Wednesday, July 27, 2011

how he lived

Summer in Connecticut has always meant hot and humid, lots of Coreys, and big fun.  The kids and I have been in the habit of visiting most years in late July, and although the unexpected, unfathomable death of Dad brought everything to a screeching halt on July 23, 2010, there was never any doubt that we'd be here on that same date in 2011. 

We wanted to be with mom on this first anniversary, to mark the passage of a full year without him. It's still unreal and the hurt is still fresh and raw, but we also feel a strange sense of accomplishment at having survived every single calendar day from one July 23 to the next. Now it's like we are turning a page, we've weathered the worst of this storm and we know that although every holiday, anniversary, birthday and Sunday will be less fun without Dad; we can redefine our expectations to reflect this new reality, and we're going to be okay.

We honored Dad on the first annversary of his death by coming together to scatter his ashes.

Yeah, I sound brave. Aren't I brave?

It was perfect. It was brutal. Brutally perfect.

Once everyone had arrived, we went with some of Mom and Dad's dearest friends out onto the waters of the Long Island Sound. We were determined to make this a celebration of Dad's life.

The Oscars came aboard.
The captain's qualifications were questionable, at best.
The passengers were lovely, but don't get me started on that cheese.
We foraged out into the sea.

Our hosts had a spot in mind, a place with a landmark that we could remember and revisit.

When we reached that spot, we stopped and gathered at the bow. Mom had selected a few verses for us to share, so we each found a place to sit or perch, and those of us who wanted to were invited to speak or sing or read or bawl just exactly however the spirit moved us.

I had a passage in hand that I'd chosen to read, and I knew I'd be okay because I'm strong like bull and brave like lion. All the weaklings were crying and carrying on, so I stood to go first and show everyone that we could do this, piece of cake.

I started to read, and suddenly the weight of those words and that moment and the harsh face of our new reality came crashing right down onto my heart. I got through it, but barely. My brave strong voice was a quivering whisper. It was really hard.  

Not How He Died...But How He Lived

Not how did he die, but how did he live?
Not what did he gain, but what did he give?
These are the units to measure the worth
Of a man as a man, regardless of birth.
Not, what was his church, nor what was his creed?
But had he befriended those really in need?
Was he ever ready, with word of good cheer,
To bring back a smile, to banish a tear?
Not what did the sketch in the newspaper say,
But how many were sorry when he passed away.
           ~Summer Sandercox
Several others followed suit, it didn't get any easier but it was cathartic and therapeutic and significant. And brutal. Then we sang, then we stood and gathered the only part of Dad that we still had to hold, and we watched as Mom gently lowered his ashes into the welcoming water. 

Each one of us followed Mom's lead and watched as the strangely heavy package dwindled to little more than a handful for Mom to keep, while the rest blossomed on top of the suddenly still water, mingling beautifully with the bright flowers we'd offered.

And we cried and we cried together, then slowly we welcomed the laughter back. Together.

Because Dad's legacy is this family, his girls. Mom. His grandchildren.  And always, laughter. That's how he lived.


Springer Kneeblood said...

That is a beautiful tribute. His greatest success was his family.

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Thank you, Jacquie. This is beautiful. As per.

Perfect. Brutal. Brutally perfect.

Sigh. What a day. And what a difference from a year ago, when we were *all* strong like bull. This year? Not so much.

Thanks for sharing, and for adding this to the Dad archive.

And I'll be sure -- soon -- to include some photos of gorgeous you.

I love you.

Mom C said...

Oh Jacquie, you captured that beautiful, brutal, perfect day. We all know he loved it. I love you. mom

Mary Herold Twarog said...

WOW! What a beautiful tribute to your dad! I do not live in Norwalk anymore and was unaware of Dr Corey's passing. I will always remember him fondly as he took my appendix out and pierced my ears! We had lots of fun and laughter as kids and I wish you all the fun and laughter in life! Fondly, Mary (Frances) Herold Twarog

Mistah said...


Hsin-Yi said...

This was such a lovely blog, and a lovely tribute. You have a wonderful family and there love amongst all of you is palpable. Your parents set a standard for the rest of us to aspire to.

GFM said...

Beautiful tribute to your wonderful Dad and most excellent family, Jacquie. Thank you for sharing it with all of us.

Marcia Ellis said...

Really beautiful, Jaquie. What a wonderful man, what a wonderful family.....Much love to you all.

holding your family in the light in PA said...

Thanks for the tears of sadness and of joy.
Sadness for what you all have lost. Joy for what your dad has left for us...his beautiful and loving family.

MB said...

Beautiful, Jacq. Love you.

Me, You, or Ellie said...


Awesome post. That photo of Julie kissing Ann put me over the edge.

What a beautiful boat, and glorious day (albeit brutal), and the peeps? Gorgeous!

You're all brave :)


Karen Ketchup said...

Thanks so much, Jacquie - I was able to say goodbye to my sweet Uncle Joe today, thanks to this. His ashes on the ocean amidst the flowers - ay, I get the brutally perfect part. When the heart aches, the pain and the love get all wrung out together, don't they? My Aunt Ellen is gorgeous and my cousins beautiful and you all brave and true, even while broken. love you.

P.S. Last year was a weird tipping point for me - I've lived longer on this earth without my father than with him. Sometimes I'm observing the hole he left, sometimes I'm over my head in it, sometimes I'm climbing in or out. But that hole, always there. Brutally perfect.

Bingspeak said...

wow Jacquie, beautiful and sad. My own dad's anniversary was July 17 and although it's been 12 years it still hurts every day. Strength does come in quivering whispers...Bridget

Julie said...

Thank you, Jacquie. And everyone for your comments. So much love.

Joan (Bill & Ellie's sister-in-law) said...

Jacquie, that was exquisitely expressed, and anyone who has lost someone so near and dear would echo those thoughts and feelings - (though not as eloquently).
My heart goes out to each
of you, as you continue to fill the holes in your hearts with more and more love and laughter amongst you, the living. THAT is truly his legacy.

Summer Sandercox said...

you dont know me, but I'm very sorry for your loss. the poem you read out at sea was mine. and i can only hope that it helped ease your pain even for a moment while understanding and honoring such a beautiful life. I wrote this after my step fathers passing, and still read it often when remembering him. I'm blessed to know my words were there in spirit. thank you. gob bless