October 26th, 2011


When all is said and done ...

The funeral was yesterday, and I just woke up from a very exhausting day. This event was held on such short notice because my mother wished to get it over with as quickly as humanly possible. I guess she thought that if she got through the funeral it would help with her pain.

Even so, a lot of people showed up. Family, friends, the landlady, NYPD officers. I always knew that my father was well-loved, but the huge turnout surprised me. I rode with my mother and my aunt in a limo provided by the funeral home. Officers in dress uniforms flanked the front entrance, and men in uniforms stood gathered in the building among the friends and family. I met many people there whom I haven't seen in years, from distant cousins to family friends I'd grown up with who, sadly, had went their separate ways as they matured into independent adults.

It was, of course, a somber occasion, but the service was also marked by upbeat gospel singing and funny anecdotes shared by Father's loved ones. My niece, Shanti, gave a particularly wonderful speech about the time she'd spent with her grandfather. My brother Jameson read a letter, written by his wife and children, so they could express their feeling despite not being able to attend.

Father was one of the few people who believed in my abilities as a writer from the very beginning. When we first moved into this house, he introduced me to the landlord and landlady as "my son, the writer." He read my work enthusiastically, and at one point even tried to pitch it to a friend who works for the Fox network. For this reason I decided that it was only right that I put those skills to use in honoring his memory. I wrote an elegy, which was printed on the back of the funeral program, and I requested the honor of being the one to deliver his eulogy.

No one I spoke to seemed to know the difference between an elegy, a eulogy, and an obituary. For this reason the funeral director expected me to recite the poem, and instead I gave a speech. I was then called back to the podium to read the elegy as well. Anyone who knows me is aware that crowds and I don't mix. On a good day I have social anxiety and stumble when I am forced to deal with more than one or two people at once. On a bad day I am agoraphobic and don't even want to leave the house. So standing up and delivering a speech was the last thing anyone seriously expected me to do. My mother was afraid that I'd choke on stage, or get cold feet and refuse to deliver the speech.

Neither of those things happened. There is a time and a place for one's personal baggage, and my father's funeral was neither of those things. This was about him, not me. To be perfectly honest, delivering the speech was easy. It didn't matter what the audience thought because I was not talking to them. I was talking to my father, and expressing my feelings to him.

The speech and the poem went over far, far better than I expected. While speaking I got nods and a nostalgic laugh or two, followed by applause. After the services people came up to me and said that they had no idea that I was such a talented writer. Some people asked if I was a poet. I told them that I write fiction and normally don't do poetry, and they said that I should. A relative asked if, many years from now, I would eulogize at his funeral. My writing was the talk of the occasion. I know my father would have been proud.

For the first time in my entire life I was publicly acknowledged as a writer. I think this was my father's final gift to me: the validation I had always sought, even though I myself never fully realized that I was seeking it. I realize now that this isn't some farfetched dream of mine, it is reality. I am a writer, no matter what happens. This has solidified my desire to be the writer my father always knew I am. When my first book is published, it will be dedicated to him.

An NYPD color guard rendered honors and saw my father's casket to the hearse. Police cars escorted the funeral procession; again I rode in the limo with my mother and my aunt. We were each given a rose, with the option of keeping it as a memory or laying them on his grave. I decided to give Father my rose; I do not need an object to remind me of him.

My mother wept as we returned home. My work here is not yet finished. For the past year I had been helping to take care of my dying father, and now I will be there for my mother and help her come to grips with the loss of her husband. At the same time I will continue my work, get my book published, and finally have my dream. This time I am no longer doing this only for myself.

Rest in peace, Dad.
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