Sunday, April 6, 2014

Always go to the Funeral

April 6, 2013 was a beautiful spring day. The sun was bright and warm. I wore a sleeveless dress to the funeral. I remember walking from the church to the cemetery and thinking, "I should be golfing with Daddy today."

It was the worst week of my life. Unfortunately, it's also true what the country song says: when something terrible happens, "you find out who your friends are." I learned this the hard way when my dad passed away.

Before my dad's funeral, I didn't realize how important it was that my parents told me to "always go to the funeral." I've been to funerals of at least a dozen people I've never met, because I know someone who cared deeply about the individual who passed away. I didn't realize how important this was until it was my own family who turned around and looked out at the church, heartbroken at the loss of such a wonderful man and father.

The fact is, it matters. It makes a difference. As my dad said, always go to the funeral, and if you can't, send a card. Call and check in. Drop by and knock on the front door. Stop and ask, "How can I be there for you now at this terrible time?" Do something, because even if you don't know what to say, it is worse beyond belief to say or do nothing at all.

Many of my oldest and best friends drove in from out of town to be there, including one who drove 18 hours to be in Wichita for less than 12. I cannot express how much it meant to me that these friends dropped everything to hit the road and be there. I've tried, but they will never understand that their presence physically helped me get through the day. Other friends I had not talked to in weeks or years asked Raymond for my address and sent a card, or surprised me in the receiving line at the church. I am so thankful for the amazing amount of love and support my family received at that time.

Unfortunately, I learned some hard lessons on the flip side. Some friends I thought were close didn't show up, call, or send a card. Some were there all week to support me or help out, but six months later were nowhere to be found. Some got tired of me when I wasn't "over it" in three months.

I knew I would "find out who my friends are," but I didn't realize it might take all year.

Overly-dramatic Pinterest words to live by.

After my dad died I could not bear to be on the golf course. It was too painful; the reality that he was not there, and would never be there again, was too hard to play with. He taught me to play. He had always been there. The one time I tried to play a few months after he passed away it felt like there was a dagger stabbing my heart on every tee box and green: his absence.

He had a pure love of the game. After he made me move to the men's tees, whenever he beat me on a hole or a round he was straight up gleeful. I didn't want to play without him, and until last week I wondered if I ever really would get back into the game that I loved so much. Then my mom, the most amazing woman on earth, surprised me by announcing she was joining the woman's club and she wanted to learn how to play golf.

The last thing my dad asked me to do before he died was to teach my mom how to play. I would have done it anyway, but knowing how painful it was for me, I didn't know if she would ever want to try. Last week she played her first round of golf. Afterwards she was so excited to tell me about every hole that she made me want to play again. I am so happy that today we played our first round together (first ever). I realized as we walked the course that if she wants to play golf, then I want all those memories I have with my dad with her too. He would have been so happy to see us out on the course today. I could feel him there with us, cheering us on, laughing at us in the trees, and walking with us every step of the way. I realized that of all places, I feel closest to him on the course.

He is gone, but his love of the game, thrill of a challenge, and warm presence will be there with us. Heck, we even got to go to the beach with him when I found a sandtrap...

1 comment:

  1. Thank you my sweet Rachel. You made me cry again for the beyond counting time this week but I enjoyed every minute with you!
    I decided to play a while back to be sure you and Diana would get back out there, I was concerned that neither of you had golfed that I knew of in the last year and it was time to get started. Besides, what hope was there to not take up this habit of his with all this golf stuff at home and the many memories you all had there. I was even there spotting balls for his only Hole-in-One on our 29th anniversary. It was bound to happen one day, I just thought it would start with your dad, the patient teacher that loved spending time with you all in good weather and bad, teaching quite lessons on the course about life.
    Thank you for your post!