Before Dad passed away, we all talked about what he wanted to happen with his remains. No question, his heart belongs to West Virginia, but a good chunk of it also belongs to Tennessee. He decided, and we agreed, that part of his remains should be spread here and the rest should be spread and buried in the family cemetery back home in Meadow Bridge.
With a handful of negative COVID tests, the Przyluckis drove down from Chicago for Thanksgiving and to participate in a private, outdoor ceremony for Dad. We decided to spread his ashes in the place where we last went fishing together.
Though we wished for Mamaw, Aunt Gloria, and Dallas to join us, COVID concerns are pretty steep, and, Lord willing, we’ll be in West Virginia in the spring for the second part of Dad’s memorial anyway. It felt like the wiser decision for them to stay home and stay safe. Fortunately, our cousin Paul could join us.
Even though our West Virginia family couldn’t attend, Dad’s home state was well represented.
In addition to our family, we had a bagpiping friend join us (from afar) to play “Amazing Grace” at the beginning and “Scotland the Brave” at end of our short but sweet service. As soon as Andrew started playing, we all teared up. There is no other sound more fitting in the Great Smoky Mountains than the sound of bagpipes.
Becky read Ecclesiastes 5: 18-20 and John 14, and then I read a poem titled “He is Gone” by David Harkins. Jeff said a prayer, and then Chuck waded into the river to release Dad’s ashes.
It was all more emotional than I anticipated, but I think that’s exactly what I’ve been needing.
He is Gone
You can shed tears that he is gone
Or you can smile because he has lived
You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him
Or you can be full of the love that you shared
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember him and only that he is gone
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what he would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
When Andrew had finished playing the bagpipes, it was Owen’s turn to play “Taps” on his trumpet.
Once we’d gotten our tears out, it was time to remember how grateful we were to have one another and that we spent so much quality time with Dad before he left. All the grandboys gave Grandma big bear hugs.
I think Dad would’ve been pleased that we didn’t make a big fuss. Instead, we honored him in an authentic, heartfelt way and then spent the rest of the day together.
When I think back to what we’ve been through this year, I can’t quite believe it. The anniversary of Dad’s big stroke is in seven days. Has it really been a year? It’s felt as if from that moment on – December 8, 2019 – it was one hurdle after another.
And yet, it was still year with plenty of good days and happy moments. I’m not sure I’ve ever spent so much one-on-one time with Dad, minus my tenth grade year when he drove me to and from school every day. I miss him terribly. We all miss him. But in that missing is the knowledge that he provided a good life for us, loved us deeply, and didn’t want to leave us so soon.