Here is the final part of my experience of losing my father in “Losing Dad.”
The week of March 5th was indeed approaching. And with the coming days of the funeral, it was going to get tough to declare my father heaven bound.
Most of that was of me looking at movies like Higher Learning when Malik (played by Omar Epps) and Professor Phibbs (played by Laurence Fishburne) were talking about the recent shooting on campus, and Malik perservered throughout the madness. Nearly at the end of the conversation, Professor shouted, MALIK! And quoted this from a famous African American: “Without struggle there can be no longer progress.” And Malik responded, “Frederick Douglass.” Final word from the Professor: “Right.” Later on the scene of Any Given Sunday when the coach talked about the inches pep talk. But most of that was gearing towards Rocky V when Rocky himself visited Mick’s old gym and hearing him and Mick going over the boxing moves before the title fight. Mick’s advice (played by Burgess Meredith whom was Penguin from the old Batman Shows) telling Rocky about being prepared for the fight, and his words of when we losing our friends and family members, and Mick didn’t have a reason to go on. But when he looked at Rocky, he had a reason to move forward. It was a scene I played about three times and getting a “wave of emotion” dealing with the loss of Dad. That felt real. And it has.
March 9th, 2017 was the hurdle of that. Before many of the public was open to the viewing of Dad at the Williamson Funeral Home, myself along with my mother and Aunt had our private moment. It was very sad. Seeing my 69 year old father lying in the casket. Heartbreaking. Tough. No matter what you call it, it wasn’t felt right at all. I said that day that I got his back. And plus he still inspires me. He helped me out, my sister out, he served this country and many others. I said, “thank you, Dad. THANK YOU!” Too bad my sister couldn’t make it to the visitation due to her health concerns, but being the representative that I am, I had to pinch hit. Dad was decorated well. Including the suit he wore along with him being in the silver diplomatic casket with the Stars and Stripes of the flag being displayed. The flowers with the themed red, white, and blue were on each side with the US Army Flag in the background. The American Flag was draped slightly towards the right by not touching the floor. After we had our moment, our guests and family members visited us as they offered condolences and sympathies. We also had guests from his old high school of North Division to come out to visit us. Old neighbors, friends, my pastor, relatives on both sides to come for a visit. Even current and former members of my church, my mother’s Alumni and Sorority came along. They came to show the support of us.
Later on in the visit, my pastor asked for prayer, and then I was given a chance to speak on my Dad’s behalf. I address the family and guests as a way to kick off the sharing of the memories. Most of the references that I summarized was from the funeral bulletin in which I highlighted the graduations, special events, and others. It was called “Final Salute to my Father.” Even also he matched my church salary in which to him to help me out to support. Even about if the Packers played, being the victors or losers. And the lasting thing I summarized the statement as a “Veteran’s Son” in which I am. I said to my family that he, was the last one. But I also said to my 1st Cousins espeicially that we have to step up. It’s our turn now. We have to be there for our children. If we don’t tell the stories, then who will? After that, I thanked the guests coming out and thakning them for their support.
Other neighbors and friends summarized my father in similar ways after I spoke. And the end of that, and exiting out of the funeral, I told my father that “I’ll see you tomorrow” with tapping the casket.
Then came the day. March 10th, 2017. This was the day of my father’s funeral. Hard to swallow on this. When my family arrived at the church, we had to set up some pictures and a portrait of him when he was in the military. Also displayed a booklet of some of his best projects he done over the years. We had a short visitation when the guests were coming in as well as my cousins and aunts from my Dad’s side came in to greet my mother and I. My former pastor, a Vietnam Veteran himself came along with his wife for support. Before the last 10 minutes were up, my mother got emotional knowing that this was the last time we see Dad. And as we approached the casket for the last time at the church, we said our goodbyes, our thank yous, and I promised to make sure that my mother and sister will be safe. And I have his back. My final promise to him is my solemn vow that I had to be that next person to support.
As the service continued, there had been many references that were summarized. A representative from the North Shore Post Office, was the first to speak and remininced about my father’s work, involvement with food drives, his relationship among workers, and of course his Corvette. My former pastor talked about his viewpoint in terms of war stories, and similar issues dealing with knee problems! My younger cousin (a millennial mind you) was the next to summarize our family and the sympathies to support. Finally my Aunt had to pitch in for my sister, but the poem she read, was titled: “My Daddy”.
