We buried my fiance’s father on Monday.
His death was unexpected and seems unfair. I hate saying that his funeral “was beautiful.” It shouldn’t have been at all.
I last talked to Charles just after Christmas. I picked up the phone to hear “Hi future daughter-in-law” and we both laughed, looking forward to July when it will be official. I didn’t know him well, but the Charles I knew was warm, told great stories, and frequently made me laugh. I was looking forward being part of his family.
He was a committed military man -- so much that his son is an Air Force officer and his daughter married one. After retiring from active duty, Charles spent the next 21 years training young men and women in an Air Force Junior ROTC program. Current and former students filled a couple of pews at the funeral Mass with stiff, blue uniforms and tears creeping down their cheeks.
Now the arrangements are done. The flowers have been laid on the grave and we continue with a gaping hole in our lives.
I’m trying to see where this fits in God’s plan and what I’m supposed to learn. That's the only way I can come close to accepting his death. As my brother-in-law to be poignantly noted during the eulogy, we do not know the hour when God will bring us home. Usually we think of those verses in terms of preparing our own souls. But we must also repair and nurture our relationships. Resolve petty arguments and remind people you care – with more than a standard “I love you.”
I’ve also learned how much the little things matter. No one can do anything to make the situation better, but I’ve had friends checking on me and just to know that people are praying for us is a huge comfort. Please don’t underestimate those things next time you have a neighbor, co-worker or friend lose a family member. The "I'm sorrys" mean the world.
And I hope we learn from Charles himself. The man who raised my beloved believed in God, service, integrity and family. Those lessons will not die.