Great Papa's Last Wishes: Part II
My hypothesis is this:
The word should, should only be used in a question format, in a case of emergency. That way, people will believe you when you find yourself shouting at them to do something or think something or feel something or be something, they trust that you are using the word should to save their life. It’s a selfless gesture to tell someone they should change their behavior. It’s kind of like bearing witness, though. Initiation. When you care enough to take the risk of offense to convey something important to another. Or, when someone who hasn’t told you what to do your whole life, tells you what to do.
I'm going to my most vulnerable personal story with this as an invitation for readers to consider doing the same.
I left home when I was 18 never to return to the family nest. School, work, marriage, kids, work, divorce, kids, work, etc. etc. etc. During my childhood and my adulthood, my father never directed shoulds at me. And so if there is one person I could hear over the years, it has been my father. He didn't always say a lot and he never wanted to be the first to speak. He was never the last to speak, even at the end.
Throughout my whole life, though, we always played question games. First it was "21 Questions," then it was "trivia" and then it was "Swan Boating" and eventually it was the "drawing game." Even nine days ago, he asked me from his pain-relieved state of mind, "notice anything different?" I did notice he had had a nice shave. Yet, I guessed a couple funny things first like, "you've decided to join an Olympic bobsled team." He was too weak to laugh but did smile. I also guessed some other things that were pretty funny but troublemaking. It was nice to smile with him as I stroked his trimmed beard.
That simple joy, even then, will be Dad's legacy. However, I speak for myself in how I underestimated him. Dad was humble and unobtrusive. I didn't think my Dad would have any special wishes, but he did. The first time he stated them we were sharing a glass a wine. I wrote them down for him and put them away. I wondered what part they would play. It was no where near time so I forgot about them those last wishes.
Three weeks ago, as I and my children greeted him as he lay napping, he reiterated everything he had told me years before. He told me and my children his last wishes. I was the person he designated as the spiritual celebrate for when "the time comes." Other family members would have other last special tasks.
We tried to honor them all.
"Do not say 'he died surrounded by his loving family.' I hate that. It's braggy. Even though I AM surrounded by my" [cough] [more coughing] "by my family. Well, mostly. Just put what I wrote. Nothing fancy."
"Do not do high religious ritual. Use your judgement. Make it something the great-grandchildren will like."
"I like Tales of the Wayside Inn, by Longfellow."
"My Two Favorite Songs are 'Moonlight Cocktail' and 'Memories of You.' The Rosemary Clooney one."
"No Calling Hours. Just family. Do it quick."
So we did all that, but it took a little time to understand why.