I sit and look back to how far I can remember,
And you are always there next to me.
Each and Everyday you were helping me to grow up,
And making me be the best that I can be.
Your love was forever strong,
Your cuddles forever tight.
Everyday since I was born,
Your love was always in sight.
I will always be your Baby Girl,
And you will always be My Daddy.
I know I will always be the luckiest,
To have the best Dad any girl could have had.
My Daddy I love you with all my heart,
Much more than I could ever say.
You are my world, my everything,
Each and Everyday.
Written by Ranja Kujala July, 2009
The similarity with the poem, also resonates the feeling that my sister got word of losing Dad. We know the connections between Fathers and Daughters are inseparable. Very different from my father and son talks. No matter the pain or feeling, it was all around. And love for my father was deeply felt.
The eulogy of my father talked about forgiveness, love for one another, and a subject called “unfinished business.” The pastor highlighted the room that he saw my father that featured his easel of an oil drawing from 1991, and of course his video collections on the wall with a Wide Screen TV (BIG) in the center. The pastor also commented about a staircase, in which his spirit and Jesus would meet. At the end of the service, we gathered our things as we exited the church. But here was the shocker. When we were in the line to leave, we saw more folks packing the church as if it was like, how this happened?! First it was small, then it was large. And yes, there were members of the clergy mostly ministers who knew my Dad came out for the support. Talk about leaving a mark.
We headed to the limos and made a hour trek to the cemetery in Union Grove, Wisconsin. As we gathered in the area to meet up, we were greeted by the cemetery staff and leaders to go over my Dad’s gravemarker, featuring quotes and a symbol of the United Methodist Church. Then after we (my mother and I) went over the committal portion to summarize how it will go in the almost 6 minute session. From the music of the Army Song, the honor guard saluting the casket on both sides, the Marine Veterans on the outside in formation of the 21 gun salute and the Folding of the flag. Plus the bullets and coin were handed to my mother.
For The Committal portion, review the entire video below courtesy of my recording.
I had to say that the Committal was the highlight of my Dad’s service. This made me realize I am even more proud to be a Veteran’s Son! Being a Veteran’s Son is not some made up badge overnight. It’s a way of life to actively say that I salute his service, and will continue to tell the stories that will live on in me. It’s not just a catch-phrase, that is a promise! Nevermind all the negative hoopla about war, viewpoints and politics. Even bold consciousness. I’m proud of the fact that my father did that by serving. I respect him for that and yes there will be more my Veteran support in my house! No I didn’t serve, (don’t hate me on that), but I’m just darn proud that his decorated standard was just that: Good! Mostly with family members that had indeed served! Yes, my father served in an unpopular war in Vietnam, and mentioning to my mother way back that when we came back home to the States, he said “that the world turned dark.” I remember him saying that there was no recognition for Vietnam Vets like him that never got the welcome thing like the military has now. Of course NOW, they are getting their respect years later. But why not then! One of job duties was a Helicopter Gunner, and one of his accommodations was the Bronze Star Medal.
As the service ended, we exited the chapel with the honor guards saluting us. Plus one of the Marine Veterans whom did the 21 gun salute, greeted my mother and I. Even though the Marine Veteran didn’t knew my father, he commented that “It was an honor for me to this.” That was real talk. Even though, he was an older caucasian man, but he did that for a black Vietnam Veteran that was honored for his service as a SP5. On the way back to the church for the repast, I had to put on my music on my cell phone. I chose the music to play of “Nighshift” by The Commordores in which was one of my Dad’s favorites. Another was “I’ll Be Rested” by Mavis Staples, and plus a Nina Simone favorite, of “I Shall Be Released.” That song of course was a highlight favorite from watching Scandal.
The Lessons and Aftermath
In the later days, we still had our ups and downs, some things have become a little harder with now the three of us running the show. And I’m the man of the house now. But knowing the supporting cast has been uplfifted, and new standards have been updated with new accountabilty. Make no mistake, my family, my McClinton Family is still alive. We are still here. And yes that even though that our 10 members that are no longer here, wtih my father being the last one, we (the next era in the family) must do is what I said to my mother: we have to stay in the fight. And like in scripture: So it was written. So it shall be done.
Were holding on and still in the struggle.