Sittin On A Porch

Sittin On A Porch
Our little back porch

Monday, April 15, 2013

After the Funeral

I am tired.  No, I am exhausted. Bug is exhausted.  We do not sleep well in the hard bed in my room at my parents home.  The air conditioner is not working correctly so a hard bed and sweating are not conducive to a good night's rest.

The viewing was lovely.  I sang my lullaby into my father's ear just before the closed his coffin. 

Lay your head down, go to sleep, close your eyes and still  your feet.  Lay your head down, dreams will come.  Lay your head down now.  Touch your hair and kiss your face, smooth the covers into place, turn the light down, whisper low, now to sleep, pleasant dreams, my love.  Lay your head down, go to sleep, close your eyes and still your feet. Lay your head down, dreams will come. Lay your head down now.

The funeral Director and his wife and daughter are friends with two of my sister in laws.  Palmetto is or was a small town where everyone knew each other.  The people born here who stayed here, still do.  And they do for each other.  Bekka decorated, made pins for us to wear, printed out obits and customized that evening for the family.  They went above and beyond, but that is how people here are like.  It is still special and wonderful.  It still fills my heart to see people who came right after work, just to hug me and give me a kind word.  People I have known my whole life came to make sure I was OK.  And I am.  I miss my Dad.  I miss him a lot.  But I also understand how lonely he was.  Not because we were not here for him.  We were.  But his mind no longer understood.  He was in pain.  Severe debilitating pain. He was loosing himself, and that was the hardest part.  To watch someone who has been your rock, your best friend for most of your life fall apart and get lost, that is so much more painful then to see them laying in a casket with peace all around him.  All of his children and grandchildren and great grandchildren were there.  All 23 of us.  Four short of a gaggle. Family joke.

Here is a photo of all of us.  Dad is in the photo also, we took the picture of all of us standing in front of the casket.

