The Funeral

Today was an extremely long one. It’s now 9:34pm, and it started at 6am. I know, to most of you that’s really not a big deal. Perhaps not on a normal day, for a normal person. But, today wasn’t, and I’m not, so I’m told.

It was important for me to get up before 7am in order to be alert before Sarah got here to make pancakes for Ruth and me. Of course I told her it wasn’t necessary, but I really didn’t try very hard to dissuade her. Sarah, as some of you may know, is Larry’s daughter, therefore Ruth and Lyle’s granddaughter. She’s an emergency room nurse at the Hartford hospital where Lyle finally saw the light.

Sarah showed up right on time and went about making the pancakes as promised. She did, however, make me cook my own eggs, which was just fine with me. Actually, she would have cooked those, too, but I thought getting pancakes was great, and going for eggs, too, was pushing the limit a little.

After I started the eggs, Ruth decided she’d like some, too, but she wanted hers scrambled. So, I scrambled the eggs I was cooking and gave them to her. Since they were the last two in the refrigerator, upstairs, I had to trek to the basement where they keep all the replacement food. Then I cooked my eggs. As you know I usually take pictures of things I eat but this time I didn’t. I’m sorry.

It was a very good breakfast so Sarah got both Ruth and me off to a great start. And it was a good thing, too.

First up was returning to the funeral home where we once again assumed our seats while those who wished to participate in the procession to the church filed in and took a seat. Lyle was still there in the background quietly taking in all the goings on. As people arrived, they signed in. When everyone was there, the funeral crew started calling out names. As each one was called, they stopped and kneeled by Lyle, on the handy kneeling platform provided, paid their last respects to him, then exited to their vehicle which was already adorned with a little magnetic flag that was imprinted with “Funeral”. It was purple. I remember that.

Alas, the family was last to leave. Prior to departing, however, I stretched the boundaries of funeral protocol by taking a few dozen photos. I will save those for a more private viewing, because I took pictures of everything.

Finally we were released to enter our vehicle. We had Ruth’s Toyota Highlander, and we were vehicle number one. A Funeral Traffic Director lined up the vehicles in two rows at the parking lot exit and urged us to wait for the hearse to pass before we took off. We did, and the hearse, preceded by a van with a nifty blinking blue light on top, finally went around us and the procession was started. Larry was driving with Ruth up front, Valerie and me in the back.Valerie is Larry’s wife.

It doesn’t take very long to get places in Connecticut so it was a relatively short trip. The hearse, and the pace van, led us to the front of the church where we parked in the wrong lane, against the curb, on a narrow street. No one in the oncoming lanes blew their horns, or anything, so I guess they’re used to this around here.

We debarked our ride and waited in front of the church while the pall bearers helped Lyle out of the hearse and walked him up the stairs to the coffin holder on wheels. They rolled it into the church a little ways, Ruth and me right behind, then stopped until Father O’Grady came back to bless the casket. Then it was covered with a nice table cloth and pushed to the front of the church. Ruth and I had to hurry to keep up, but we made it.

The family filled the first two or three pews on the right side of the church, then the ceremony began. I had an aisle seat, right behind Ruth, next to Sarah, and two other granddaughters, Laura, Heather.

First, Susan, one of Lyle’s and Ruth’s granddaughters, sang. Did I tell you that she sings like an angel? Well, she does. I would have taped it but wasn’t allowed to bring my camera into the church. That’s not true. I just gave it a little thought and decided it wouldn’t be appropriate, so left it in the car under my hat. Susan sang many songs during the service and it was absolutely beautiful.

All the way to the church I went over and over what I intended to say, trying to commit it to memory, and thought I had a pretty good handle on it. I was prepared. I was ready. Then, too soon, Father O’Grady said my name and I totally forgot all of it. On the way to the pulpit I regained a little of my memory, and was given a little more time to think when Susan came over from her place, to give me a huge hug. Then I began … here’s what I was going to say …

Lyle was 19 when I was born, and well on his way in life. Consequently, my childhood memories of him are sparse. I learned about Lyle through pictures, stories, and infrequent visits to Oregon throughout the years. One childhood picture continues to capture my attention – it’s of Lyle in his cracker jack Navy uniform, holding me as a newborn in 1944.

We were always aware of what was going on with Lyle through letters and cards. That method of communications, however, doesn’t convey the true depth of ones impact on the community and the family surrounding him.

After I joined the Navy I found myself more often in a position to either visit him in California, or at his home here. And, I got to know more about him, learning to love him as a brother instead of a random visitor.

He was unselfishly devoted to his family with Ruth which is obvious to all who knew him. In return, they were devoted to him. Respected him. Adored him. He was living a dream with Ruth, Larry, Cheryl, Carol, and Todd.

He was a pillar in the community and we are all proud of his accomplishments. We loved him even though he never tired of telling us Oregonians what a “real” hoagie, or a “real” pizza was.

When Lyle turned 70 years old we started a tradition of traveling to each brother as they, in turn, turned 70. Lyle and Ruth traveled west for Jim in 2006, and again for Jack in 2008. Sadly, my 70th celebration will be one brother short. I understand, and know that he will be there in spirit as an honored guest.

