We had a memorial for my dad today at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Winston-Salem. A car from Salem Funerals came for Mom, Webb and me at about 1:30, and we rode down Reynolda Road and up the hill to the church.
As we pulled up, I saw a clutch of my closest friends at the entrance. Another was walking toward us from the parking lot. Neighbors of my parents were crossing Summit Avenue. The weather was unseasonable and balmy, much to my mother's delight.
The church provided ushers who got Mom to the front pew. My wife and kids and I worked our way up there as well, with a few breaks to greet some of my parents' close friends.
Dad's urn was in a carved wooden stand with a candle in front of it; I'm sure the Episcopalian Church has a specific name for this object, but I don't know what it is. The choir lofts where I spent many years as a boy soprano, then alto, were on either side, and the organist could be glimpsed in the mirror above the pipe organ.
The communion candles were lit. When I was an acolyte, they were the hardest to get lit and keep lit since they were on very tall candlesticks for very small boys.
The Reverend Thomas Murray was the officiant, and he performed the Burial of the Dead, Rite One. It's the rite that has more thee's and thou's in it, which I thought my father might've appreciated: he was not very happy when the Episcopal Church changed its liturgy in 1979 to the more modern style of English it adopted. Rite One is also the shorter of the two, which I though my mother might appreciate today.
Tom quoted from my blog in his remarks, having never known my father but wanting to be as empathetic as he could be. I think he did a great job.
He told us that the early cartographers put sea serpents and dragons on maps in places where explorers hadn't ventured because it represented the fear of what was not known. (I'd actually thought to bring one of the serpent-illuminated certificates of my father's, commemorating his crossing the International Date Line on the LST but thought better of it because of the curvaceous mermaids at the bottom.)
Tom reminded us also that death presents a frightening unknown. I don't know if Dad was scared at the end. There certainly must have seemed like there was some relief in the offing for him. His faith, a long relationship with the Episcopal Church, hopefully gave him hope for whatever peaceful afterlife he imagined for himself.
We sang "Amazing Grace" and an Easter hymn. Tom brought communion down to Mom in her pew, then we went up to the altar without her.
This is the church where I got my religious instruction. I knelt now at the altar I knelt at every Sunday growing up, usually next to my father. He'd seen me sing anthems as a soloist, play guitar in 'folk mass', get confirmed and assist in the services there.
It is a beautiful and gothic church, in my opinion, with enormous stained glass windows surrounding the sanctuary and lots of light stone and dark wood. I sat in those pews for many years, listening to the sonorous voice of the Reverend E. Dudley Colhoun, among the sweetest of the new Southern accents surrounding the transplanted Holsapple family. Again I find myself wondering, what was my father thinking and hearing when we both sat listening to Reverend Colhoun?
We sang "Oh God, our help in ages past" and followed the acolyte and Tom Murray to the back of the nave. It felt like a good send-off for Dad, what he'd requested.
After the service, I helped Mom down the ramp and the hall to the new Colhoun Room on the enormous addition St. Paul's built a few years ago. The room is huge, with windows that look out toward R. J. Reynolds High School, where I and my friends in attendance today had been students. Mom sat and received mourners. I went to try to get her lemonade, but it appeared there was only iced tea (there was lemonade but it was disguised to look like a coffee pot, which I discovered when I went to get coffee).
My four-year-old was happy that the room was so huge; he ran around, periodically colliding with me at just the least comfortable junction. He chewed Juicy Fruit and caromed around between his mother, me and whoever I told him to run to.
I proudly introduced my family to my friends and my parents' friends. We ate Krispy Kremes that one of my dearest friends brought. People I hadn't seen in thirty-plus years hugged me and told me they were sorry about my dad. I watched my wife and my high school girlfriend (who has been my parents' friendly loving face when they get admitted to Forsyth Medical Center) chatting with each other. The lady who sold my parents the Colhouns' old house on Knollwood Street when we moved to Winston in 1962 was there. I got to meet one of my father's shipmates from the LST-560 who just happens to live in Durham. We stayed about an hour and change, then I looked over at my mother and thought it best to go.
We said our goodbyes, collected the framed photos of Dad that I'd brought and also the guest register and headed toward the car. People told us how well-behaved our children were at the service, and we smiled and thanked them. Mom rode in the front seat again, and Webb and I rode in the very back, rolling our power windows up and down and laughing.
Thank you to everyone who has expressed their condolences to my family. We sincerely appreciate all the love coming our direction, and you're right, Dad was a wonderful man, the type we're not likely to see again soon.