Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost,
No birth, identity, form — no object of the world.
Nor life, nor force, nor any visible thing;
Appearance must not foil, nor shifted sphere confuse thy brain.
Ample are time and space — ample the fields of Nature.
The body, sluggish, aged, cold — the embers left from earlier fires,
The light in the eye grown dim, shall duly flame again;
The sun now low in the west rises for mornings and for noons continual;
To frozen clods ever the spring's invisible law returns,
With grass and flowers and summer fruits and corn. -Walt Whitman
The last two weeks have been tough ones for me. My dad died during the night after my visit--March 19. My mom asked me to return on the 20th to help clean and get things ready. The visitation was last Friday and the service was on Saturday. To make matters worse, I caught a cold which now seems to have morphed into a sinus infection. Needless to say, I am not feeling very creative. I hope you understand. Thanks to all who have sent love my way. It is appreciated. Here's what I shared about my dad at his service so you may get a glimpse of the man I called "dad."
Hello, my name is Karen Musgrave. I am Jerry’s oldest child. My sister Becky says I have his personality. One of the things that I have come to realize is just how much I am, indeed, my father’s daughter.
Spending time last week sorting through my dad’s things, I realized he loved his label maker. My husband teases me about how much I love mine. Just like my dad, I am a sucker for office supplies. And just like my dad, office supplies and label makers still can’t get us totally organized. And so I learned that it is a journey and one that might not have a destination.
My dad was orphaned when he was 15 years old. This meant that I had an amazing group of people who I would call uncle, grandma and grandpa who were not blood relations. And so I learned that you could make your own family.
This is not to say that my dad’s four brothers-Jack, Bill, Bob and Larry- were not important because they were vital to him and certainly played a major role in my life. On the Friday night gathering of my aunts and uncles, I loved to sneak out of my bed to eavesdrop. My dad was a great storyteller. The influence of these stories caused me to spend more than 10 years volunteering on an oral history project that is archived in the Library of Congress and to write a nonfiction book with 30 essays. And so I learned the importance of listening.
When I was growing up, my dad’s temper was legendary. I learned to quickly gage his mood when he walked in the door from work. Over the years, I watched as his temper disappeared and the sweet man that he became emerged. When I asked him how he was able to loose his bad temper, he told me “practice.” And so I learned that people could change if they make the effort.
My dad loved building things out of wood. Long before he helped build 17 houses for Habitat for Humanity, he built me a playhouse. As you can imagine I was excited, but it seemed every time I looked out my bedroom window to check on the progress, my dad was on a coffee break. On day two, I could not stand it anymore so I stormed out of the house and told that he needed to give up coffee so he could focus more on working. He replied with a smile on his face that he would take it under consideration. And so I learned patience.
By the way, my cousin Jackie believes that my dad is now in heaven sitting around with his four brothers drinking, what else, coffee and commenting on what we are doing. I hope we all give them some great stories or something to argue about.
My dad loved working with other people. When my mom wanted a desk, my dad turned to his friend and neighbor Dick Good. After they built it in Dick’s garage, I watched them carry this 9-foot desk only to discover, they had not thought about getting the desk around a short corner into my parents’ bedroom. After some scratching of their heads and of course, a coffee break, they figured out that they could get the desk through the bedroom window. This did mean removing the entire window, but the job got done. And so I learned to think about a project in its entirety and problem solving. Oh, and yes, the value of coffee breaks.
My dad loved eating out. On my parents’ 10th anniversary, my dad took us all out to dinner to celebrate. While we were parking, I noticed a man obviously down on his luck approaching people outside the restaurant. Everyone quickly walked by, but not my dad. Not only did he stop and talk with the man but he shook his hand and gave him money. His parting good-bye included the man’s name and a hope for better times. And so I learned compassion.
My dad was a simple guy with a big heart. I don’t know how much my dad thought about his life. I do know that he remained to the end full of plans, hope and humor. He taught me that life is a journey with problems to solve, lessons to learn and most of all, experiences and people to enjoy.