In Loving Memory

How do you explain to the children not to say “Trick or Treat” at a funeral? The house where the wake was at, was where they had Trick-or-Treated for all but one year of their lives. Luckily for Wife and I, they all had a good understanding that we were there for the reception after the funeral. However, #5 was very excited when he recognized the house and announced to us with all the pride due to a great discovery, “Hey mom, hey dad, this is the place we go for Halloween!”

The children were all dressed in their Sunday best to morn the loss and celebrate the life of Art, a very long lived family friend. My children have known Art and his wife Pat their whole lives, but beyond that so did I. But before I knew Art and Pat, my father grew up with them as close as an uncle and aunt. The affections of Art and Pat spanned multiple generations.

My parents with Art and Pat

My parents with Art and Pat 2006

Somehow, and I was too young to know how it happened, Halloween became Art and Pat’s holiday. While Halloween for many is a night about candy or alcohol, for us ever since I can remember, it was about Art and Pat; and the same could be said about my children.

Art would meet us at the door in some goofy orange tee shirt that read “This Is My Costume” and would immediately begin to offer his famous chili. You could not turn down his chili. Not only was it that good, but by the time he was done talking to you about it, you weren’t quite sure whether it was the same recipe Lewis and Clark used on their journey across the continent, or if it was carried down father to son from before the fall of Rome. And as you chewed you wondered just how old those beans were. Art’s tall tales were endless.

I tried to look like Art.

I tried to look like Art. 2006

Pat is just one of the sweetest ladies a person could meet. Art on the other hand, well, I always felt that my children just didn’t know what to do with him. If jokes are a sign of a well formed personality, then Art’s was formed by the most talented sculptor. I remember once, many years ago, when Art introduced a man to me as his long lost twin brother separated at birth and newly discovered yesterday over a scotch on the rocks. I believe I just stood there in stunned silence not quite sure if my silence was rude, or if he was telling one of his tall tales. I have since seen my children react the same when he put the same kind of proposals before them.

My father always loved the two like a second set of parents. To tell the truth, it was years before I realized that Art and Pat were in no way related. Of course it was some time in my childhood before I knew which was Art and which Pat, after all they were both boy names as far as I could tell. My children would have had the same trouble had not Wife made sure they knew who was who.

At the wake, family and friends shared Art stories like those above; and like everyone else, I reminisced too. I think his favorite phrase, or at least the one he seemed to repeat the most was, “Life, no matter how long, is too short to be taken seriously.” As I watched the children play in the yard, I thought that they would help take away a serious mood before it started. They were making plenty of noise running around, and I saw more than a few smiles directed their way. At one point I saw #5 and #6 had a new friend by the hand and were leading her through the yard and into the house, showing her around like they owned the place. Pat was happy with the children, and I know Art would have been too.

It was dark before we left Art and Pat’s house. I don’t think I will ever be able to just call it just Pat’s house, for Art’s memory will always be there for me. And it is a loving memory.

2009

2009

Mr. Collin’s Memorial

The balloons were a send off by the preschool kids on the first class after his death.

Saturday we went to the memorial for the children’s preschool teacher known to them affectionately as “Mr. Collin.” However, to be perfectly honest I heard him referred to in the plural of “Mr. Collins” more often than not. But the kids always seemed to adore him for I never heard any of my four girls say anything bad, or even remotely close to nasty about him. Because of that reason, Wife and I took the four girls, ages seven, six, five, and three years, to the hour and a half memorial of Mr. Collins.

While we were waiting for the service to start several of the preschool moms had gathered with some of the teachers and were comforting each other. At some point #4, who had Mr. Collin as a primary teacher this year, yanked my arm to get my attention. She then demanded, “I want Mr. Collins!”

“You can’t little one,” I said. “He is in God’s hands now. We can’t see him any more.”

#4 gave me a frown as if to say it was all my fault and stomped her foot. But with youth comes a short memory. In little time she was playing with her sisters before we all filed into the high school gymnasium.

The gym was decorated very nicely with flowers around the stage, and poster size pictures, and a screen that flickered through a slideshow of home photos of Mr. Collin set to music. Poor #4, she was fine until she really studied the slideshow. After about ten minutes of watching she simply broke down and cried. Wife was starting to tear up herself and had to pass the whimpering little girl to me.

I held the child as she sobbed out, “I miss Mr. Collins.”

“I know little one, but we will pray for him, and God will take care of him.” After a few more words of encouragement I just held her, and that was what she needed.

Once people began to talk about Mr. Collin the children were fine. Sad to say, but I don’t think they understood, or were listening to half of what was said. And to illustrate that point, #3 and #4 and #7 the infant all decided to get too hot at once. I spent the last quarter of the memorial in the lobby while #3 and #4 ran in little circles and #7 fell asleep on my arm.

After the service we drove to the preschool for the wake. The kids were ready for that. Young as they are, they all understand that every good funeral is followed by an even better wake. While the adults grieved together, the children ran circles around them. The preschool was vibrantly alive with the loud music of children running off the cookies and cakes they ate. I think for most people the infectious joy of small children is the best medicine for grieving. God bless you Mr. Collin, and may you rest in peace.