledgement of his life lived here on earth?
Silence. That look. Okay, I get it, discussion over.
Sometime later, Dad did something very thoughtful for me. To “mark” his time here on earth…he gave me his beloved wrist watch. This timepiece was his personal way he wanted me to remember him and our time together.
So it’s my gesture to Dad that when I wear this heirloom every now and then, it’s my personal reflection on his life lived, not passed. A watch ticks through time in the present and it’s in the time of now, that his presence is with me.
Dad, you are a man worth remembering, blubbering and all. You got your way, and you gave me mine too. His final wishes were honored. No headstone. But, yes, Dad did have a memorial service with family and friends who gathered to celebrate him.
So get this, not long after my Dad’s passing, the funeral home where his ashes were interned burnt down. Hmmm, crazy right? When was there a time that you recall something like this happening? I never have.
Dad’s cremated remains were displayed in a Memorial Room which went unscathed in the fire. Ironic.
Sometime later, a funeral attendant recounted family scattering Dad’s ashes at another location.
So is that it? With no formality of a memorial urn anymore, has my father’s legacy set with the sun?