Family Heart

Everybody liked my dad. That’s not surprising because he was a very likable fellow. He was funny, and kind, and smart, and fair, and hard-working, among a lot of other nice attributes. His temper could be quick, but it was mostly short-lived and he was forgiving and forgivable.

One of my favorite stories about my dad was one that Shirley told. He was at McDonald’s, and had ordered a burger and fries. The restaurant was busy, and, unlike nowadays, lots of people were working behind the counter. It apparently seemed to my dad that every time a burger would be put out on the counter, one of the other workers would grab it. He finally turned to his cashier and told him, “Get in there and fight for me.” Patience was not among Dad’s attributes.

My stepmother Shirley passed away suddenly a week-and-a-half ago. Her death took everyone by surprise, but no one more than her own children. As you can imagine, they struggled to first, accept her passing, and then make arrangements for her burial. This, at the same time that they were having to pack up her clothes and personal items from the senior apartment in which she lived. They arranged the funeral service, but since her death was so sudden and unexpected, they had never asked her where she would like to be buried. (Kids, talk to your parents now.)

Since my sister Jen was the first among our family to learn of Shirley’s passing, it was up to her to call us all and break the sad news. While talking to me, we began discussing where she would be buried. Dad served his country in the Navy during World War II, and both he and our mother are buried at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver. His name and inscriptions are on the front of the stone and my mother’s information is on the back of the same stone…..

“Will Fort Logan allow more than one name on the back of the stone?” Jen asked.

I didn’t know the answer, but told her I reckoned they would. “Dad can’t be the only widower who remarried.”

Jen agreed to call Fort Logan and ask.

The next day, Jen FaceTimed me, and she was laughing.

“You won’t believe this,” she began. “When I called Fort Logan and explained my situation, the man on the phone looked up Dad’s name. He then then said, ‘Oh, did Shirley die?'”

Apparently, unbeknownst to all of us (and that includes Shirley’s children), Dad had taken care of making every arrangement necessary so that Shirley could be buried with our parents. Except, he didn’t tell anyone that he had done such a thing. Had we not looked into the matter, none of us would have had the slightest idea of his plans.

But far from being annoyed at our dad, his four children — and most assuredly, Shirley’s three children — are reminded about Reinie’s big heart. He made the arrangements early in their marriage, determined that he would care for his second wife even beyond her death. I tear up even as I write those words. What kindness.

Of course, his children’s first thought was what Mom would have to say about the situation. We have concluded that we’re pretty sure there is no anger or jealousy in heaven, and Shirley was welcomed with open arms by our mom. After all, she took care of Dad during his illness, and Mom would have loved her for that alone.

2 thoughts on “Family Heart

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