Somewhere, my father is laughing. After distracting myself with funeral arrangements for over a week, the end result was perfect. So much so that the Funeral Director opined that if I ever were debating a career change, I should consider mortuary services (!)
When I arrived - thirty minutes before the service as instructed - there was barely any parking available. Inside, the funeral home was at capacity with many people having to stand or observe the proceedings through the adjacent reception area. It was great to see how appreciated and loved this man was by others. I'm not sure if he was always aware of it, lamenting over the last eight months of being a "burden" to people (when really we couldn't be more happy to aid or assist him). My mother was sick and already crying before we entered to the tune of 'You Are My Sunshine' by Johnny Cash (her song selection to honour her husband). Mentally, I was only focused on not screwing up the eulogy.
Several others spoke throughout the service and it was interesting how all of our tributes hit on the same personality and character traits of my father: that he was authentic; that he fought for what was right; that he had terrible fashion sense. He well-and-truly did not give a shit and whether that was steeped in confidence or delusion, it is something to be admired. His moustache alone was the stuff of legend, often commented on by complete strangers during our travels (and earning him the nickname of "Mister Mistachio" in Italy). He did have a twin though…during a visit to Tokyo in 2009 we discovered the entrance to the parallel universe is to be found at a donair shop in Harajuku.
"Brian, hello! Long time no see" was the greeting from the English-speaking gentleman at the counter as my father still debated what to order.
"Hello", he responded somewhat confused.
"What are you doing here? How is your daughter Deborah?"
My father eventually asked this person where he knew him from…and it was then discovered that my father's doppleganger resides in a small village in England and also, coincidentally, has a daughter name Deborah. I wouldn't have believed it myself had I not been there. This summarizes another aspect of remembrance that was oft-repeated throughout the day: my father was a tremendous storyteller. And yet, those stories were based in fact. He lived it.
At Versailles in April, my father could only walk a brief distance before needing to sit down and rest. At one point during our walk through the gardens, he had enough imploring me to go explore on my own while he napped near the Encelade Fountain. Ensuring he was alright and comfortable, I left for about 20 minutes to take photographs of the Grand Canal and later returned to an empty bench. Where had he gone? I craned my neck in all directions and saw nothing. Assuming he went to the washroom, I sat on the bench where he said he would be and waited. And waited.
After 30 minutes of waiting I feared something had happened. I got up to try and find him and lo-and-behold, after about twenty paces there he was on another bench, slightly hidden by a very well-manicured bush. I asked him what he was doing. Resting, he said. He also claimed to have seen me, about 30 minutes prior, but didn't say anything later believing that I had forgotten about him or chosen to abandon him. This response was absurd for two reasons: 1) I would NEVER and 2) the keys to the rental car were in his pocket.
I returned to the funeral home two days later to pay for everything and give thanks to the exceptional, attentive staff that helped us through our darkest time. There was minor closure with this act. I don't think I will ever accept that my father was taken from me this soon in life (and am fully anticipating hitting a brick wall of emotional anguish in the future) but in the immediate moment, I felt that a proper celebration of life had occurred. My father's suffering had ended. His next journey has begun.
I sighed as I drove away from the funeral home. MY next journey had also begun. Where would life take me next? What ups (and downs) would greet me in the future? Who would I share them with? What — and a thought crossed my mind. "OH MY GOD!" I did a 180-degree turn in the middle of the boulevard and raced back to the funeral home feeling like the biggest idiot on the planet.
I forgot my father's urn.
Somewhere, my father is laughing at the foibles of the living.