Tuesday, March 26, 2013

From the Heart of Babes

Desinare Della Vedova   (Dinner for the Widow) by   Gaetano ChiericiItalian, 1838-1920
Please click here for a detailed view of the painting and then click on the painting again at allposters.

Today I have an interesting true-life happening to relate.  As you all know, a few days ago,  my father, a WW2 Veteran (USS Enterprise) died at the age of 87.  Anyone who loses a loving father will understand how hard it is to conceal the grief and loneliness that is felt.
Joe Brooking McGaughey in navy uniform, c. 1943 or 44
(b.1926, d.2013)
The name is pronounced, "McGoy."
Most people called him "Joe-B", and I often wondered why. I suppose, at the time, there were so many Joe's in the United States, that it was nice to be distinguished by having a "B" connected to your name. In some circles, if someone shouted "Hey, Joe!" half the men in the room would turn around and stand at attention. He was a painter of boat and sea-scenes and was related to the English marine painter, Charles Brooking.  Middle names were often chosen to preserve previous family names or maternal family names, and one of his grandparents was a Brooking.  My father was from a Texas family and learned to be resourceful through hard work and hard times in Texas. His father had been a cotton and cattle farmer.

My 6-year-old granddaughter told me how sad she felt, too, because it meant that when her grandfather was old, he, too, would die, and later on, her own father would die.

 She asked me, "When is your father's funeral?"  I told her it was on Thursday.

She then said, "I will wear my pink dress and I will bake a cake for the family."

"Oh, no, dear," I corrected her:  The funeral is in Australia on Thursday, and we cannot attend, because it is too far away to get there on time.

At this point she wept. 

Then, she asked, "Why can't we have the funeral here?"

I had been resigned to a grieve-as-you-go, existence, crying intermittently while doing housekeeping, laundry, dishes, cooking, and sewing.  This was the way I always had to do it, because my side of the family was never nearby. That is the way it was for a lot of women of my generation, especially if their husbands had pioneer spirits and wanted to travel far away from home base.

I argued with this little girl, back and forth a few times, offering my objections, showing how it was impractical. She would not accept it.

"We can't do it that way," I said, to which she responded: "We can."  She then began to collect the flowers in a vase, pick out her dress and hang it out to wear, and name the kinds of things she wanted us to prepare.

"That is a wonderful idea," I said.  "We could all choose a time to call all the relatives that live in this country and have a memorial for him in our living room!"

"No!" she said, "I want a real funeral like the one we gave to our friend, Judy.  I want flowers and singing and praying and a funeral sermon, and a meal provided for the family, just like they did for Judy's family."

I thought on that for awhile.

Because I was married to a minister who located us in far-away places, the congregations we served never knew who my family was. When my grandmother died, it was noted in one typewritten line in the church bulletin. It was too far away for me to attend the funeral or the memorial.  When my brother died,  it was announced during the announcement time when worship services ended.   

Other families in the local church had large funeral gatherings, listened to a funeral sermon (a funeral sermon is a speech designed to comfort the family), had the congregation sing the favorite hymns of the loved-one, listened to prayers that were offered, and then to a multitude of speeches about the character of the person, including special memories.  

Vases of cut flowers, and plants, filled the auditorium on these occasions, and sometimes our family was invited to take some of them home with us.

I began to think about why a "real funeral" is offered by the local church to the families of the deceased church member. It has a way of reassuring the ones who are left behind, and giving peace to the ones who are severely shocked and grieved.

My husband agreed with our 6 year old granddaughter, and he prepared his funeral sermon.  She busied herself trying to help the plan along.  A time was chosen for us to meet in the church auditorium. I gathered up the things that a normal grieving family would have taken to a funeral: photographs, things he made, letters he wrote.

A meal was prepared for a crowd of people, including punch, hot rolls, casseroles and salads. The table was arranged with the same care we always took for other members of the church. My 6 year old granddaughter did bake a cake for the family and placed it on a fancy pedestal cake plate with a dome. While she was helping to prepare food and gathering flowers, she said, "This will be the first funeral I have helped with."  She has grown up going to the funerals of the families of the church members and it has impressed her. She knows it is a loving thing to provide a meal for the family.

