These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Monday, November 12, 2007

afterward

i write this completely exhausted and drained, but i want to do it tonight before i go to bed. it's late and we're back home after more than a week of an emotional rollercoaster.

it's weird now. i live 1,500 miles away from my family. for four years it's been this way. i saw my dad only once maybe twice in a year. i knew he was there, in texas. i could pick p a phone and call him or that i'd see him soon enough. but now it's not going to happen. there will be no more phone call from him or seeing his smile when we drove up to the ranch. it's gone. the void is already there. and even though my dad was not part of my daily life, physically, that is, i always felt him around or thought of him, wondered what he was doing, like i wondered about others in my family. now i'll have to delete that thought from my thought process. it pains me.

the past few days while at the ranch, i'd have minor lapses in thought. we'd be sitting up in the living/dining room area, scattered around, and i'd wonder for a split second, only a split second, where's pop? before the thought is complete, i stopped. this happened several times the days following his death. it's too fresh. and i'm sure it'll continue to happen in the future, too. but that's ok. he's not gone from my memory.

we held visitation and a rosary ceremony friday at garza funeral home in sand diego. family visitation was 2 to 4 p.m. and then 4 to 9 p.m. was visiting for the rest of the people, with the rosary recited at 7.

dawn and i drove my mom and were the first to arrive of the family. we walked in to the back of the chapel and saw a collage of pictures of my dad. that brought on extreme sadness. then we walked up to the front to the casket.

i can't explain it. my father, who was alive a week before, was now dead, embalmed, lying in a casket. i touched his hands and forehead. they were very cold. he was wearing a dark green king ranch shirt that my mom picked out. rosary beads and amedallion in his hands. above the open lid of the casket was an embroidered ranch scene with a windmill (not dutch) and cattle. on the cattle was the number 19, his brand. it was a personal touch. it was dad.

he looked so peaceful and it brought tears to my eyes again. i just can't put into words right now how i feel about that.

soon after my brother arrived, followed by my sister. it was hard for us to see my dad like that. yet, he looked ok, considered the pain he'd been in the previous days.

people came in and out to pay respects. some sat around and some left. they'd come up, kneel before the casket and say a few preayes, then walk over to the left pew, where we sat, mom, me, dawn, noel, maricella, the kids, linda, arnold and the little one. we shook hands.

it was shaking hands, hugging, holding arms, wet cheeks on your cheeks. hands that were old and wrinkled, some soft, others hard with work, sweaty, large and small. some bodies were frail with age, other vibrant with life and youth.

this went on up until just before the ceremony. by 6:15, it was a steady line of people coming up to pay respects to my dad then to us. it stopped shortly before 7 to show a video of pictures of my dad. i couldn't see them very weel because of my sight. that's for the best, because the ones i did see made me weep.

deacon costley gave the rosary and a good sermon.

i walked up to the podium and gave thanks to the people and spoke a few works about my dad. i said one word described him: good. he wa a good husband, father, grandfather, brother and son. i told of my first memory of my dad, which also includes a memory of my grandfather of when i was about 4. i'll share i when i print the letter i sent my dad.

then my mom surprised me. she went up and said she wanted to read the letter i'd sent him. i was shocked. my words were, "oh my god." but she read it. i didn't shed a tear when i wrote it about three or so weeks ago. that wasn't the case when she read it, though. it really hit me. later many people commented how they thought it was a great letter and they cried throughtout while my mom read it.

and seeing the people, i noticed the chapel was full, with people standing up at the back.

the following day, as we gathered at the funeral home for the procession to the church, i asked the seating capacity of the place. the director said, capacity is 350. but some people came early and left. about 270 people signed the book. but many were mr. and mrs. types. the funeral director said about 500 people must have paid respected.

on saturday morning, dawn drove the car with my mom, me, ricky and rena. we were behind the hearse. it was a quiet ride.

we passed our ranch. my brother had taken my dad's old 1980 ford ranch truck and parked it by the side of the road since we'd pass it on the way to the church. i asked dawn to give a honk and i gave a little wave. there was many a ride in that truck to ranches to work. it was a fitting tribute to my dad. many people noticed it out there.

the mass was held at 10 a.m. at san jose mission. the place was packed. father andrew gave the mass. we sat up front, the casket in the middle to our right.

after the mass, we headed to the lopez cemetery in san jose, where a few prayers were made. the priest blessed some crucifixes and gave each of us one. we said goodbyes and the casket was lowered. we each threw a rose on the casket and a handful of dirt. we left before it was covered.

afterward, there was a luncheon held by the bereavement committee of the church. 100 people showed up. it was the most people they'd ever had for a bereavement luncheon.

and that was friday and saturday. lots of people, lots of flowers and arrangements around the casket and lots of tears.

now i'm here in michigan. it's night and it's quiet except for the hum of the computer. i think of my dad and how i'm going to miss him. how i'm really going to miss him.

but i also think of how much pain he was in and the quality of life he was having there at the end of his life. even though i miss him, i think not having him around outweighs that because he's not in pain anymore.

thanks for everything, dad. i love you and i will miss you. but you will forever live on with me in my thoughts and memories.

descanse en pas.

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