In this mini-series called Family Matters, I am reflecting on my dad’s death. The previous post was called Good Father. This week I want to focus on how my parent’s community wrapped their arms around my family when they found out about my dad’s hospitalization and subsequent death.
It was hard for my parent’s tight-knit community to not notice when the ambulance pulled into my parent’s driveway. It just so happened that the next door neighbors were arriving home just as my dad was being brought out to the ambulance. He was awake and alert, and waved at the folks on the driveway with a big smile.
The next morning my dad passed away. The news quickly spread and the neighbors began to reach out one by one. They knew all five kids, their spouses, grandchildren and great-grandchildren would be flying in soon. Without hesitation, my parent’s friends began to offer up their homes for each family as there were no hotels nearby. They offered food, their cars, rides to and from the airport, comforting words, sleeping arrangements, toiletries, and other resources.
Each day there would be calls from friends and food delivered. Visitors were welcomed and we never felt alone or forgotten. This went on for several days. With my dad gone and my mom grieving, there were some other needs we had along the way, and the neighbors took care of all of our needs. We had one gal bring over a cooler thinking the ice-maker may not be able to keep up with the needs of multiple visitors. My parent’s church brought over food, an extra inflatable mattress for one family member staying with mom, and helped us with arrangements for the reception after the memorial service at the church. The garbage disposal broke the day before the service. You can imagine with 20 family members in and out of the house, that needed to work. One phone call to my dad’s friend, he was there with a new one installed by late morning. No charge for his labor, as that is what he does for widows.
When he said the word “widow,” it was the first time someone gave that new name to my mom. It hit me that day that my mom doesn’t have her husband of 12 days shy of 61 years. I can’t imagine how she must have felt and is still feeling. She is a strong woman and I love her so much.
Several nights in a row, when I went to the neighbor that opened up her home to me and my husband, she asked me how I was doing. She offered her time and comforting words of wisdom as I processed the events of each day. Other family members in other homes on the block where also given the same type of comfort.
My dad was a Korean War veteran, so he had a 21 gun salute following the service. One of his friends was part of the group. He had many friends come pay their respects as well as bring comfort to my mom and the entire family.
Before my dad retired, he sold Brach’s candy. He was called The Candy Man. The priest decided to share this part of my dad’s story at his memorial service. He changed the words slightly from the candy man to the Son of Man from the song “The Candy Man.” He shared his version of some of the lyrics as: “The Son of Man can cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good.” Not only does this connect with my dad, but it also describes my parent’s community.
Hot Springs Village, you sweetened this difficult time with your neighborly love. You are a Treasure and a Pearl.