Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The funeral

Well, after staying up until 1AM writing last night, I'm sorry to say that I didn't use anything I wrote. I read out loud to myself and it just didn't sound right. I felt like I was writing a blog. Reading it to myself in my head, it sounded better, but, of course, unless people at the funeral could read minds, I'd be out of luck. I didn't finish, but at 1, I packed it in and figured whatever happened in the morning would happen, good or bad.

Morning rolled around and we were all ok. Ate some breakfast and got dressed. Marci picked up a little double-breasted suit for Riley, complete with shirt and clip-on tie. Quite sophisticated, if you ask me. All he was missing was a cane and top hat.

I put on my suit for the first time this year and, luckily, it still fit. The pants are a little tight in the waist, and, to tell the truth, I think they've shrunk a little on the hanger the past 11 months.

We ran a little late, but got there in time for the important stuff. A few of my friends arrived, as well as former employees of C&A. Extended family and in-laws were there. Lots of M&D's friends came by and I was surprised at how emotional everyone was. I guess I'm used to the family's tears this week, but I wasn't prepared to see other people cry.

We started off with a slide show. We spent the past few days scouring photos of Dad from when he was a baby all the way up to June 08. Working on it didn't affect me, but when they started the slides, I did get a bit misty eyed. Worst is when Mom loses it. She didn't, but she did weep a little.

After the slides, I got up to speak. Quick trick: when you're eulogizing your deceased father, bring a Dixie cup of water to the podium. It worked wonders.

Anyway, I decided to not use what I wrote last night. Though the theme and certain parts were the same, I took it out of my pocket and kept it closed on the podium. I just thought reading it would sound stilted and unnatural. I wanted my speech to sound like I was just talking to someone about Dad.

I'll have to check the tape, but I don't remember how I started off. It felt rambling, but, before long, I felt like I hit my stride, talking about Dad's night in the ER and how strong Mom was, to how proud I am of my brothers, to how incredible the family has been from top to bottom. I did lose it a few times and have to pause to regain my composure. I was able to make eye contact with many people and not turn into a sniveling mess.

Overall, I feel really good about what I was able to say and how I said it. I'll try to transcribe it later for anyone that's interested.

Knight followed me and read from his cheat sheets. I guess he was up to 3am writing his. He reminisced a lot about Dad and his traits. About how Dad loved cars, basketball, antiques, as well as some of his qualities. Knight had to pause a few times as well, but was able to get his message across quite nicely. Though whether or not Dad actually made my bros and I sell bamboo pencils to the neighbors to teach us how to sell is debatable. Neither Dung or I remember that...

Speaking of Dung, he really impressed me. Either his job with Microsoft requires speaking in front of others and he's used to it, or I'm not giving him enough credit (though I remember him doing some sort of reading, perhaps at church, and thinking how robotic and monotone he sounded).

Anyway, Dung's speech was great. He gave some great specific examples of Dad and his generosity. He told stories about Dad giving each one of us a book called The Magic of Thinking Big (of which only one of us read. Guess who?).

Again, I'll have to watch the tape to give a better snapshot of what each of us said. I just know that there were a lot of wet eyes in the chapel, including ours.

edited to add: Marci! I can't believe I forgot to mention that Marci spoke at Dad's funeral. Marci is afraid of public speaking like I am afraid of spiders. She got up and gave a very touching eulogy for him and spoke from her heart. I was so proud of her! I got a little choked up and loved what she had to say.

A few more people spoke, then it was time to greet the attendees of Dad's funeral. I got to see a bunch of old friends of his, most of whom I recognize, but don't know the names of. I saw some of my own friends and it was just great to see them.

People finally filed out of the chapel and we were able to spend a few last moments with Dad before closing his casket forever. The kids came in (the ones who were comfortable enough to, at least) and said a final goodbye to their Tai Yeh. I had a little message for Dad and gave it to him in Chinese. We took some pictures, then closed the lid.

Now it was time to take Dad to the crematorium. I was bestowed with the honor of holding Dad's portrait and leading the procession. My brothers, uncles and cousins acted as pallbearers, and the remaining family members followed behind the casket.

In the crematorium, we gathered around the furnace (is that what it's called?) and waited as Joe, the funeral director, and co-worker prepared Dad for his final journey. They raised the casket into place, had us place our pallbearers' gloves on top, and then pushed Dad into the furnace. They sealed it up, then asked Mom to step forward. Knight, Dung and I surrounded and held her. Joe told her to simply push the green button when she was ready. Mom steadied herself, the reached up and pressed it with her thumb. A great humming sound emanated from the furnace, and then Mom collapsed against Dad's portrait, with my brothers and I supporting her.

We all cried then, from the four of us, to the rest of the family in the crematorium. It was finally over and Dad was gone from our world. Mom and my bros wept as we walked out of the crematorium. I wept as well, but then tried to pull it together for Mom. I told her that we would all help her and take care of her. That Dad wouldn't want to see us crying, and we needed to stop. That though Dad was lost, he led a quality life right up until the end and didn't suffer endlessly from medicines or hospital visits.

All in all, as sad and horrible as this has been for us. we have found strength, love, compassion and honor in each other. One thing I have learned from this entire experience is that my family is SOLID. My family is SOLID. We cannot, and will not be denied. My father left us with this, and it is something I will always cherish.

I miss Dad terribly already. Though I'm not crying all the time, or even really emotional, it's the quiet times when I think about him that it gets to me. This will take some time to pass.