A Memorial Day Memory

My husband and I were having this conversation the other day about what we want after we die, because, well, these are the conversations you have when you're over fifty. I told him I don't want a grave marker; I would rather donate my body to science. Who knows what those clever future doctors and scientists might find? I even Googled the process (a little morbidly fascinating, I might add). At most places, they still mail the ashes back to the family after they are done with the research process. Then I'll have to decide where I want my remains spread. Hmmmm...that's something to contemplate. Nothing on the mantle. I definitely don't want them buried at a cemetery because then that kind of defeats the purpose of donating them. Perhaps I would like them spread at the beach, because I am convinced I lived there in another life. Or they could just be stashed with the junk in the basement. Whatever.

My dad's ashes are buried at a nearby cemetery with a lovely marker, but whenever I visit I get this hollow feeling in my chest. That's not my dad. It's definitely not my memories of him. Dad was so much more that a few words on a marker. He was funny. Boy, could that man tell a story. When I was younger I never appreciated this in him, or he was so bogged down with work and bills and raising four kids that he didn't share this part of himself with his kids. One day we were over at my grandma's because my cousins from Indiana were in town. As we sat in her small kitchen and ate crispy bacon, my dad told story after story. My cousins laughed at every one. I remember feeling a sense of shock. Who was this man? He never told these funny stories and jokes around our dinner table. He came home at 5:20, went upstairs to take off his tie and put away his pocket change, and then came back downstairs to eat a quick meal. He would then retire to the sunroom to listen to his music. What was happening here? 

As the years passed, I saw more and more of this side of my dad. The stresses of raising a large family transitioned into a quieter life of retirement. He loved it when we all came over for dinner. He sat at the end of the table and often held court with his anecdotes of Decatur High and his youth. As his illness took over his memories, he still enjoyed listening to our chatter. All four of us can tell a pretty good story. That's quite an inheritance. 

I realize cemeteries give some a connection to their loved ones. They feel closer when they go to visit. They bring flowers, remember the good times, block out the painful ones. On this Memorial Day, though, I'll just tell a great tale about my dad. Oh wait...I just did.

"Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory." ~Dr. Seuss