17DEC96 - Death Certificate Day


Today was a day where lots of things were on my 'to do' list, a busy day full of long lines, holiday traffic, hoards of people and mindless errand running. But, when the mortuary unexpectedly called early in the day to tell me that my father's death certificate was ready, it meant that most of the day had to immediately be re-arranged, and a drive across the Koolaus to the graveside mortuary would now become the first order of business.

I entered the freeway to drive the picturesque stretch of road out of Honolulu, thru the Pali Tunnels toward Oahu's windward side. The freeway was as clear as the sunny sky, a beautiful cool day was in the making. As I approached the turn-off, my heart grew surprisingly heavy as the yearning came out of the blue. I hoped that his gravesite would no longer be visible from the road, I hoped that the funeral wreaths and tropical blooms covering his gravesite would no longer be there, and I wished that the entire ceremony was just a bad dream, and the place where we laid him to rest would be non-exsistant. My mind wandered off to re-live thoughts of the love and peace I felt during the quiet special moments I spent with my father. Times that only fathers and daughters share. Silly moments, surprises, vacations, driving lessons, birthdays, boyfriends, grades, graduation and embarassing situations that later fade into neutrality. My thoughts were also invaded by cruel, and bizarre scenes of a family in distress, turmoil and facing the earthly removal of it's most cherished member. Scenes of a family going through a power struggle, a family in the midst of restructuring, a family experiencing the unearthing of their cornerstone, a family in a time of re-definition and re-evaluation. I know now that no one is ever completely prepared for the events of such a common natural process. One sees it in movies, one hears the stories of others 'in their time of need. One sees death paraded every nite on the evening news, yet no one knows how to accurately express the expected series of emotional experiences and events that are a part of such an overwhelming singular personal event.

As I turn off the freeway, I glance toward it. A peaceful place it truly is. Set high on a graceful hillside with views of the beautiful shear, windward cliffs. The lush landscape is to one side, and the beautiful deep blue green of the Pacific and Hawaiian coral reefs on the the other. It's a place where the passing of time is very subtle and goes unnoticed to most. It's a place that is blessed with regular visits from Kolea (seasonal Hawaiian seabirds,) tropical breezes rustle through the trees and where waterfalls drape the verdant cliffs in miraculous natural beauty.

I asked myself 'Has it been just 2 weeks since he passed away?' I check the date on my wristwatch as I slowly and quietly park graveside. 'Yes, 2 weeks and 2 days, and exactly one week since the services,' I confirmed to myself. Yet, it feels like years since he last smiled a faint smile and nodded in affirmation to numerous inquiries of his comfort. Such things I realize now, were little daily gifts that I will appreciate forever. It feels like an eternity since he called my name in pursuit of extra medication, a pillow fluffing or a bit of impromtu conversation for company.

As I approached the gravesite, it seemed much like is was on the day of the services. Flowers piled high, freshly turned dirt. Large floral sprays with gold and red lettered proclamations from family, grandchildren, friends, and associates. Scenes of the ceremony creep into my mind. A mahogany casket which was chosen over steel and bronze for it's 'warmer' quality. Others couldn't understand why. 'It's going into the ground, honey, why bother with the extra cost?' They couldn't understand that it wasn't a matter where it was going, it was a matter of what would be placed in it. My one and only father would be placed in it, someone of irreplaceable value to me. Steel and bronze would hardly emulate the warmth of the love I felt for him or the joy he brought into my life. Why couldn't they understand that? They frowned when I insisted, they relented when I explained in angered tones.

The morning was bright, clear and cooI as I said my goodbyes to him. Soft Hawaiian music and whispered words of sympathy and prayers filled the air. Before he left, I quietly hid under his pillow, a letter, thanking him for everything he did for me and how wonderful a father he was to me. I tucked it gently, as not to awake him, much like the way he must have left 'tooth fairy' surprises for me as a child. The letter was filled with words of warmth to keep with him forever as I would keep thoughts of him with me.

As the sun shown on his gravesite, I noticed that some of the flowers that were bright and alive a week ago had already begun to wilt and dry. Baby's breath and carnations seemed to be the first to brown, but orchids, protea, chrysanthymums, seem much more diligent, and the anthyriums would certainly remain fresh well through New Year's Day. The flowers will continue to fade with each of my future visits, but I know that my grief will still be with me well after they are gone. Tears come easily, quickly and heavily to me here. It certainly seems somehow odd to wipe away tears in such a paradise-like setting.

I sit quietly for awhile in the warm sun, along my father, but alone in my sadness. Soon it's time to gather my emotions, my grief, the certificate and head back over the mountains, through the tunnels toward Honolulu...toward the living.

Bye Dad, I love you, I'll visit again soon.


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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW