As a writer, it's important for me to document all of the details. I'm totally guilty of writing rememberable conversations on napkins and stuffing them in my coat pocket to type up later. Half of them don't make it past the washer, the other half I happen to keep in a shoe box filled with movie stubs, birthday cards, and dried flowers, knowing very well that I'll never look at them again.
There's one however, I can't stop thinking about.
You see, it's the napkin I took from your funeral.
They were laid out sporadically on the coffee table outside of your room. After seeing your casket for the first time my knees were feeling weak, my stomach was in knots, and I needed something to hold on to... so, I did what anyone would have done and grabbed a napkin. It was a strong one dad, trust me.
I'm sure you're aware but the funeral home messed up your music. They didn't have an iPod connector that worked with any of our phones or laptops. It was a mess. Austin, Lindsay, and I had to choose 5 songs that we thought you would like out of a very small collection. I know you heard me, but I apologized in advance that Carrie Underwood was one of our final choices. It was either her or Gospel music. That's all I'm saying...
As family, we were seated to the side of you. Which I thought was strange, but whatever, I'm not really sure how funerals work anyway. There were flowers all around you but white roses laid on top of you. A black and white photo from two years ago stood next to you, and pictures of all of us played above you.
When the service began, I held on tight to that napkin and didn't let go. I sat up straight and prayed for strength. It worked, but a tear or two fell when your friends mentioned how highly you talked of your children. How proud you were of us. How much you loved us.
It was hard listening to that. It's still hard thinking about it. I wanted to stand up and shout that I loved you, and that I didn't want you to go yet. We need you here dad. We haven't grown up all the way yet! Why. Why you? We were just getting to know each other. The last 10 years or so, we didn't talk much. I know you and mom kept in touch, but you and I had nothing in common. Our conversations were short and I was always busy. And I'm sorry for that. I'm sorry I didn't get to know you better. I know you've heard me up there say it over and over, so maybe if I write it, you'll hear it for sure this time.
We exchanged words during some of your final days, but our last conversation was on father's day this year. We talked for at least an hour and we chatted about my upcoming wedding and everything that I planned for my future. It was only a couple weeks after that phone call, that mom told me you weren't doing well. She told us what no one wants to hear and that we need to make plans to see you right away. You were put in hospice care and only given days to live. But when I saw you there, I knew it wasn't you. Your soul was slowly making its way to heaven, and talking to you broke my heart to pieces. When it was time to go, I sat on your bed to tell you goodbye and I cried. I told you that I didn't want you to be in pain and you said that you loved me, and that's all I needed to hear. We were thankful enough to see you two more times before you left the physical world. You were able to shake hands with Nate and introduce yourself. That meant the world to me, and it's a moment I'll never forget.
When your funeral was over, I walked up to your casket and laid my napkin on it and said a prayer. Someone said I could take a flower, so I did. Although I had to throw it away because it grew mildew on it, who knew that's what happened to flowers when you put them in plastic bags? Oops.
A couple nights later, you showed up in our first dream together. We were in a hospital and you said to walk upstairs. You were holding Lindsay's hand, and Austin and I followed behind you. There wasn't a roof and it was really bright, and you kept walking and took Lindsay with you. And that was it. That's all I needed to know that you were ok. Except, I'm going to need you to bring Lindsay back in another one of those dreams. We need her here.
For now the napkin will be safe with all of the other napkins and notes that I've collected over time. It will, like the others, have its own story.
Love you dad!