I rose early to unlock the two great doors of the large meeting house where we assemble for worship on the Lord's day, turned on the heat, turned on the lights, and set out the banquet supplies: plates, utinsels, napkins and punch cups.

At the funeral, although there were only about a dozen descendants in attendance, my husband preached the funeral sermon, saying we were here to honor the passing of his father-in-law, who died 2 days ago.  He related his own special memories of him and the conversations he had.  We chose the hymns he taught us when we were growing up: Jesus, Saviour, Pilot Me (my father was a seaman much of his life), and "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning."  Prayers were offered. Family members related Skype camera conversations with him and letters he had written, and personal experiences when visiting him.

Afterwards, we adjourned to the fellowship room, where a dinner was prepared for the family, and more conversation about him ensued. Then, there was the clean-up time, with washing the dishes, wiping the tables, covering the left-over food, and taking out the trash, the same way as any other family in the church at a funeral.

Since I had never experienced a funeral of any family member, I can say that now I know why we do this for the family. It does make some difference in the unsettled feeling that comes upon a grieving person. It is an acknowledgement of their passing, which is much different than just one line in the church bulletin, or telling someone you are sad today because you just heard your grandmother or brother died.

The service was video-taped to share with other relatives. I showed the whittled pegs he had made for nails to build the log house, called "the big house", in Alaska. The house was so well put-together, with no nails and no fastenings other than those carved wood pins, that when it was bulldozed down over 50 years later, it took several attempts before the remainder of it would even budge or come apart.
Some of my father's whittled pegs were very long. Here are a few shorter ones that I got out of the logs from the house he built. I plan to put these in special boxes to give as gifts for family members.  

Joe Brooking McGaughey (1926-2013) in Alaska on his "cat" looking thrilled to have started his own landscape business in the late 1950's.

I wanted to relate this because of the inspiration of this little girl. I hope in some way it plants a seed in the minds of people who are far away from their loved ones, to have normal ceremonies. In fact, I once planned a baby shower for a young woman. She, at the last minute, could not come, so I did not cancel it. The guests all shared the sandwiches and tea and enjoyed placing their gifts in a new laundry basket for the mother. (When you have a baby, an extra laundry basket is much needed.)  We went ahead and used the balloons and decorations, and enjoyed the event. Then we packaged up the favors and some of the foods, the gift bags, the flowers,  and chose someone to take it all to her house.

There are some things we do not have to miss-out on. It is a matter of thinking a different way.

I chose the painting, above, for several reasons. It looks like the mother is in grief and hardly able to focus on anything else, which is the way a grieved person feels. Sometimes tears flow so constantly that it can bring on illness. Sometimes you lose your appetite, or everything tastes like brown paper bags. Not that I've ever eaten brown paper bags, but that nothing has a flavor when you are in grief.   When death has come and taken our loved one, the earthly matters hold no value, and keeping house when your husband or child has died, does not seem to have a point.  The painting above shows the mind removes itself from the physical things of this world. The loved one is in another world, and the grieving widow is left in the physical world, yet is thinking about where her husband is.  The oldest girl looks like a 6-year-old looking for the brightness and goodness in life, yet somewhat connecting with her mother's grief without being quite as devastated. This is probably one little girl who would suggest that they put flowers on her father's grave.

If you save the picture and then use a magnifyer, you can see more details. In the background you see someone who might be the widowed mother and grandmother. Both women are thinking about their loss. They are there with the children, having dinner, but not really strongly focused on life at home. This really does happen in grief today.


amulbunny's random thoughts said...

I am so sorry for your loss. My dad was 65 when he died in 1964. The year my mom remarried, my half brother died of cancer in 1967, luckily we were back in the midwest visiting and could go to his service.

I am blessed that my mom, who's 88 is healthy and with us. She lives in her own home, does her own shopping and has my 20 year old niece with her.

May God hold you in his hand as you go through this time of grief.

Anonymous said...

My sincere condoleances to you, Lady Lydia.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for the beautiful story.

Mrs. Price said...

I am so sorry for your loss. What divine inspiration for your granddaughter to suggest a funeral. May God's peace be with you and your family.

Christine said...

Yes, we all should stop and listen to our small ones. Bless you for doing just that.

