Sunday, September 21, 2014

Unexpected closure

Last Friday, just a month shy of three years since my dad passed away, I got some unexpected closure. Yes, I had said my good-byes to him and had accepted that he was gone from this earth. We had a beautiful time of remembering his life with many members of our family and friends back in October of 2011. Since he had made the choice to donate his body to Vanderbilt for research, I hadn't thought much about the fact that we weren't burying his earthly body. It wasn't something I thought that I was grieving.

Earlier this year, when my mom got the letter notifying her of the upcoming memorial service and gave me the date, I was not sure how to feel about it. On the one hand, it felt like too much time had passed and I didn't want to relive the deep sadness of those days surrounding his death. But, of course, I wanted to continue to remember my dad and honor the way he lived his life, giving to others.

When we got to the cemetery where the service was to take place, I still expected it to be in a room with walls and to hear my dad's name read among a list of other people who had donated their bodies. Instead, we were taken by shuttle to the far side of the cemetery where a large tent was set up with rows of chairs for loved ones to sit. A short program was given, with explanation of how important anatomical donations are to medical students who are preparing for a career of diagnosing illness and understanding the human body. Several students spoke briefly, sharing their thoughts of gratitude and letting us know that what our loved one chose to do was a priceless gift to them.

After the service ended, we were invited to come to the place just outside the front of the tent, where a trench had been dug and the containers of the remains of the donors were going to rest. At first I thought there wouldn't be any names on the containers, since the identity of the donors was kept confidential. But then my aunt pointed out that names were printed on each container and we found the one with my dad's name. As I dropped my rose down into the trench by his container, I felt peaceful and thankful.

On the morning that Dad died, I wasn't able to get to the hospice facility until after he had passed away. I had had some significant and special time with him in the days before he died, so my not being there at the time he took his last breath was not a big issue for me. I remember when I walked into the room and saw him lying there, I knew that it was just his shell. His spirit was with Jesus, and I said that to him as I said my final good-bye.

I also know that his remains at the cemetery are just a representation of what was left on earth. There were no tears for me on Friday, just an unexpected sense of closure. I continue to have peace and joy because my father is in heaven, and am thankful that because of Jesus, we grieve with hope of eternal life with Him.

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