I’ve been thinking about how many times I’ve said “goodbye” to my Dad since he died on New Year’s Eve.
I said goodbye to him the minute I found out he’d had a heart attack and was not expected to make it.
I said goodbye when I called his hospital room and asked that the phone be held up to his ear, even though he was not only unconscious, but probably had no brain activity at all.
I said goodbye when I got the call that he had finally died.
I said goodbye when we went to the funeral home to make arrangements for his cremation.
I said goodbye when I called Arlington Cemetery to make the arrangements for his service, which was held two days ago on May 10.
[Speaking of that, there’s something to be said for waiting four months to have such a service. It gave us ample time to plan and so many of my Dad's friends and family were able to attend and it also gave us time to grieve. It was not a tough day. It was full of laughter and some tears, but mostly fantastic memories.]
I said goodbye several times during service. How he would have loved to be there!! Yes, I know he was there, but that’s not what I mean. The weather was perfect, the U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard was formal, meticulous, and reverent (as if it could be anything but formal, meticulous, and reverent). The 21-gun salute took my breath away. And then a lone bugler played taps.
As Dad’s urn was placed in the designated niche of the columbarium wall, which runs for half a mile parallel to the Potomac River along Route 110 on the eastern edge of the Cemetery, I said goodbye.
Yesterday, as we drove to Reagan National Airport, I realized that we were driving along the other side of the wall and so I called out the window, “Goodbye Dad!”
And then finally, when the plane took off, I looked out the window, in the general direction of Arlington and I whispered, “Goodbye Dad.” Although I have a small keepsake urn with some of his ashes, Arlington is where I’ll think of him being from now on.