crossing the bridge

2001 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Papa walking on his path in the woods ~ 2001 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

As many of you already know, my father died peacefully at home, in his sleep, on September 19. I’m still in a daze and it still seems like a dream. When I finally got to bed after he died, I started thinking it would be nice to have a memorial for him on my mother’s birthday, October 17, at the cemetery where his ashes will be buried next to hers. The next morning my sister called me and said she hoped I would like her idea, and her idea turned out to be the exact same idea that I had. So it was settled.

2001 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
2001 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

When we were little we always went to visit our beloved grandparents on Cape Cod for our mother’s birthday. So we are both looking forward to one last trip up there with Papa, bringing his ashes in a beautiful biodegradable wooden box my sister found for him. The gravedigger will have the earth ready for him before we arrive and we will all stand in a circle and say whatever we want to say before we lay him to rest. I’ve never planned a funeral or memorial before, and I’ve never been an executrix before, either. For some reason the planning is comforting.

2001 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
2001 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

We’re renting a large house nearby. Even though it was closed for the season the owner has kindly opened it up for this special occasion. When the owner sent an email to confirm the days, he wrote, “We should be ready for you to check in anytime after 1:00, but give us a call when you cross the bridge and we will meet you at the house.” When I read this it made me cry. All Cape Codders and all of us who love the Cape know what “when you cross the bridge” means. And the funny thing is there are two bridges crossing the Cape Cod Canal, and either one will do.

1953 ~ Montville, Connecticut
Bachelor of Arts in Bacteriology ~ 1953 ~ Montville, Connecticut

The first three pictures were taken by me in 2001. In 2000 my father fell and crushed several vertebrae. He was in the hospital for a while and needed to use his cane afterwards. Papa had made a trail meandering through the woods on his property and he maintained it while taking his daily walks. Walking through the woods with him countless times is a memory I will always treasure. He would use his cane as a pointer as he identified various nuts, leaves, wildflowers or the entrance to an animal’s den. Or he would point it up into the tree canopy when he heard a familiar bird call. The cane was carved and used by his father and now I have it for safekeeping.

1983 ~ ?
Easter, 1983, my parents

Sadly, in 2007 Papa fell again, this time breaking his femur and his pelvis. He never made a good recovery from that unfortunate accident. There were no more walks in the woods. He was mostly in a wheelchair after that and suffered from dementia. The last six years have been so difficult for all of us, but especially for him. When I found these pictures taken at an earlier, happier time, they helped me to overlay the recent memories with more pleasant ones.

September 1985 ~ ?
Labor Day, 1985, my parents with three of my aunts

Many thanks to our Aunt Em, who came up to visit us from Maryland last weekend, and to visit Aunt Lil, too, who seems to be doing as well as can be expected in the nursing home. Aunt Em brought and gave us some of her pictures – the last three are from her.

36 thoughts on “crossing the bridge”

  1. Hello Barbara —

    I’m sorry to hear of your father’s passing. I’ll think of him on my birthday, October 17th, when you have your memorial.

    ‘cousin’ Maureen

    1. Thank you for your condolences, cousin Maureen. Now I will remember your birthday is the same as my mother’s. I hope you had a happy one, filled with love and laughter!

    1. Thank you so much, Sybil. I do look forward my turn, not too soon, I hope, but it will arrive soon enough I’m sure…

  2. Barbara – You did, indeed, find photographs from a merrier time to overlay the recent memories. In the 1953 photo, your dad looks like he could have been a movie star! I’ll be thinking of you and yours on the 17th when you lay his ashes to rest next to your mother’s.

    1. Thank you for being with us in spirit on the 17th, Laurie. One of the things I love about memorial gatherings is hearing the stories and memories others share about the deceased loved one. Seeing Papa through the eyes of others was amazing – and he was indeed a bright star in my life. 🙂

  3. I cried with you as I read through this beautiful post. I feel so sure that both your parents will be with you at the memorial service. I’ll also be there with y’all.

    I’m so moved to know you have the cane your grandfather carved and both your grandpa and your father used. Wow! So lovely to see the photos of your Papa walking down his favorite path with the cane. He was a very good looking man.

    much love to all of you
    rosie

    1. Thank you so much, Rosie, for all your kind and comforting words, your love, and thank you for being with all of us on the 17th. I’m still crying as I write my thank you notes here – I know it will take time – and I treasure my sweet blogging friends who are precious gifts to me. When I took those pictures of Papa in his woods there was no way I could know much they would comfort me some day. Thank you again, my dear friend. ♥

    1. Thank you so much, Monica – it’s such a small portion of the story, but it’s what came pouring out that day. 🙂

  4. I too lost my mom this year. Right after memorial day in May. She went into a coma after a car accident. She lingered a week, on life support. We all thought she would come back. Dad and I emailed about dignity and integrity. He called and we went to visit and say our farewells. We expected several days of lingering. So taking the first shigt, my sister and her two daughters and my father stayed at her side. They pulled the support and she passed 12 hours later. We had visiters and people all day long. Mom was well loved and she was a charactor. When I read “crossing the bridge” it spoke to me of the transition for all of us. From here to the next. Whatever we believe that is. Mom went, the guides were with her. We waited and had her memorial around her birthday. We would always have big parties with the entire family in my folks backyard on her birthday weekend. I don’t look at our losses. Look at how much we gained from having such groovy parents. (by the way we had the same checked paper in our kitchen). Peace to you Barbara. I love your writing and sharing with you. It is theraputic. Blessed Be.