Miller Family
The Funeral was held at the First United Methodist Church in Palmetto, Mother and Daddy's church.  The preacher of the Church had never met Daddy, so we also asked Tom Winter's to come and be a part of the service.  He had also been there for Mother's.  Tom grew up with us and knows our family and our quirky sense of humor.  He told family stories about plumbing and vacations.  Ester, the other preacher talked about his good deeds. Both had more then enough fodder to work with.
As we left the church after the service the DeSoto Crew held swords up for the fireman to carry the casket under.  The family followed.  Those who loved Dad most were there.  He has outlived so many people.  And those that are still here are near his age and mostly frail themselves. It must be hard to outlive your friends and the world you were so important in.  Maybe that is why the though of Stage 4 lung cancer and not living to an old age has never scared me. 
At the grave site a bag pipe player led the casket to the site and played Amazing Grace.  The American Legion did a color guard and 21 gun salute.  The Fire Department did the last call then my nephews, Nathaniel and Christopher played taps on the harmonicas.  Nathaniel had also told the story about how hard a time Dad had walking, but as soon as he heard jitterbug music he could dance like nobody's business.  Then he picked up his trumpet and played "In the Mood".  Later he played a French horn solo of "Holy, Holy, Holy" at  the church.  It makes me so happy knowing that these two wonderful and amazing young men had the opportunity to get to know their grandfather.  Daddy and Christopher were growing close at the end.  Dad had taken a special interest in Nathaniel when he started to play the trumpet.
Before the viewing Bekka at the Funeral Home had made us dinner.  It was delicious and that is so sweet and kind to do all of that for us.  After the funeral their had been a dinner at the church.  Again, Southern women cooking and nurturing when a family looses a member.  I love these people in this town.  Monticello is very much like this place.  Only it is small like Palmetto was when I was young.
There are many touching moments. My husband shaved his beard and put on his uniform for my Dad.  That was his way of showing his respect for my father, and I appreciate that greatly.  The two boys playing taps. All the hugs and love from those around me.  It has been hard.  I have held up well in public.  It is at home where it is hard. And the longer we go without good rest the harder it is getting to be.  I have separated and packed up most of his clothes.  That man had a lot of clothes.  I have packed the linens in the linen closet to be taken to the thrift store.  There is Irish Linen and shelves of hand embroidery.  There are sets of fine linen napkins that my great grand mother got for her wedding.  There are linens from my Grandmother and Mother from their wedding days.  One small table cloth still had the card attached from Mother and Daddy's wedding.   I have walked back and forth in this house looking and touching things. 
I was raised that one day I would inherit furniture and linens, clocks and china to protect and enjoy until it is passed  to the next generation.  But life is different these days.  Things that were essential to a proper Southern lady are no longer needed in my life.  I do not have the house to hold most of the furniture.  At this point in my life, with the medical issues I have, I do not want to be responsible for taking care and preserving these relics.  I do not have a daughter to raise with these the objects to hear the stories of where they came from. I can not remember the stories anymore, whether chemo or memory loss from age.  These objects held us as a family when we watched The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights. We clustered up close together on them Christmas Eve while Mother read the Christmas story.  We slept in them, we set our pictures and life's everyday pocket stashes on them. We ate holiday dinners on them and they hung on the walls of my world.  They ticked and tocked for my brothers and I as they had for generations before us.  They are a part of who we are.  As hard as it is to loose things in a natural disaster, it seems much harder to me to pick and choose who stays with us to be loved and passed on, and who is put on the side, no longer pertinent in our lives.  It is hard letting go of the people and things that have been in our lives.  With the death of the old man who had taken away my Daddy, that death has also ended so much more.  I am a gardener, roots are important to me and my foots have been tugged on and loosened.  I am feeling lost at the same time I feel a great responsibility to my parents and brothers, and yes, in a way to all the ancestors who have lived with me my entire life in the things they treasured and past down.  I am overwhelmed, and then add in the lack of sleep and heat in the house and I do not feel well.  My husband does not feel well.  We are tired, exhausted really.
We have been able to get out on the boat a couple of times.  That has been my escape.  But a few problems arose with the boat that made it so we could not take out family and spend some relaxed time together.  Pat and Christopher did get to go out for a short ride.  Then we took Christopher to see the Nina and Pinta docked at the marina.  It was very cool, and seemed right for the three of us to be wandering around in floating museums.  The three of us spent so much time this past year doing this sort of thing.  That  helped. But the only thing that will help now is patience and time.  Time to let the sadness find its place in me.  That sadness will not go away, but it will find a spot in my heart where it will tear and rip at my heart a bit.  But as my precious ones have reminded me, a broken or ripped heart has more room in it for love.  I still miss my mother.  But that sadness now is more happy memories, and so it goes.  I know that time will give me more of my Daddy to me, as those happy memories, and there are many, replaces the sadness.  It is just getting to that point.
It feels like I am in a huge bubble of emotion, I guess that is normal.  It is painful.  My heart aches as it rips and tears.  Sometimes the emotion and hurt flows over me and I feel like it will sweep me away.   I can hardly breathe from the pain, but I sit quietly and think about the pain and think about the memories that will eventually replace most of that pain, and after a while I come back out and I can go on  I can open dresser drawers, fold and place his socks, handkerchiefs, t-shirts, shorts, sweaters, shoes and ties.  I put bags over his shirts hanging in the closest to make it easier to carry they up.  I have thrown buckets and buckets of catalogs out.  There is still so much to do.
Last night for the first time in more years than I can remember, my three brothers and I sat on my parents back porch, where birthday parties have overflowed from, and we talked.  Only one problem has arisen, and it is not up to me to decide, so I will keep my mouth shut.  It will work out.  But for those few hours we talked and reminisced in a way we never have together. 
Bug and I went over last night to share dinner again with my youngest brother and his family.  We talked and ate.  We looked around the table and loved each other.  We are still a family.  A different family.  One where my oldest brother is now the patriarch. I am still the girl.  I have always been "the girl" in the family.  Even after Mother died, I took her part, just like "the girl" in the family would do.  I will pack most of the linens, the clothes, the things that the matriarch of a family should do.  I will do it. I will do as much as I can to help pack away these treasures and memories and close this chapter of our family and put the book into my heart.  I will do all that I can, because I am the girl.
My parents are gone, but our family continues to grow, and we are still here, together.  Maybe only in  our hearts, but as old as we get, we are still brothers and the girl.  We our Southerns, so our quirks and insanity add the spice to our family.  And the memories, books and books and volumes and libraries full of memories. That is the legacy of our family.  A quirky family that loves each other, in our own quirky way, and a universe of memories.


  1. I know how you are feeling, having lost both my parents and recently my MIL. So many things from both families are now here in this large house. It is filled with treasures from generations. And when we go, there is absolutely no one to leave these to--no one to remember the history and to pass on to other generations. Sad in a way that it all deadends here with me and my wife. Take care and hope that you get rest. I know the feeling of exhaustion after a death.

  2. My goodness dear girl, you really hit the nail on the head.. it is so hard, much harder I think when our darling parents have stayed longer with us and made a bigger impression on our lives.. we have been lucky to have them for so long, but the parting too is harder.. I lost mine over 10 years ago, again my mother who was always the healthiest succumbing first to old age and tiredness.,my dad living a short year longer.. we have all our memories, but it is so hard to lock up a house and decide what to keep and what to give away.. I do not envy you all your choices you will hve to make, but I hope that you do not overdue things so that it will make you feel worse and make the cancer worse either.. You are lucky you have a strong man by yourside and how wonderful your Daddy saw you getting married.. God Bless him and all your family, and good luck in the days ahead.. try not to do too much, you must rest too.. Hugs and Hugs from across the pond, Janzi