Friday, September 23, 2016


My father's memorial service was last Sunday. It was a lovely event. My mother told the story of his life, weaving in all the people attending. A cousin remembered my father as someone who was able to seriously listen to children, a rare skill. An old friend recounted some of their childhood exploits.

I struggled with what to say. My dad and I had a challenging relationship. We came to peace with one another before he died, something I will be eternally grateful for, but it's still not easy for me to talk about him and how we interacted, who we were with one another. I don't know if it ever will be. Much of it still feels too raw and too private.

A memorial service is not the place to pull out recrimination. We need to remember the dead honestly but gently, especially at memorials. Our survival gives us a chance to remember that no one is perfect and forgiveness makes life easier for the living. I know not all of you will agree with me and that's fine. Perhaps I should say that I need to remember my father honestly and gently, and was not willing to roll anything else out at his memorial.

I wrote earlier about all of this and I did what I planned. I acknowledged the complexity, saying something to the effect of all lives are complicated, all relationships are complicated, but here and now, let me share with you some of the shimmering memories I have of my father.

It was the right call.

I talked about being a child and listening to him tell me the stories he heard as boy on the radio. I may have been the only five year old in 1970s Philadelphia doing imitations of The Shadow. I talked about the stories he made up for me. I talked about watching the night sky with him, with all of the night noises surrounding us, and the constellations watching us back. I talked about how he was able to fix things, solve things, make things better. It was the right call. I felt better by remembering him at his best and I hope it was meaningful to everyone there.

At the end I invited everyone to take a moment and bring their own shimmering memory to mind, whether of my father or of someone else they love who is gone.

In the end, that's what we come down to. We are shimmering memories. We live as long as we are still a glimmer in the ether, a moment that bring a pause in the day. There are plenty of harsh memories but the sweetness is there too. By remembering it all, letting it illuminate us as we will eventually illuminate others, the world continues. The constellations still watch. The stories remain in the air. We still shimmer.

(c)2016 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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