A few days ago I found myself alone, and I sat in the quiet house, in Lyle’s place at the table. Letting my mind wander a bit, which isn’t surprising to most who know me, I could easily envision Lyle puttering around in the kitchen, or calling to me from another room, to relate something of importance. It was comforting, and I knew he was with me.

He’s with me now, as he always will be. I’ll miss not being able to hug him, shake his hand, or simply just watch him sleep on the couch.

But, I have my memories of those events and can make them very real simply by closing my eyes. I can only hope that I leave half as many happy and loving people as Lyle did in the swirling wake of his life

As for the events of the last five weeks, In Lyle’s and Ruth’s words, “this too shall pass.”

I don’t really recall what I actually said, but many parts of the above were included. I did remember to speak slow, as Jack suggested at our last funeral, and it seemed to work well after I got the mike pointed in the proper direction. When I was done, I introduced Larry who had written many things about why he loved Lyle. It was very moving, and I’m happy he went 2nd because I could never have equalled him.

Then Susan sang another song and it was amazing not only because of her voice, but because the bulk of her family were sitting in the pews crying while she stood strong throughout. She held herself together to the end and we were all proud of her strength.

Lyle was then wheeled from the church for the final time, followed by Ruth and me, and the rest of the family. I haven’t yet mentioned that I felt overly honored to have been given the honor of leading everyone with Ruth but, then, it may have just been an age thing. Still, I was humbled.

After sliding Lyle into the hearse, the pall bearers melted into the crowd and we entered our vehicle for the trip to the cemetery. Again, it wasn’t a long trip, just a couple of miles maybe.

When we got there, the pilot van drove all the way past the cemetery to the last entrance which caused Larry and Ruth to question the logic since Lyle’s plot was straight down from the first entry road. This led to a brief discussion that concluded with the belief it was done in order to allow the fifty or so vehicles behind us to line up within the confines of the cemetery roads, and not be strung out down the street. When the hearse stopped well short of the anticipated location, things got interesting. Larry rolled down his window when Michael, the funeral guy, approached our vehicle and reported that Lyle’s vault had been delivered, and placed into the wrong plot. But, the chairs were all lined up, everyone was exiting their vehicles so it was agreed that Father O’Grady would just do the final portion of the service right there, at someone else’s grave site. There was no hurry, because we understood the new occupant wasn’t scheduled to arrive until Saturday.

Lyle was removed from the hearse and carted down to the wrong grave and the service proceeded. I didn’t sit, though I could have. Instead, I wandered around the crowd taking pictures. It was great, and we all agreed that this was just Lyle’s way of having the last laugh. Father O’Grady, however, felt it was just Lyle’s way of getting a plot without having to pay for it.

We left and drove to the La Notta restaurant in East Windsor where Lyle and Ruth took Diane and me for dinner the evening we drove our marathon around the NE states in 2010. Again, I took lots of pictures of everyone eating really good food. The younger kids had a great time running around on the dance floor, dodging people who were getting food from the buffet line which was parked in the middle of it.

Then, it was done. It was finally over, and everyone started leaving. One of Ruth’s brothers, Alan I believe, had been talking to me for a while, then said you need to come out and see my ride. I did and discovered he was driving a 1982 Porsche Targa. Nifty little rig. We chatted a little longer, then he stretched its legs leaving the parking lot to show me what it’s like to be 18 again.

We went back to the house for a while, then Susan, Jay, Sarah, and Laura left, leaving us with Martin and Carol. We visited for a while, then they, too, departed. By this time it was almost time for supper, so we decided to taste test some of the dishes that had been delivered over the past week.

A couple of them got tossed, then we discovered a meat pie that looked possible, so I stuck it in the oven. About then, Ruth’s neighbor came a knocking, and visited for a really long time. I sat there and listened to them laugh and reminisce about growing up in the Windsor area. It was like having someone read a book to me. About half way through the visit I turned the oven off, figuring the meat pie was about as hot as it needed to be. And, I was correct.

After the neighbor departed, Larry and Valerie showed up and we all took a stab at the meat pie. It was interesting, but not something anyone would want to eat a lot of. About the food … though I know it’s not true, I speculated that those who delivered it used recipes they’ve had for a long time but were afraid to try, or they have these recipes they save exclusively for making dishes which they deliver to folks in mourning. I believe it could be a way to speed up the healing process because it makes one want to opt for better fare. Having said that, I must admit that all of the desserts delivered were exceptionally tasty. I know that for a fact.

After we all had a couple bites of meat pie, we looked at each other, dropped our forks, and headed out the door for Chili’s. It was a very good end to the day.

Oh, ya, we went back to the cemetery, too, to make sure Lyle was in his proper place. He was and I can prove it because I took pictures.

Now, to put a few things in perspective for you. Following is a picture of Sarah, Laura, Ruth, Alicia, Heather, and Susan. That’s the order they’re standing in. On Saturday we’re going to Saratoga Springs, NY to attend Heather’s and Justin’s wedding. We’ll be staying over Saturday night, returning Sunday. As luck would have it, Ruth and I are sharing a room so I’m pretty excited about all the rumors we can start with this trip.


2 thoughts on “The Funeral

  1. Thanks for that. It was very well written and my eyes were leaking again. Sounds like it went as well as those things do. I’m glad you are there with Ruth. You are a good brother. Love Kathie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.