My Pap had been sick. His doctors were doing everything they could to fix him, but we all knew the situation was not a good one. This phone call from my tearful mother was that my Pap, her daddy, has passed away.
Over the years I have learned that the closer you are to someone, the more of a blur their funeral and the days leading up to it are. My memories of the funeral home are mashed together with the days at the funeral home when my own dad passed away. Both were sad events where I had to try and make conversation with family I hardly knew. But being the oldest of the cousins, much of my job was making sure the younger ones stayed out of the way.
My Pap's funeral itself is also a blur. I'm sure it was a beautiful ceremony, but I was hypnotized by the beauty of the images that surrounded me. The floor to ceiling gold wall behind the towering cross that hung above the altar. The ornate stained glass windows full of blues, golds, and greens. The round window above the main entrance was my favorite. It was full of more reds than the others. Even though the sun was not shining that day, they still glowed. From an early age, I always gazed at that window with a picture of the Rose Window from Notre Dame in my head. Many years later, seeing the Rose Window in person brought me back to that day early in March of 1998.
Leaving the church we proceeded to the cemetery. A cemetery I had also spent many days wondering through, reading tomb stones. Wondering what their stories were. My Pap's site was in the lower half of the cemetery, the original part that was over a hundred years old. His final resting place was towards the bottom of the hill.
Walking to my Pap's site I remember wishing for an umbrella. The sky was full of gray and gloomy clouds. A light rain was falling, almost as if the sky was crying with us. As the priest read his final prayer, the sun began to shine through a small opening in the clouds. The circle on the ground from the shining sun was soon full of small, brown birds. No one paid any mind to the sun or the birds. But me? They brought one of the biggest smiles to my young freckled face.
As a young girl I remember watching the birds at the bird feeder with my Pap through his kitchen window. We would pull out the bird books and try to figure out what each bird was.
This moment, while brief, was welcoming. Not only to me, but I think for my Pap.
I do not know if there is a God. This is a belief I struggle with. There have been many times in my life where I have wondered why a loving god would let such horrible things happen. There are also things I have seen that make me think there is a god. This day was one of those days. It very well may have been a coincidence, but I believe that the skies had opened up that gloomy day and sent the birds my Pap loved to show him the road to his next destination.
I miss my Pap each and every day, especially now that I have my own children. I'm sure he would have taken them out for ice cream as he did with me. He probably would have bought them another cone when they dropped the first one on the sidewalk, as I always did. When I reflect on that tear filled time of my life, I soon smile because the sun and the birds come rushing back to me.