Wednesday, November 04, 2009

There and back in Lithuania

A Quick Visit with Many People and a Funeral

I have had so many wonderful visits with so many friends and family this time home.  It is hard to believe that it's time to return to Lithuania already.   For one thing, a funeral provides an opportunity to reconnect with all the family in a short space of time.  However, the intensity of the occasion makes for interactions that are sometimes bumpy and communications fraught with misunderstanding by people who are under stress and exhausted.  Our family was no exception.  It did not help, of course, that I arrived, after 3 days of non-stop planning, packing, and travel with  final decisions on the music still to be made.  But Jeanette, a close family friend sang "The Lord's Prayer" and "The Holy City" so powerfully and expressively, not to mention musically, that there was the sound of applause as she finished.  My sisters and their husbands exhibited all grace and willingness to let me have a voice in what was going to happen despite their own exhaustion and the pre-planning they had already done.  I have an amazing family in so many ways.

When I arrived, we had one main goal--getting the visitation and the service properly organized.  It seemed that the biggest job would be the ordering and selection of pictures for a slide show.  Thank goodness the family had decided ahead of time not to deal with the thousands of slides Papa had taken over the course of his life and work.  I cannot decide whether it was a love of photography or a desire for documentation and historical record.  Still, there were plenty of pictures and my brother-in-law and his daughter Shannon made a slide show after we had spent two separate times selecting pictures for scanning.  It seemed to me to be a good combination of serious, funny, and personal combined with the background of a song called "Thank You." 

The funeral was well-attended despite the fact that Mum and Papa had moved a number of years ago from their family homes in Oregon and Washington state where they had returned before moving to Nebraska to be with their daughters and grandchildren.  The flowers were beautiful.  Mother, my sisters, Shannon and I had gone to the florist's shop to order the flowers for the casket, a basket from the great-grandchildren, and a corsage for Mum.  I think it turned out fairly well, in fall colors, despite the fact that the wheat cross we had included was not clearly evident.  My nephew, Kelly, read scripture and the obituary.  My sisters and I each told of a few memories and the eldest grandchildren from both sisters' families included stories of their own. There was also a video sent by the head of Jamaican churches.  The last speaker was Greg, my minister-brother-in-law.  To say that Papa was a complex character is probably some kind of understatement.  Greg's words were filled with grace, integrity and honor.  When you have a complicated man, a man with so many sides to his personality and character, the challenge of putting a service together that will meet the expectations of all present is a big one.  As much as it is possible to do, this funeral tried to do that, with contributions from people who knew him personally and in very specific ways.

We returned from the graveside for the traditional dinner at the church with family and friends.  As is usually the case at these events, the food was delicious and plentiful.  Then we all moved to my sister and brother-in-law's house, Kathleen and Greg's, where we continued to visit until it was time to leave.  A cousin I had not seen in a very long time, the only Henderson family representative, took me to  dinner in Grand Island on his way back to the Omaha airport.  We had a wonderful visit as we'd attended the same university in our undergraduate days.  It was a great close to a good day.



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