Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cramming Christmas Prep into One Week

This has been an unusual Christmas season for our crew. Originally, I planned on taking the kids for their Santa picture on December 4th. Unfortunately, that was the day that flipped everything on its ear. That's the day I received the phone call telling me my dad passed away.

Instead of the day I had expected, I found myself in a series of events that I hadn't expected, signed up for, or knew were ahead of me. Since that day, my sister and I have repeatedly said that we need a "Death for Dummies" book because the learning curve was astronomical. The morning of the 4th, I received the call from my brother telling me the news and proclaimed, "Hold on, I'm coming over!" To that, my brother replied, "Where are you going?" I said, "Your house, you dolt!" (OK, I didn't really said the dolt part, but I did think it.) To that, he said, "I'm in London." OH YEAH!!! I'd forgotten that he was on a business trip and then the reality of me being the only local sibling sunk in. I made a few required phone calls, quickly dressed, and drove to our dad's care facility.

In the lobby of the care facility, I was met by the funeral home representative and the care facility's director. The three of us walked to my dad's room; along the way, I was greeted by a few mourning care providers. It was really touching to see how many of the people who work there were moved by the passing of one of their residents. They care so deeply about the residents.

Upon reaching my dad's room, I was greeted by a police officer who had been standing watch over the body. That was when the business of death seemed to kick into gear. I released the officer from his post; the director and funeral home representative and I went over the required paperwork and questions, and then my dad was transported to the funeral home.

After he was gone, I stood in his room and wondered "now what?" It felt weird just to leave, so I made his bed. It was something I could do. So, I did it.

The rest of the week was a whirlwind of funeral planning and family conversations. It's true; death does bring people together. During the week of preparation, I spoke with my siblings almost non-stop. My brother Troy returned early from London (gratefully) and was able to take on some of the tasks on our to-do list. We met with the funeral home staff and went through a lot more paperwork, picked out an urn, etc. etc.etc.

One of the weirdest experiences of the week was going shopping for a shirt and tie that our dad could wear as part of his final attire. We'd saved a suit of his when he moved out of his house a few years ago, but neglected to save a shirt and tie. I went to the local store and picked out the necessary items. I felt very compelled to pick just the right tie ... just the right "I was a conservative, Republican, career IMB guy" kind of tie. At the checkout counter, the gal asked if I wanted a gift receipt. Definitely not. Nope. Not even close.

We packed up our crew and headed down to Portland this past weekend and had a whirlwind of activity. We had a rosary and funeral at the local Jesuit community (GORGEOUS!!!) and then a crypt blessing and reception at the mausoleum and then an open house at my cousin's house on Saturday. It was a very busy, but nice day. We shed tears, laughed, shared stories, ate, and drank wine. All-in-all, it was a very nice send off for our dad. He would have loved knowing everyone was together.

Upon our return home, I hit the ground running trying to play Christmas prep catch up. As soon as the car was unpacked and the washing machine was going, I started my holiday baking.... spritz cookies (two ways) and nut clusters. The next night, I made fudge. The kids and I even made dough ornaments to give to Annika's teachers and to hang on our tree (stay tuned for that blog post).

Christmas is a time for reflection and togetherness. This year, it is also a time for panic and high-speed preparations. :)

And to all a good night!

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