Today was my grandpa's birthday. It's also the anniversary of the week he collapsed, which ultimately led to his death earlier this year.
We took his ashes to the Florida National Cemetery today. I don't fully know why it wasn't done earlier. I guess it just wasn't time.
I don't know what I expected. It's been nearly a year since his passing and we certainly mourned him. But family gatherings (there are many) have begun to feel normal again. I still get a little emotional from time to time when something reminds me of him. Sometimes it's a wistful smile and sometimes it's a tear.
I don't want to say I thought I was "over it" or anything unfeeling as that. I just feel like I've come to terms with his absence.
So much so that I didn't really prepare my children (or myself) for what today would bring.
My grandpa, like most of your grandpas, was a veteran. He was honored with ceremony and a flag was presented to my grandma. The flag ceremony was so moving. So, so moving. From a distance, far behind us, taps rang out in the misty, cloudy afternoon. My grandpa's brother, a retired minister, spoke some words of Scripture and led us in prayers and a hymn.
Emma wept with abandon and so did I. I couldn't even choke out the first verse of "Abide With Me." My grandma was less the stoic matriarch and more the sunken, bereaved widow than I have ever seen her.
We drove out, past the crisp, neat rows of white headstones and the rain began to fall in earnest. My little nephew slept on, unaware.
We all stopped and shared a bolstering meal.
And I baked a cake - a birthday cake.
When there is a birthday in our family, we all gather for cake and an awful rendition of "Happy Birthday." Many of us are musicians and most of us sing rather well, but there is something fun in singing wildly off-key as a group. My grandpa loved this tradition. He would laugh and laugh, joining in with his own recognizable baritone.
So we sang and ate cake and celebrated his birthday one last time as we said our last goodbyes. Why now? Why so late? I guess it was finally the right time.