Photo: My dad (L) and his twin brother on the tailgate of the ’53 Chevy wagon.
Editors Note: I wrote this essay in September of 1998 for an assignment during my junior year of college. The professor, Roger Dunsmore, asked us to write about beauty. I am reposting it here today in honor of a very large, sad and inevitable milestone in my life. Today, the 7th of July, 2015, marks the day from which on I will have lived more of my life without my father than I will have lived with him. I have edited it slightly, but the same sentiments remain.
The day that we laid my father to rest was a day of beauty that has yet to be seen again. There are certain things that people will wonder and there are certain things I still wonder. How does one see the beauty of the day, the beauty of the creation, when one is laying a loved one into the ground? How does one see beauty in an internment, a ceremony we all face sooner or later, dead or alive?
Beauty was evident in the fact that those with whom he had fought tooth and nail with, for whatever reason, were there for the ceremony. Victor was well liked by most everyone who knew him and was respected by everyone who knew him. And that is no small feat, considering the number of people that knew my father. In that respect lies beauty. There was beauty in the respect earned by Victor when people that did not see things his way, got up and told how good of a person he was. Even if one did not agree with my dad, one had to respect him, for he stood up for what he believed in and what he thought was right. When others didn’t, he believed.
Beauty existed in the sheer numbers that crowded that quaint white covered bridge that brisk November morning to pay their last respects to him. People came from near and far.
Beauty lay in the coffin. A beautiful person, a beautiful box. A box as beautiful as if my father had made it himself. It was pine box made by the loving, caring hands of a neighbor when a simple pine box could not be found in the catalogs of the funeral home. An object of beauty. Wide, straight grained, polyurethaned, pine. Hand burnt brass hinges. A box fit for a king or my dad. There was beauty in that the simple pine box was what he wanted.
Beauty was the “hearse.” A restored 1953 Chevy Wagon, with a green body and a snowberry white top, that was kept in the barn. There was beauty in the memories that our family had created in that wagon. It was in the wagon driver’s love for my father, in his total resemblance of him and his undeniable bond of being womb mates with Victor. There was beauty in the eyes and voices of my brother, myself and a cousin as we rode and sang on the tailgate of the wagon as it drove the casket up the hill to the cemetery.
The day was beautiful. The blue sky was cloudless. The trees were bare. The grass was well frosted over, crunchy and brown. The air had a bite to it. The church, covered bridge, village inn, school and hills all stood stoically, silently watching as a light, pure white snow began to fall from the crystal clear blue sky.
Beauty was in the sound of the church bell tolling. Forty-six times. One for each year of Victor’s life.
Beauty was everywhere that day. The people, the weather, the coffin, the hearse, the tolling bell, but most of all the beauty was in the love. It was a love that radiated from the hearts of all present, a love warm enough to take the harsh bite out of the cool autumn air.
How did I see the beauty in theses things? There is a secret. And that secret is that in remembrance there is beauty. I was much to busy crying and mourning for my father that day to concentrate on beauty. Only now, in my memories, do I see the beauty of the day and more importantly the beauty of his life and work. Dad, in a few words, thank you and I love you.