My father died on July 8, 1987. He was 56 years old. He left behind a stepwife and a stepson who was about to start college in the fall. His five adult children were as near as across town and as far away as Turkey. His spunky mother was nearly 86, living in Massachusetts, on her own for the first time in her life, having been widowed 18 months before. There was a brother and a sister. There was an ex-wife, my mother, who remained the love of his life.
They all came to Cocoa Beach, along with a handful of nieces and nephews. Most who came to town attended the funeral. A select few did not.
He was cremated. His mother took a jar of his ashes home in a baby jar. So did his youngest daughter, yours truly. His mother buried the ashes in the dirt six feet above her husband's coffin, where she herself would be buried -- stacked upon Grandpa -- more than nine years later.
The bulk of Dad's ashes can be found in Arlington National Cemetery, in the Columbarium. I don't know the exact date his ashes were interred there. None of us attended that ceremony.
I know why I didn't. I had no money to fly from San Francisco to D.C. nor did I have any more time off, having already spent any vacation/sick/bereavement time and money I had going back and forth visiting him in the three months between his diagnosis and death.
As soon as I could, in October 1987, I flew to D.C. to go to his grave. I couldn't have picked a better day for such a pilgrimage. Still reeling and with guilt piled on top for having not somehow made it for the interment, I happened upon the Columbarium at the exact moment another interment was beginning. I stayed on the edges and watched, imagining a day about 10 weeks earlier where ceremonial soldiers laid to rest a different person.
[Photo courtesy of Arlington National Cemetery.]
[Go on others' pilgrimages at Sunday Scribblings.]