“For Lu, being loved was not something to be taken for granted; we were born unloved until someone else decided to love us. If we were lucky we were taken, shivering, new to this world, into our parent’s arms and one day into a lover’s arms, and so on, perhaps dying in that person’s arms. That was if we were lucky. Without God’s never-ending love to cover us, we had to endure gaps, periods of unloved existence. It was all one could do to survive those intervals, the Captain felt. That was the plight of mankind.”
(from a novel-in-progress)
My father wanted me to read this at his funeral. Today I will do that.
The horizon, constant and static,
is a neat bit of trickery.
Impossible to reach,
its very existence is an act of faith.
In life there is the unobtainable,
a thing we can never have
and there is the inevitable,
a thing we must have.
The horizon is unobtainable,
forever out of reach
no matter how far we advance.
It is, in fact, just one long lie.
Death, on the other hand, never lies.
It delivers its promise. Inevitable.
Like the horizon, our death lolls there, still
at a distance impossible. Unthinkable.
But one day, in a stifled heartbeat,
that Death-horizon will fly at us with frightening speed.
There we will stand and
from there, see no further.
Today I picked up my dad’s ashes—or “cremains” as they’re known to the bereavement industry—from the funeral home here on the Vineyard. The biodegradable cotton urn was packed in a small burgundy tote bag, suitable for small grocery runs, I expect.
I first placed the ashes on the floor behind the passenger seat, but as I began to drive with my “dad” in the back, I suddenly felt like a chauffeur. Too impersonal. Too formal for the humble man. I stopped the car (a red, 1999 Izuzu with”CLIFRD” plates and a tiny stuffed Clifford hanging from the rearview mirror) and swung the bag around to rest on the passenger seat beside me.
Patting the sack I proclaimed “let’s go, daddy-O,” and drove off, employing the term of endearment I used most frequently in these last few months with my dad.
I put dad’s ashes under the tree until his interment ceremony, a few days after Christmas.
Until then I make my daily trips to the Edgartown post office, bringing home stacks of cards. If they are addressed to my mother, they are condolences; if they have my dad’s name, they are Christmas cards; if addressed to the “Bridwell Family” there’s about a 70% chance it’s a condolence card.
Even without his ashes here, there would be no doubting his presence in the house. Our lovely Christmas spirit.
Thanks to John McCaffrey for this interview.