Peace be with you and your loved ones.

(the picture is worth a thousand words)

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful story! And I hope others take note and follow suit when unable to attend a family funeral.

Continuing to pray for you and your family....

lauraelizabeth4@outlook.com said...

Dear Lady Lydia~ I'm so sorry for your loss. I recently lost my mother. She lived out of state, but I was still able to care for her in her last days and attend her services. It was amazing how ministering the services were to me and how it helped me to accept my loss.

I'm glad you had a service. I will remember this the next time we have a loss among our friends and family. God bless you.

Lydia said...

Everyone: thank you so much.

It is sad for us when the leave. We miss them so much. To lose a parent is to lose some of your motivation for being who you are.

Anonymous said...

I am sad with you and at the same time I rejoice with you in the wonderful inheritance of memories you have had in knowing a loving and wise earthly father.
What a gift- to have known such a good man and to celebrate the life he lived and all he gave to his family.
God Bless you and your family.
Shirley in Virginia

Anonymous said...

I am sad with you and at the same time I rejoice with you in the wonderful inheritance of memories you have had in knowing a loving and wise earthly father.
What a gift- to have known such a good man and to celebrate the life he lived and all he gave to his family.
God Bless you and your family.
Shirley in Virginia

Anonymous said...

Dear Lady Lydia
I am so very for your loss. Please know you and your family will be in my prayers as you go through this period of sadness in your lives. I am glad for you however, that you have such wonderful memories of your beloved Father.
I know the pain of being far away from family during these times, as I have lived abroad away from my home state of California for most of my adult life.
I think the inspiration of your dear granddaughter will prove to be a blessing to you in the months ahead.
It is my hope that all the prayers of all of us who so benefit from your Home Living ministry will lift your heart now and in times to come. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Although my father has been gone for severe years I understand how you must be feeling. I know you will miss him forever. He sounded like a very special man. I could not go to my father's funeral either. I do think having our own funeral here would have been a great support for us. I wish we had thought of it. We needed to say good bye. We needed to be able to sit together and celebrate the life God had given him and how much he was loved. I am so glad that God used a little 6 year old to wisely step in. What a sweet story of how this all happened to pass down through the family. Sarah

Finding Joy said...

My condolences to you and yours for the lost of your father.

Having him living so far away must have been very difficult, just as my brother who lives in the USA has to endure with our parents living here in Australia. It makes him very sad at times.

In God Grace

Brenda said...

My sincere condolences to you and your family. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry for your loss. You did a lovely thing, honoring your father that way, and it was kind of you to share it with us.

Many others these days, including me, understand the pain of losing someone they love, who lived far away. I have no doubt that by sharing your post today, you and your granddaughter, have helped someone else cope with their loss, because you have given us a lovely idea for how to honor someone when we cannot attend the service.

Anonymous said...


I am moved to speechlessness by your sharing. That, through your own grief, you have been able to so eloquently, intimately and beautifully convey the wrendings of the heart and grieving process in the manner that you have done is a gift from God Himself, dear sister. This is perhaps the most tender and compassionate sharing on loss and grief by a devout Christian that I have ever read on-line. I know this grief, Lydia, having lost my beloved mother when she was only 50 years old back in 1989; 'brown paper bags indeed'...how true. The funeral is for we who are left, who remain and must carry on when our dearly beloved depart...Though such seems all but trite at this point, know that I am upholding you and your family in prayer.


Anonymous said...

My sincere condolences for the loss of your father. your granddaughter is a treasure.
Thank you for this story

Anonymous said...

I am sorry for your loss.


Rightthinker said...

I am so sorry, my dear Lady Lydia, for the loss of your beloved father. I am thankful for his service to our nation, in a time truly dreadful for the sacrificial service men.

You clearly love him greatly, and his legacy will live on because of your teaching about him, and this lovely memorial service your granddaughter suggested!

I'm so glad you didn't have to grieve in empty solitude, but rather in a collective body to remember who he was, and why you love him so.

I am happy you don't have to deal with the loss completely alone. I will be praying for your grief during this time of loss.

God Bless you.

Anonymous said...

God bless you and your family with peace and beautiful memories as you experience this loss. Fathers that have blessed our lives are so precious. I had one like that and still miss him and look forward to seeing him again in heaven.

