Our big Virginia trip, part three– My Dad’s memorial…

Friday was an emotional day.  We buried my dad’s ashes on the hillside overlooking the house he grew up in.  Jason Grimes, the minister from High Bridge Presbyterian Church came and had a little service for us.  I was heartened to hear that he’s from South Carolina, which has a special place in my heart.  Go Gamecocks!


My dad grew up going to this church and became a member when he was ten years old.  It’s still the “family church”, as it were.

My Uncle Brownlee made the box for my dad’s ashes…  I thought the VMI ball cap was a nice touch.

A few hours later, we had a celebration of his life at the church itself.  Since I was asked to sing, I was a little nervous.  My dad and I have always had a complicated history.  Our musical history together is no less complicated than anything else about our relationship ever was.  My dad was a singer and used to do a lot of solos in church.  When I was very young, I’d plug my ears with my fingers when he’d get up to sing.  I usually got in trouble later for doing that.  As time went on, I became more tolerant, though I can’t say I was ever a great fan of his singing.  I feel comfortable in saying this openly because it’s common knowledge, most of all to my dad.  Anyway, I had visions of him sitting up in Heaven with his fingers in his ears.

I sang “Softly and Tenderly”, which is a hymn I discovered while heavily into karaoke.  Indeed, I used a karaoke track to accompany myself, since it was the easiest thing to do from thousands of miles away.  The version I used is on the soundtrack for the movie, The Apostle, although curiously enough, on the soundtrack it’s an instrumental.  A vocal version by Rebecca Lynn Howard is also on the soundtrack, but it’s different than the one I did.  No matter, though, since I actually prefer the instrumental version.  If you’re curious…

I recorded this a few days after my dad died in July.

So anyway, because I was singing, we had to get to the church early.  It was bitterly cold outside, but otherwise a clear, sunny day.  I had changed from more weather appropriate attire to a dress and a bright blue piano shawl we bought in Spain last January.  Actually, only my feet got really cold.  I had strappy, sparkly sandals with no hose.  But they looked prettier and were more comfortable than the black pumps I have, which make me walk like an old lady.

We had rehearsed the song two days prior and got the sound system all set up.  I was able to sing it from memory then and it sounded good, though one never knows how things will turn out when there are people in attendance.  Of course, as we left the church, a big wad of snow fell off the church roof and I got the feeling it was my dad throwing a snowball at me.  That’s the kind of thing he would have done.  I kind of knew it was going to be alright after that.  Sure enough, it was.  I stepped up to the mic, my nerves alive and buzzing.  At first, my voice came out a bit tremulous because I was nervous and emotional, but then I relaxed a bit and it turned out very nicely.  I think my dad was probably pleased.

My cousin, Karen, also performed.  She sang “Psalm 23”, accompanying herself on her guitar.  I wish I could play guitar, especially as well as she does.  There was also supposed to be a rendition of “Amazing Grace”, but apparently none of the musicians in the house got the message.  The pastor joked “The Lord wills otherwise.” when no one answered the call to perform that standard during the service.

My hilarious Uncle Carl introduced sort of an “open mic” for anyone and everyone who wanted to talk about my dad.  Carl was followed by my Uncle Ed, who needed no mic to tell us a hilarious story about growing up with my dad.  Several other people came up to speak, including Zeke Finney, a fellow VMI grad and choir member at the church I grew up in.  His wife used to occupy me during church services because my mom was always playing the organ and my dad was always in the choir.  My sisters were, by then, mostly out of the house.  Two of my sisters spoke.  One recited a poem she wrote.  Another simply stole the show with heartfelt and funny comments about our dad.  I got to see Sue, my lone cousin on my mom’s side.  She lives nearby.  Last time I saw her was at my wedding in November 2002.  She looked good– and tiny, like my sister Becky.

After the service, there was a reception and I got to meet more of my dad’s friends.  Another sister presented a very moving video about my dad’s life.  There were a lot of photos in the movie that I’d never seen before and a few that I contributed.  I would have added a few more, but all my pictures are in storage in Texas.

At the end of the video, we got our rendition of “Amazing Grace”… it came from my dad himself.  My sister found a recording of him performing it.  It had been years since I had last heard his singing voice.  I resisted the urge to put my fingers in my ears and am a better person for it.  Some things never change.  In all seriousness, it was very fitting that we had a recording of him singing.  Music was one of my dad’s true passions.  I think he passed that passion on to me.

Bill takes in the view from the hillside where my dad is now at rest.

My Georgia cousins…

The whole family… minus about 20 or so.

A rare shot with my sisters.  They look great… I probably need to lay off the German beer.  But at least I have a pretty smile on my face!


Leave a Reply