Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Heavy Weather

It was gorgeous in Reno today -- although exceedingly warm -- but this morning in Philly featured very heavy rain and lightning. As a result, my sister and nephew's departure was delayed, so they missed their connection in Phoenix, and then their second plane had to go back to the gate because of mechanical problems. They finally arrived five hours later than they'd expected.

In the meantime, Dad's friends Kathy and Park from Mississippi (they're now from Pennsylvania, actually), arrived in their camper. They tried to pull into our RV space and wound up taking the trim off one corner of the roof. Gary and Park got onto a ladder and fixed it, but Kathy and Park decided to stay in an RV park, just to be safe.

We served an extremely informal buffet dinner on the deck. It was very windy. This bodes ill for tomorrow evening, when we'll be eating from red paper plates and plastic utensils. Yikes!

I have some of Dad's ashes -- the ones the Reno potter didn't use -- and I asked the guests if anyone felt strongly about having our own small scattering ceremony tomorrow, as we read along with the Coast Guard service. Fran wanted to do it.

Then the Coast Guard chaplain called to say that they won't be able to go out tomorrow because the weather's too rough. They're trying for Saturday. So much for returning Dad to the ocean on his birthday!

In one way, this makes things easier: instead of reading along with the Coast Guard in the morning and then reconvening for dinner, we'll just do everything around dinnertime. But it also left me with the challenge of not having the Coast Guard ceremony to use. I could justify the religious language in the Coast Guard ceremony because we'd be following along with them, but now things are more complicated. To wit:

Fran feels really strongly about scattering the ashes, but isn't religious.

My sister feels strongly allergic, bordering on hostile, to anything resembling a religious service.

Kathy and Park are deeply spiritual -- and used to argue with Dad about his atheism all the time -- but don't care much about the scattering part of things.

I don't need to scatter the ashes, but do find Christian language deeply comforting.

Gary and my nephew will go along with whatever the rest of us do.

So: we have to scatter for Fran, but the "service" has to be as short as possible for my sister; it can't mention God or Christ because that would offend the non-religious folks, including Fran, but it has to be implicitly spiritual/Christian enough for me and Kathy and Park.


I'm happy to report that I've come up with a one-page service that should, I hope, make everybody happy, or at least not too unhappy. We'll go around and share brief readings or memories of Dad (something we'll do during dinner anyway). I plan to do my usual reading, two paragraphs from the end of LotR; I know Kathy plans to read some journal entries she wrote about Dad. Then we'll all say ten lines together about Dad and the ashes. I'm not calling this a prayer, and it doesn't mention God (it's heavy on nature, which works fine), but anybody who wants to see it as a prayer can do so easily, I hope. (I'll post the "prayer? what prayer?" prayer at some point, if all goes well.)

Then we'll scatter ashes. Just in the back yard, but Dad liked the deck, so it will be fine.

Then, the fiddle gods and my emotional state willing, I'll play Ashokan Farewell. My double stop's still very iffy, but I think I'll have a forgiving audience.

Then we'll eat. I have small presents for everybody but me and Gary, stuff of Dad's I think they'll like. That will make it seem more like a birthday party, albeit a very hobbitish one, since hobbits give other people presents on their own birthdays.

All of this will happen after I've run around all morning shopping and doing last-minute prep. I hoped to do some of that today, but the schedule got too crazy.

I'm exhausted. I hope tomorrow goes more smoothly than today did!


  1. Good luck with tomorrow. In the process of making everything palatable for everyone else please don't forget to include what you need yourself. After all, "it's your party and you can......if you want to". However it goes, your Dad will have been honoured and that is the important thing.

  2. Anonymous6:17 AM

    Hi, I'm planning my mother's funeral right now.
    We're using the hymn "Now the Green Blade Rises" and it maybe you can use the last verse in the service you are planning. Here are all the lyrics:
    Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
    Wheat that in the dark earth many years has lain;
    Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
    Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

    In the grave they laid Him, Love Whom we had slain,
    Thinking that He’d never wake to life again,
    Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
    Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

    Up He sprang at Easter, like the risen grain,
    He that for three days in the grave had lain;
    Up from the dead my risen Lord is seen:
    Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

    When our hearts are saddened, grieving or in pain,
    By Your touch You call us back to life again;
    Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
    Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

    Take care of yourself. This is very hard,

  3. Anonymous10:29 AM

    Dear Susan,

    Just a note to let you know that I'm thinking of you on your big day today, Wednesday the 15th. Whether or not your plans to honor your father are working out exactly as you planned, I hope they are proceeding in ways that you are ultimately happy with.

    Take good care,



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