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Jennifer Timothy-Batt

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Thursday's With Dad (continued)
1/20/2009 5:58:34 PM    [ Flag as Inappropriate ]

I always thought dad would choose to be buried so when it was revealed to me that he and my mother picked the mausoleum option I was quite surprised. But I didn't give it much thought because the idea of my father not "being here" seldom entered my mind. Not to mention that I never gave the "post-death" formalities much thought for I viewed death and dying as something final and changeless. I never thought of it as a new beginning. My understanding and presumption of what I believed death to be was rewritten completely after December 21, 2006.

Truth be told I did not visit dad right away. I wasn't ready for the confirmation, for the honesty, for the reality to be harvested and digested. I just wasn't ready for anything. But one day I received a call from the rectory that his name plaque had arrived and was ready to be placed on his stone. It was an enormous metaphor - the phone rang, his name was literally set in stone, his death was validated. That call shook me up and woke me up. At that moment I felt I was ready. The following Thursday would be my first visit.

I remember staring at his name for what seemed like hours. How the hell was that possible? I zoned in on it and probably didn't blink for minutes straight. I would trace his name over and over with my fingers. I would look at the other names, his "neighbors" and I would look over the cemetery and think, "am I really here right now?", "did this really happen", "is it a mistake, is dad just ...lost somewhere waiting to be found?" And then, when I would bring my gaze back to dad's resting place, I would once again find myself accepting the inevitable would not be coming back.

Dad's mausoleum is centered on the bottom of three rows. Again, not what I pictured. One will see that when mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, friends and relatives come to visit, each person has their own special way of sharing their time with the deceased. It's interesting to watch. I myself didn't know where my comfort zone would lie. I watch loved ones arrive and some just stand there, erect with uncertainty and sadness ...they tuck their arms behind their back, bow their heads and pray. Some hang their rosaries. Others arrange flowers tightly into a generic vase, sized and fit accordingly to the dimensions of the mausoleum. Those who have loved ones buried have their special ways, too. I watch them as they plant seasonal flowers, leave behind memorabilia and cherished keepsakes and at times, lay next to their departed.

I sit directly in front of dad's mausoleum. I bring my weekly bouquet, arrange the flowers delicately and effortlessly in that universal vase, and finish it off with a tie of ribbon neatly and precisely wrapped around it. There is a quaint wooden bench directly behind me, but I choose to sit on the cobblestone - as uncomfortable and as cold as it may sometimes be; for me, the closer the better. And unlike some of my comrades, I choose to speak out-loud. I talk out-loud because (believe it or not) there are times when I truly feel and I truly believe that dad's presence is in some way with me. There have been times when on a cold and cloudy day, a single ray of sun has found me. Or the days when that one unseen bird can be heard louder than any other - it's as if he's perched on my shoulder. And then there are those days when I will be in my place, sitting on the cobblestone, and while there I am able to see reflections through dad's stone. On occasion I have seen the likes of a silhouette sitting in that wooden bench ...I have never turned around. To me these happenings are a gift. I accept them as gifts, I embrace them as gifts, I treasure them as gifts. Any skeptic can think differently...many people do think differently. This is when it all comes down to a choice, a decision to believe or not to believe.

It becomes a ritual, this visit, one that if ever forgotten, stabs me in the heart because over time these visits become an opportunity to be in the presence of my father and to be one step closer to God. It's peaceful, serene and spiritual. A time to reflect, remember and reunite. It's my sanctuary, my shelter. Clearly a correlation to how I always felt whenever around my dad. It's a time to take it all in - to think, to converse, to pray, to continue loving, to continue living. In essence that is what my visit is about.

When the chiming of the Church bells remind me of the time, or when the wind is just too unbearable, or the setting sun acknowledges the moon, I get ready to say farewell until next Thursday. With a kiss and three knocks on his stone, (three equates to "I Love You") I slowly walk away.

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More Blogs by Jennifer Timothy-Batt
•  Thursday's With Dad (continued) - Tuesday, January 20, 2009  
• Thursday's With Dad - "The Visit" - Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Oh, Dainty Triolet by Edward Patterson

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