Thursday, November 8, 2007

Father and Son (Cat Stevens)

My father-in-law died this morning, after an extended illness and a sharp decline in the last few weeks - my husband's sister called at 6 this morning to give us the news. Despite our daily expectation of the sad tidings, it's been a most difficult 18 hours - we are walking the fine line between grief and organization as we attempt to corral our family of five into a minivan, leaving South Florida early Saturday morning, stopping in Orlando to pick up Eric and then heading to South Carolina.

The funeral is Sunday at 2:00 p.m. - we will arrive very late Saturday night and depart Monday morning to return to Florida. There was no thought but that all of us would go - that's what family does. We won't get there in time for the Saturday afternoon 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. viewing - I've ordered a wreath, "the traditional symbol for endurance and continuity, constructed from laurel (a symbol of honor) and rosemary (a symbol of remembrance) and larkspur" to arrive in our stead...

Through our tears it will be wonderful to see R's sister and brother-in-law and their three children... his brother... his father's second wife - my mom, brother, sister and niece will make the 3 1/2 hour trip from Atlanta to pay their respects. We will mourn the loss of a loved one while at the same time honoring the sad occasion that brings us together - we will cry and laugh and tell stories and hug each other, tightly and often. We will know that the next time we get together, it will probably be for the passing of another of us - life is random, which makes it all the more cherished...

I loved Bob - he was strong-willed yet gentle, opinionated yet quiet, unassuming yet generous. He made me feel welcome into their family from the first time R brought me home to meet his parents - he patiently allowed me to bloom in their environment. Bob was born in Brazil, 85 years ago this December, and took pride in his heritage, even when it worked to his disadvantage - when my husband's family moved to the States when he was 13 years old, his father, a former Air Brazil pilot, had a hard time finding work...

Bob adored all our children, sending them periodic checks to supplement their college scholarships (they called him Vovo, which is Portuguese for grandfather) - he mailed me a check for $100 for my birthday each August, urging me to spend it on something frivolous (my purple Birkenstocks are a prime example... :-) Despite the geographic distance, he also gave of his time and energy - every Christmas I'd gift him with a bottle of scotch, some good cigars and a large-print book (the former two of which he had to give up a few years ago).

My husband relied on his father for active/political discussion and calmly-shared advice - Bob's life philosophy was that we are all boats on the ocean, and our job is to trust the current and make as few waves as possible. My husband worries too much - my father-in-law was a sounding board and a grounding wire throughout R's childhood and beyond...

R hasn't really processed this yet, remaining in business mode (because it's been an effective coping mechanism all his life) - however, his sister has asked him to do the eulogy, the preparation of which is bound to be painful yet cathartic. I suggested we brainstorm ideas in the car on the way up... a collaborative effort of son and grandchildren and daughter-in-law - he meant much, differently, to all of us... and he will be missed... immeasurably and (as the quote below states) irretrievably...

POEM: Do not go gentle into that good night by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

QUOTE: "The deep pain that is felt at the death of every friendly soul arises from the feeling that there is in every individual something which is inexpressible, peculiar to him alone, and is, therefore, absolutely and irretrievably lost." ~ Arthur Schopenhauer


  1. Susan--

    I am so sorry for your lost. It's never easy. May the services on Saturday give you a sense of peace. We are out here, thinking of you.
    Take care.

  2. Hey, Cathy -

    Thanks so much for your kind words - it has been, and will continue to be, a difficult time... and the amazing kindness of friends and strangers helps more than anyone will ever know... <3