Today it has been one year since my father passed away as Mom and we children kept vigil by his side. We had suffered with him through Alzheimer’s for several years. I was very grateful that right up to when he lost consciousness—or I should say the ability actively to interact with us, which was about a day before he died—Dad always recognized me. Never a hesitation. No matter how his day was going, how confused he might have been, when I walked through the door, “Hi John.” Followed by a pucker to give me a kiss.
Now I have the rest of my life on this earth to hold him in memory; though not in my hands. There are many things I’ll fondly remember—too many to mention, or count. I’m especially grateful that I can still hear his voice. Saying my name.
It is remarkable how a parent remains with us in ways hard to put a finger on. I sense my father’s presence in how I think, feel, and act. His phrases on my lips; his world-view in my eyes. Not all the memories are bright—to say otherwise would be untrue. But the not-so-good are softened, and even suffused with the good.
Just a few weeks ago we celebrated my first birthday since Dad’s death. Mom wrote to me in a birthday card that she knows how happy Dad was when I was born. I wish I could remember that for myself.
But maybe I can. Perhaps we recall, or in some sense retain, more than we think we recall from our early life. They say that those born with the umbilical cord around their neck have a fear of being strangled. If so, then it seems that things can indeed ‘come through’ from very early in life, can be held in a sort of sub-conscious memory. And surely this means the good things too. Especially the good things.
I know that my father held me, just as in the photo above he is holding my second son. Neither I nor Raphael have, or ever will have, a conscious memory of being cradled in his arms. But neither one of us, I am convinced, would be the same, had he not.
Photo: Christie N. Cuddeback (December 21, 1933-September 16, 2013) holding Raphael Christie Cuddeback, the day after birth. We miss you, Grandpa; and we’ll be holding you, in our hearts, until the day we hold each other again.
Here is the eulogy that I gave, and posted, a year ago.
Here is an article I posted at Front Porch Republic reflecting on how we buried my father.
Here is a gallery of photos of the funeral and burial, courtesy of Spiering Photography.