Thursday, September 6, 2012

Perfect Planning, Perfect Timing

When I went back to Indiana in June for a family meeting, I volunteered to help pre-plan my Dad and Mom's final arrangements. Little did I know that Dad would be gone from us two months later.

While I was in Indiana, I spoke with my parents and asked them what kind of funeral and burial they wished to have. They both wanted: a Latin funeral mass at Holy Rosary Church, to be buried in a simple, monastic, hand-made casket (made by the monks of St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana) and to be buried in Our Lady of Peace, a catholic cemetery.

I returned home to Florida with this information and told The Colonel that we had a job to do. He was eager to help me with the pre-planning. The Colonel is never one to procrastinate, so we started letting our "fingers do the walking" on the Internet the next day.

We searched for funeral homes near my parent's home. We visited the websites for the Abbey Caskets and the catholic cemetery.

There were two funeral homes near my parent's home and we chose the one that would help us accomplish everything on Mom and Dad's wish list.

Jerry at the funeral home and Kelsey at the cemetery were a joy to work with. They made planning via emails and phone calls a breeze.

Jerry discussed what funeral packages were available and their pricing which made it easy to choose one that my parents would be happy with.

The Colonel and I used Google Earth to see what Our Lady of Peace Cemetery looked like. Kelsey sent us a map of the cemetery that showed us which lots were available. We cross referenced the map and the Google Earth images to help us decide on a plot for my parents.

We chose a plot with a shade tree that was near a concrete pathway. We based our choice on the plot's beauty and the ease future visitors would have in walking to the graveside, especially in snow (there was parking close by too). We also took into account that there were empty plots still available near Mom and Dad's plot in case any of my brothers or sisters wished to be buried near our parents.

The Colonel designed the headstone with tweaks from myself and other family members. The headstone should be in place sometime in December or January.

July 30th was the final pre-planning email The Colonel and I received. My dad began home hospice care on August 9th and passed away on the 17th.

When I flew to my parent's house on August 14th, I flew alone. The Colonel had to stay behind to take Spud to college. Each day we were apart, I called to let him know how my dad was doing. My dad passed away on the day The Colonel was driving Spud up to Jacksonville, so when I told him, he continued north after dropping Spud off at college. He spent the night outside of Atlanta and then continued onto Indiana the next morning. He arrived at my parent's house around 6 p.m. on Sunday, August 19th.

Dad's viewing was the next evening at the funeral home and his funeral would be the following day. The Colonel and I would be able to see how all of our pre-planning work would come together.

My parent's house was full of family members getting ready for Dad's viewing. There were some of my sisters there as well as nieces, nephews and great-nephews. All of that movement and noise helped keep the sadness of the day at bay. Everyone looked lovely as we piled into three vehicles and made our way to the funeral home.

As The Colonel and I stepped into the funeral home we were met by Jerry. It was good to finally put a face to the phone calls and emails. When I met him it felt like we had been friends forever.

The viewing time was set for 4 p.m.-8 p.m. We, being family, had to be there an hour prior. When I heard how long we would have to be at the funeral home I was a little worried. Would that be too long for my mom? Would the time drag on and be oppressive? My worries were groundless. The staff at the funeral home was excellent and accommodating. The viewing room was beautiful and calming. There were many comfortable chairs for family and visitors. The funeral home created a  video that played the entire time of the viewing. The video was made from 50 pictures of  Dad that we had supplied. Many visitors commented on how nice the video was. The atmosphere was wake-like, not depressed or dark.

The signatures from the guestbook showed that roughly 400 people attended Dad's viewing throughout the evening. I saw aunts, uncles, first-cousins and second-cousins from both sides of my family that I had not seen in years. It was good to see old neighbors (and an old neighborhood crush, who was shorter than I remembered and now with much less hair) again. I remembered days of old with past co-workers who were present. I saw and spoke with one of my grade school classmates; she was there with her mother. We were not friends in grade school but it was good to see her and speak with her. My dear friend Kim came; we shared memories and laughs together.

The time at the viewing flew by as the crowds ebbed and flowed.

I was very pleased with Dad's viewing. The Colonel and I had chosen wisely in working with this funeral home (I just wish my choice in new footwear that evening had been as wise.Ouch!).

Even with achy feet I was able to get some shut-eye and I would need it because Dad's funeral was the next morning at 10 a.m. and we had to be up, dressed (I had on more sensible shoes), and out the door by 8:30 a.m. to get to the church on time (isn't there a song in there somewhere?).

It was a beautiful morning for Dad's funeral and Holy Rosary Church was perfect for his Requiem Mass in Latin.

The hearse drew alongside the front of the church.

The Pall-Bearers, who were all grandsons, prepared to carry Dad's casket into the church.

The church bell was ringing, one peal at a time, as the Pall-Bearers carried the casket into the church and as others filed in behind them.

The priest met and stopped the casket in the back of the church. The bell was still ringing as he prayed in Latin over the casket.

When the priest was done praying, a procession of the priest, altar servers and the casket made its way to the front of the church. The procession was followed by family members who then entered the empty pews nearest the altar.

Throughout the Requiem Mass a choir sang Gregorian Chant-like songs. I would close my eyes and feel like I was transported to a medieval king's funeral mass. Hearing the priest pray in Latin added to the effect as did the smell of incense when the priest blessed the casket with incense and holy water.

Dad's funeral mass was a visual and aural feast; it made me appreciate more, the rituals of my faith. It was a beautiful ceremony, a beautiful experience. Thanks go to my youngest brother for helping make it so.

The mass was over and it was time to go to the graveside service at Our Lady of Peace Cemetery. Our long convoy was led by a police escort. I got used to The Colonel driving through red lights. 

My youngest brother played the bagpipes as Dad's casket was placed at the grave site.

The priest, a friend of the family, delivered a beautiful graveside service (again, thanks go to my youngest brother for making this happen).

My Uncle Dave at the casket. He is Dad's twin brother (fraternal).

I think Dad would have been pleased with everything. The Colonel and I were pleased with the fruits of our planning from Florida. My dad's final farewell was beautiful and memorable.

I must give shout-outs to my little sister and youngest brother who were the "Boots on the Ground" for helping carry out what The Colonel and I started from our end. Also, a shout-out to my oldest sister who helped in choosing the holy cards, guest book and casket spray when she and I met with Jerry at the funeral home. Another goes out to my sister-in-law, Lisa, who helped pen Dad's obituary (and suggested we have Qdoba catered in after the funeral and burial. Delicioso!).

Finally, I must give many thank yous to The Colonel for helping me with my dad's (and mom's) funeral plans. Thank you, thank you and thank you! Verily, you are my better half.

1 comment:

  1. I know this might be late but I admire your openness about pre-planning the funeral of your parents. This kind of topic is very sensitive. Anyway, it's good to hear that the funeral went well and that you're all emotionally prepared for this event.