As to funerals I have been to some are excruciating and others are uplifting despite the grief.It actually reminds me of weddings I have been to that fall in one of those two categories!I have had a father,a close friend and a husband all die young. They were all Christians and the funerals reflected it. Tradition and meaningfulness are comforting. I could say more about what life is like after such losses but will not at this time.
What a darling and amazing granddaughter! As an aside,my brother also served on the USS Enterprise (and in Antarctica).

Melinda said...

I am so sorry to hear of your loss. What a blessing that your granddaughter recognized the need for a funeral for the family in the states. I missed my uncle's funeral and it was very hard to accept the fact of his death. I will be remembering you all in prayer during this difficult time.

Yvette said...

I am so sorry on the loss of your father. My sincerest condolences. I will be praying much for comfort. Thank you for sharing your story. What a sweet and loving granddaughter and husband to do that for you. God bless.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to hear of your father passing away. It is never easy, no matter how old or sick a person is. You were so kind to take your granddaughter's suggestions. I always say when you go through a loss you have two griefs to bear: one is the loss itself and the other is dealing with others' reactions! In this case, it seems as though your granddaughter's reaction has brought a measure of peace and healing!

Thank you for all you do for the modern homemakers; you have helped me out considerably in the 10 years I have been visiting your blog!

C. C.

Lydia said...

Thank you all for such kind and interesting thoughts! I liked the painting because it is such an accurate depiction of what happens to the mind of a person in grief: the woman is not at all concerned about the mess around her, is not eating the dinner provided for her (similar to the dinner provided for the family of the loved one, in our churches), and she is half conscious---alert enough to grasp the hand of the baby. The widow in the background is in black, probably from an earlier widowhood; the one in the foreground has not been a widow long enough to even don her mourning black garments. I'm intriqued by the oldest daughter, who looks bright and optimistic, erstwhile feeling keenly sad for her mother; she is looking at her mother and wanting to do something to comfort her, but I think at that age, she would choose something to emphasize life and living.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lydia,
I am so sorry to hear about your father. I have been reading your blog at different times.
I remember him from when we first moved to Kenai area. Then to visit with your parents/family in Homer before they moved to Australia. They came to visit my parents when they came back to Kenai for a visit. And saw them then. Carolyn McCurdy Marek, Texas (a fellow homesteader family in the 1950's and 60's)

Lydia said...

I did phone him in the hospital the day before he died, and said, "Daddy you are the person here I wanted to be most like; and I'm so glad you raised me and taught me the Bible and that you taught me about persistance and resourcefulness, which guided my life. If I don't make it there to see you, I will see you in Heaven."

I phoned him a second time and told him how much I admired him and his love of learning, and his marriage to mother, which I felt was an ideal marriage that I used as a role model.

Lydia said...

the funeral is today in Australia (Thursday their time)

Anonymous said...

I am so very sorry about your father. I have never lost a parent and I dread the day that I do. I pray that the Lord comforts you during this very sad time. I know your Father must have been a very fine man and proud to be your dad. God Bless.

Anonymous said...

I’m sorry to hear about the passing of your father in Australia.

This note is just to say that a similar thing happened to me. My father also passed away in Australia, and I was unable to attend his funeral. Instead our pastor lent me a copy of our funeral service (it is particularly beautiful and comforting). I got up at 5 am on the day of the funeral, and began reading the service at the exact time that I knew his funeral to be. I then went back to sleep in a state of deep peace.

Later I heard that there had been no time to prepare a full funeral service for him in Australia, and just 2 simple prayers where spoken at the graveside. I like to think that Dad got a more full and complete “send off” by my prayers at this time.

At least we are assured that they are well and happy in their new life in heaven.

In sympathy

Natalie in England

“In love there is no separation”

Anonymous said...

Dear Lydia,

I have just read your Post on Home Living. What a fine and touching example you have given. Too often we accept geographical distance as an excuse to minimise our response to situations in our lives. Yet love like prayer knows no boundaries and no limits.

Your gathering together was an expression of love and respect that will surely have been as pleasing to God as to the man you honoured. I am glad to be in contact with such thoughtful and God centred people.

