The final goodbye to a parent is hard work

This past weekend we had my Father’s memorial service and interned his ashes on top of my Mother’s grave. My daughter Shelby flew for 21 hours to be there to say her final goodbye to her beloved Papa. Many of my friends called, texted, sent a card and or came to the service. All of that fantastic support got me through the weekend.

There were many great family times this weekend. Shelby was home so we ate, played and grieved as a family. We told stories, hugged, cried and reacted to it all in our own personal way.

13120596_10207665088798549_1281586043_oThe village of Park Forest was marvelous. They had mourning banners on the village hall. The mayor gave the eulogy with the both the Police chief and the Fire chief present.

My father would have loved the party, the gathering of people who knew him. He was a public person, somehow, even though he had a terrible time remembering names.

I scanned many photos and created a memory book for my daughters and myself. I felt I went through my final good goodbye making that photo book. I created on Snapfish and printed off 3 copies1987 election with this photo inside.  This picture was taken the night my Dad won the race for President of Park Forest. My younger sister and I are kissing him congrats!

We dropped Shelby off at the airport last night, 3 hours early due to the TSA problems in Chicago. I came home and collapsed. All day today I basically napped, drank fluids and nursed a cold.

We celebrated and mourned, we reminisced and raised our glasses. It was exhilarating but also exhausting. Even though my dad was 94 and his death was not unexpected, the final goodbye to a parent is hard work.

Part of the work I did was to write a speech which I delivered at his memorial service. It felt comforting and good to share my goodbye publically so I am sharing it with all of you. Many of you have been so very supportive for which I thank you sew very much.

And now my speech:

“Jerry Mathews lived 94 wonderful years and we all knew a different facet of him. The fabulous part of a gathering like this is that we share the Jerry we knew and all of us gain a broader understanding of the dude that was my Dad, Jerry Mathews.

From my perspective, Jerry had three separate personas. The first one I want to talk about it the Public, civic Jerry. All of childhood, my father was a big deal in Park Forest and because of that my Mom used to say, “There are spies everywhere, so behave.” It was her way of letting us know that everyone knew our dad and would tattle on us. And tattle they did. I once came home for lunch to find my Mom talking on the phone to another Mom about what I had done in science class that morning. My parents did not need Facebook to know all.

When I was in elementary school, my dad was President of that district’s school board. I moved onto High School and suddenly he was President of that school board. I came back from college and lived in Park Forest and son of a gun, my dad was President of the freaking village. So I ask you, was he really civil minded or super sneaky about keeping an eye on his kids?

His life with his family brings me to the second persona that I knew as Jerry. My sisters and I were all born in the 1950’s and we lived with what I will call Jerry 1.0. My parents had the parenting thing divided up, my mom was the good cop and my Dad was the bad cop. He was good at it. Really good. And some days he worked over time! We were afraid of my Dad. None of us ever got in serious trouble because facing my dad was not worth the fun of the shenanigans. Why run the risk?

My dad watched over us and the small details so it never moved onto serious issues. If I had a project, he would go to the Consulate to get me materials and National Geographic or Rand McNally to find me pamphlets, booklets or maps. He loved education, physical fitness and short bangs. At one point, he’d come in my bedroom early on Saturday morning and declare, Let’s go for a run in the forest preserves! I learned, I locked my door on Friday nights.

He was pleased as punch to pay for all educational expenses as it had been difficult for him to pay for college. The GI bill was his personal tuition fund and he was ours. He paid for everything for me, including a year in Spain. Can you imagine? You live and study in another country on someone else’s dime? Fabulous! I’d be willing to do that again if anyone wants to be my second benefactor.

The third persona and what I call Jerry 2.0 came into my life in July of 1981 when my mother was diagnosed with cancer. My father went from being the strict taskmaster to this total softie. That night he slept in a bed near Emily’s crib because he couldn’t stand being at home without my Mother.

And this guy stuck around. One time toddler Stuart was playing basketball and broke a light. Maureen and I tensed, my dad laughed. What? Emily was homesick on a French exchange. Who did she call? Her Papa, collect. She cried on the phone and my father said, that’s right sweetheart, you cry it out. Hellooooo, who are you? On another occasion Shelby got in trouble and I called my dad to tell him. He told me, just make sure you tell her we love her. We love her? What happened to the whole world is watching?

This Alien living in my father’s body was who my dad was until he fell. This accident shook him up and over the ensuing 18 months I saw bits of all the different stages he had gone through in life. The very last time I saw my dad; he did not recognize me. He said to me, I do not know who you are but I love you. I love life. I love love. I love everyone.

And by everyone, he meant all of you, friends and family. He loved us all and we loved him in return.”


Sew happy!

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I published a post about my dad being my favorite vet. You can read it here. 

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