Posted in Death, Grief, Life

My Father’s Legacy

Pictures of past memories
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Picking on people comes naturally to me. My father was the king of humor, pranks, and shenanigans. Nobody was spared. I grew up never knowing if anything he said was to be taken seriously and respected or if I was in danger of mortal embarrassment.

Injuries were also known to happen as a result of his pranks. I, myself, was traumatized a few times and I know I was not alone. Yet, despite the pranks that failed, his humor has been the theme of his memory since his death. I have not heard many, if any, anecdotes that did not center around some joke he played on someone.

In his memory, I would like to put these pranks in writing. At least the ones that caused the most laughter and/or trauma. Has a dent in the world was not huge to all, but it was to me.

Snipe Hunting

This prank was not only done by him, but was and is used widely in the south. In particular, it is used on city people or people that aren’t familiar with hunting or wildlife.

He would invite and hype up some new recruit to go snipe hunting. They would wake up at 6 am and dress up all in camouflage. Outfitted with black paint all over their face and twigs in their hair, they would all tote a canvas or burlap bag and a stick into the darkness. Dad would drop the newbie off at “his tree” with some convoluted instructions on how to trap and kill said snipe. Seeing as how snipe doesn’t exist, the newbie would be left by the tree for hours while the rest went back to bed.

This was widely considered to be the unofficial initiation into our family for a long time.

Funeral Home

For as long as I can remember, my father worked at funeral homes. He would collect the dead during all hours, prepare cadavers, set up funerals, and many other things that go into the business of death.

As a child, I would have to go with him in the middle of the night often to collect the bodies. At first, I was terrified and he played upon that a great deal. But, he taught me invaluable advice which was not to be scared of the dead. It’s the living that hurt you.

The staff at the funeral home were very professional and were good at what they did. They were caring towards the bereaved and respectful at all times. When the home was empty and free of any services though, they brought the morale from depressing to fun in a variety of ways.

At my father’s funeral, the staff told stories about the number of new employees they had lost due to my father hiding in the storage trays, for the dead, during the new employee’s tour of the new workplace. When said employee got close, the tour guide would pull out the tray that my father was hiding in and my father would jump up and scare the ever loving shit out of them. It was priceless, but also traumatic.

That phrase, priceless, but traumatic, explains my father and my childhood to a tee.

Roof

In today’s times, this would have landed my father in jail, but the eighties were a different time with different rules. He loved to hoist me up onto the roof of my grandmother’s mobile home. After encouraging me to carefully look around, he would disappear. I would be stuck on the roof from minutes to, what felt like, hours.

Personally, I didn’t enjoy this as much as he did.

Turtle

One of his other pranks got him in trouble with my grandmother. I was around seven years old and taking a bubble bath in her garden tub which was the epitome of luxury back then. My dad came in to check on me and pulls a turtle out from behind his back. I was terrified of turtles because my dad liked to talk about snapping turtles very frequently. He said that if you were bitten by one, you had to wait for lightning before you could get it off.

Of course, in my child’s mind, I immediately was imagining how tough my life would be with a turtle dangling from my finger for months on end.

So as any terrified child would do I jumped out of the tub and immediately fell and smashed a hole in the sheet rock with my elbow. Which caused my grandmother to get mad at him because ruining her house is taking it too far. Apparently my sanity was fair game.

It’s been 12 years since his death and I miss his sense of humor more than anything no matter how traumatic it may have been at the time. I have inherited his ability to take life with a grain of salt. He and I both use humor and you to get through anything that life throws our way.

I look forward to seeing him again one day and I take comfort in knowing that my sister is up there in heaven with him now keeping him company. And, no, I don’t have any doubts that he made it there.

Some of these might explain my weirdness. My mom is not off the hook for that though, as she was also a factor in my personality.


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Posted in Humor

Helping My Children Grieve

Father swinging his children
Jude Beck via Unsplash

The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is to raise four kids while helping two of them deal with the loss of their father. Although we saw it coming, it was still not something they were prepared for mentally. And I was not prepared at all to help them deal with the raw emotions that grief brings. The people I loved most in the world had broken hearts and I couldn’t do anything to fix it this time. I felt helpless and didn’t know what to do.

I looked up ways to deal with it and read all about grief and its stages. I spent hours pouring over articles and requesting the advice of family and friends. At the end of the day, though, I just dealt with it as I went along and I’ve notated what seemed to work for me. Unfortunately, too many children have to grieve before they should.

Memories

Encourage children to talk about their memories and the good times that they had with the person in question. Also encourage them to talk about the bad memories. Encourage them to ask any questions they might have about the death and what led to it.

All memories are worth talking about. Talking and reliving those memories as a way to show them that keeping someone’s memory alive is one way of honoring them.

Emotions

Validate any emotions that they may have whether it be anger, apathy, or sadness. Make sure that they know that there’s no shame in crying. It’s also important to let them know that there’s no one way to grieve and everyone does it differently. As for crying, it is better to let it out than to let it build up. It’s a release that needs to happen and it will happen one way or another.

Let them help

Just like adults, children often feel helpless in the face of so much emotion and grief and don’t know what to do. Seeing so many grown people crying is terrifying for them. If the person that has passed away was an immediate family member, let them be a part of the funeral planning as much as they can be. Or at a minimum, let them do their own memorial that they can bring to the funeral or service such as a memory board or garden memory stone. It makes them feel like they are giving out a final gift and saying goodbye.

Whatever they need

Some will become extra clingy and need more time with you. Others may become distant and withdrawn and need time to themselves in an isolated environment. Neither way is wrong. Encourage whichever way your child or loved one wants to grieve.

Fears

Talk about death and dying and their fears even if they don’t bring it up. Death is scary for anyone but especially terrifying for children. When they lose a parent, or anyone they’re close to, it really brings death close to home.

Your child may become obsessed with death and finding out what happens in the afterlife. Others might not want to talk about it at all but gain a sudden interest in religion.

No matter what your religion or your beliefs are, explain to them how faith helps people deal with death. I think that is the most beautiful thing about religion. It is a light in the darkness and makes it possible for you to have faith in something that you cannot see. To believe without knowing.

Time

As with you and I, time is the best healer and it’s impossible to explain accurately that it will get better as each day goes by.

Just do the best you can each day and encourage them to do the same. Reach out to a professional if you feel at any time that your child is depressed or may need professional help. It’s especially important to teach them that there is no shame in asking for help when you need it.