May God bless you and your family especially this Easter.

Catherine-Marie d'Ancey in France

Alex said...

Dear Lady Lydia,
I am sure that
your little grand daughter was doing the work of the Holy Spirit when she brought the idea of a home funeral to your mind. I do hope and believe that it will have eased the pain somewhat.
Your father lived a good life, it seems and that must be a comfort too. Certainly your parents gave you a resourceful outlook on life: a priceless gift.
I will pray for you at this sad time....
With much sympathy,
Alex L~S

Amy said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful story. You and your family are in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Lydia,

My condolences to you and your lovely family concerning the loss of your precious father. Those of us who have lost a parent understand the pain, especially those who could not be there in the final hours. We could not tell them that we loved them, to thank them for all they did for us, that we loved them. I believe that God will tell them those things, and that when our time comes to go to Him, that they will be there to greet us!

Thank you for telling the beautiful story about the promptings of your granddaughter..."and a little child shall lead them."

God bless you, and know that you are in our prayers.


Shaolin said...

I'm sorry for you lose.

Usually I just read your post but not comment, but this is an occasion to reach out. Your post was beautifully written. I have tears in my eyes as I write this because of the emotion of the subject. I'm glad you had the funeral, I agree with you that it does seem to help ease some of the burden of grief.

living from glory to glory said...

Dear Sister, Your sweet daughter's insight and wisdom. So glad you listened to her. It will help a wee bit! I will continue to pray for you. I am so glad you got to phone him and say good-bye!
Blessings and God's strength, Roxy

Lydia said...

Roxy, thank you for your comment.
Alexis: that is probably true. I think mothers have to be careful not to get so practical that they fail to see the possibilities that children present. A child of that age can feel quite helpless and sad when parents turn down every suggestion they have. In this case, it turned out to be a great solution that the adults had not thought of.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lydia,
I too share your grief as I think of often during the day and find myself praying even upon waking in the night hours.

I'm so thankful your granddaughter was mindful and persistent in her efforts to follow through with her convictions. She must have sensed the comfort such services bring by the other times she experienced them. I too believe the Holy Spirit spoke through her that day.
Also that you had some family here to share your grief with.

You and your family have always been and inspiration to me. Thank you for sharing this season of your life with us. You are so gracious and kind. May the Lord bless you in every turn of life.

Mrs. J.

Elizabeth said...

Please accept my condolences. Your grand daughter is wise beyond her years. She must be such a comfort to you!

Kristina said...

I hope that God is healing your heart from the loss of your father. Thank you for your lovely story. Your blog, and has been inspiring me for many years now, and I miss hearing details of your family. Thank you, thank you.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry for your loss, Lady Lydia, and you will be in my prayers. You have meant so much to me. Because of you, my husband and I had a very meaningful 20th-anniversary party for just our immediate family at home. (We've been married for 30 years now.) If you had been asking, I would have agreed with your little one. My participation in my dad's funeral almost five years ago was amazingly comforting. May God bring you daily comfort during this time. Much love.

Christina said...

I am very sorry for your loss. May the Lord carry your grief for you when you cannot.
The post was beautiful.
Hugs and blessings.

Neo-Victorianist said...

I am so sorry Lydia, God Bless you and your family. I (and many others) are encouraged by all your stories, crafts, art, and other posts.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lady Lydia

You were and are a good daughter to your father. What a sweet ministry by your liitle grand daughter.

Thank you for this uplifting post.

I will stop as we now have a tablet computer and it's SO hard to use.

God bless you


Janie said...

Lady Lydia, So sorry for the loss of your father. My husband passed away March 8,2013 and we buried him 5 hours from where we live. Our friend who drove the hearse asked me to ride with her and it was such a sad but happy ride to be able to share that with her. My prayers are with you.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lady Lydia,

I am so very sorry for your loss! Thank you for sharing this with us. After losing my husband and then my father while still raising young children I saw that funerals are a beautiful way to honor the memory and to celebrate the life of our loved one. I think it was especially important for the children to experience, as they also give some comfort and closure.
Your little granddaughter was wise to suggest a service and I am so glad you were able to have one. May God comfort you all and carry you through this heartbreak.


Julie Perry