The Final Farewell

Tuesday my family and I landed in Providence, RI for my grandfather's wake. I finally got to experience some real winter weather once I exited the airport and tried to find our rental car. It took about an hour to get there and we then hurried to change and freshen up to make it before the wake began.

It was quite surreal to see my grandpa laying in a casket. His face was sunken and shallow, his skin was paler than usual, and I could see he had lost a lot of weight during the months he'd been sick. It didn't even look much like him, but he was surrounded by photos and some of his old sports memorabilia. I spent most of the time trying to keep all the grand kids in order so my grandma and aunts and uncles could greet everyone without too much distraction. I didn't talk to many people, but I did say hello to some relatives I hadn't seen in years. They were shocked to see my brother and I looking so old. I think it was the fact that we both had faces full of facial hair. We had always been so hairless. The next day, after the funeral, we counted over 300 in attendance, and those were just the ones that signed the guest book.

The funeral was were I had expressed more emotion. It finally hit home that it was him and he had left this plane of existence. My father, two uncles, my brother, my oldest cousin (13, I think) and myself were pallbearers and my youngest cousins walked ahead of us in the procession from the funeral home to the church. Luckily it was only a hundred yards or so in distance. My oldest aunt and I both read passages from the Bible, mine was easier (good thing), my youngest uncle-in-law, who lives down the street from my grandparents said some words. It was really moving, so much so that he lost it a few times while thinking of all the times he had spent with my grandfather. Then an old grade school friend got up and detailed my grandfather's many athletic achievements. I had heard nearly all of the stories from my grandpa numerous times, but never all together. I had forgotten just how great of an athlete he was. He played halfback in football, pitched in baseball, and played basketball during high school and college. There is one thing that I don't think I ever heard before though. My grandpa had tried out for the Boston Red Sox once he graduated from Holy Cross. I think that's when he tried out, at least. What I was unaware of was that they actually offered him a contract to play. I don't know why he turned it down, possibly because he had already started a family, having had my aunt and my mom was on the way shortly. Or due to the injury he had sustained during a football game trying to tackle Jim Brown. As my grandpa told the story, he went in for the tackle and Jim just kept going, unfazed. His pitching shoulder was never the same after that.

We then proceeded to the cemetary to bring him to his final resting place. The priest said a few words and then everyone in attendance placed a rose on his casket. We didn't actually see him being lowered into the ground, we all left before then. We spent a few hours eating lunch, reminiscing with others about how great of a man my grandfather was, and then headed home for some much needed rest after such a difficult and draining week. The planning that my grandma, mother, and aunts had to go through, along with all the emotional distress, was amazing. His death came rather unexpectedly and most of my family's focus has been on my grandma's fight with cancer. A few even commented on how we didn't see it coming until the last few days when he stopped responding to all that the doctor's were throwing at him.

I never got to say my goodbye to him, at least not so he could respond, but I did write him a letter before I left home. It was rather cathardic for me. I had never written him, even though he wanted me to. I deeply regret not doing it now. I just had this childish notion that he'd live on forever and I'd always have a chance to talk to him. I wanted to leave it in his casket, but didn't print it in time. I want to go to his grave tomorrow, with all the freshly fallen snow covering it, and give it to him. I think I'll burn it so the winds can take the ashes off to Heavan for him to read it. Everything gets fixed/put back together up there, right?

At least this trip, although brought about by the most unfortunate of reasons, has given me another chance to see my family here in Massachusettes. I also got to see snow falling for the first time in two years. Maybe Grandpa helped with that...

"Stephen Colbert" Lovin' This Snow

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