    1. I’m so sorry to learn that you’ve lost your mother so recently, Kimmie – my own also died in May, but 22 years ago. Losing a mother is never easy, whether it is shortly after an accident or slowly over several years from cancer. Loss is difficult to bear, but bear it we must, at least until it is our turn to cross the bridge. I thought my father’s death would be easier to handle because he was so old (91) and in so much pain, but I’m seeing that it proving to be just as difficult as it was to lose my much younger (59) mother. You reminded me of that saying, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” Nothing lasts forever, transition is always a part of life. Thank you for your kind words and may you be blessed, too.

  5. A lovely tribute to a man I never had the fortune to know but will now be remembered by me as well. Of course, there will be fruit in the memory picture for him to savor.

    1. Thank you, Janet. In his last weeks Papa said the apples I brought him were too hard and tasteless. His taste buds were failing him. In a moment of inspiration I took the apple to the stove and added a little water, butter and sugar and simmered it into an applesauce. He ate the whole little bowl of it!

  6. I am so sorry to hear about your father Barbara. You have given him such a lovely tribute through your sharings and your photos. He sounds like a wonderful man whose light and influence will long continue to shine through the generations of your family, and beyond. xo

    1. Thank you so much, Colleen – I love the thought of Papa’s light and influence continuing on into future generations. Suffering from dementia, sometimes he asked us if our mother was still here, and once my sister answered him no, that we were all he had left of her. And then he surprised us by objecting, explaining that there were three more “extensions,” no doubt referring to my children. 🙂

  7. Barbara- My thoughts are with you during this difficult time. I enjoyed looking at the pictures of your father. I feel like I’ve almost gotten to know him over the past few years via your blog–and this post reaffirms what a wonderful person he was.

    1. Thank you, Sheryl. I’m glad you enjoyed the pictures – maybe some day I will find some time to dig up some more. I have a feeling he would have enjoyed reading the posts from your grandmother’s wonderful diary, and all the extra research you include, as he grew up on a farm, too.

  8. This story inspired me, Barbara. Your Dad looks to be a real gentleman. I love the pictures. Looking at the last snap, it feels like the people in it would be alive forever, and would remain the same. Who knows, someday, they leave us and go far away.. in pursuit of peace or happiness? I pray for your coming days to be less emotionally traumatic, dear!

    1. It’s so true, Sonali, those days seem so long ago and so far away and yet, somehow, like it was just yesterday. I had to laugh a little, Papa wasn’t much of a “gentleman” in the sense of how the word is generally used – but he was a man of his word, very down-to-earth and unpretentious. He enjoyed poking fun at stuffy people and was mischievous and delightfully funny. We missed all that playfulness in his last years, though it did surface from time to time…

  9. Barbara,

    Before another “bridge is crossed” I wanted to make sure I sent my Love and Healing to you and your family ! ((( Hugs )))

    A beautiful tribute to you Dad and your families journey with him. It is amazing to see these old photographs of happier and fuller times.
    Your families celebration of his life is a touching event to begin a new chapter in your journey’s path.

    Blessings:
    Jeff

    1. Thank you so much, Jeff, for all your gifts of love, blessings, hugs and healing today and over these past few years. For those final years the journey was so long and so difficult to make, and your support has always meant the world to me. I’m sure with time the happier memories will be recalled more often, and being with all my children for several days to mourn and have fun doing the things Papa loved to do with us – it was very comforting and healing.

  10. This is such a beautiful tribute to your Papa, Barbara. I often wonder if the paths that our loved ones walked frequently somehow retain a piece of their spirit. I think they do.

    Hugs and love.

    Robin

    1. Thank you so much, Robin. Papa’s path through the woods surely does retain his spirit. I used to go out and walk it alone when I was visiting him and he would fall asleep. When my kids went up to the house after the memorial they went out and walked it, too. It’s going to be sad selling the house… Thank you for the hugs and love, my friend!

  11. This is a wonderful sharing of your father’s life, Barbara. To remember him at different times. From the more healthy youth to the contemplative elder to one with the wandering mind…how fortunate you are to have had him for so many years, in so many incarnations. Glad the pictures brought back happy memories. Blessings as you walk over this next bridge…

    1. Fifty-six years is a good long time to have someone, isn’t it? I have fallen into a deep slump of grief, and find myself puttering around in circles, accomplishing nothing, nothing around the house and nothing in the blogosphere… How many hours can one distract oneself playing Words of Wonder on Facebook? When did it get so hard to get out of bed in the morning? It’s taking me so long to say thank you to everyone here, but Kathy, I thank you for sending me blessings and so many kind and thoughtful words…

  12. Such a gentle, beautiful post. It sounds like your father deeply loved the woods, and the wonders Nature hid within the branches and earth.

    I am so sorry to hear of his passing, but memories will comfort you, ease your pain and one day be your strength.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Aubrey. Here I am a year and a half later, still finding comments I missed. Little did I know that a year after my father died I would be given a new granddaughter who resembles him and seems to love being out under the trees, too.

  13. Hi Barbara. Your father was a handsome and intelligent man with a sense of humour … I can see that in his photos …. I’m sorry for you and your family. It takes a long time to absorb it all and after 10 years I still haven’t figured it out …. Jane

    1. Thank you so much for your comforting words, Jane. I suppose we never do completely absorb the loss of our parents – the pangs of grief for my father are still fresh and raw, but after twenty-four years the memory of losing my mother has become much softer…

    1. It’s taken me so long to get back here, Diane – I’m so thankful you stopped by – Papa sure was remarkable, dearly loved and sorely missed… *hugs*

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