In a surprise turn of events, Kika actually invited Steve and me to attend mass for Ash Wednesday.
So Steve, Kika and I went. (Gabi is in Jamaica on a Mission trip with her school.)
After mass--Steve and I met up with our friends at Cappy's, a bar near our house.
Before we left though, Steve wiped his ashes off.
He is shy like that.
I on the other hand, actually fixed my ashes so it would be a nicely symmetrical cross on my forehead.
Someone actually commented on how perfect it was.
Sheepishly, I admitted that I retouched it.
May God make your year a happy one!
Not by shielding you from all sorrows and pain,
But by strengthening you to bear it, as it comes;
Not by making your path easy,
But by making you sturdy to travel any path;
Not by taking hardships from you,
But by taking fear from your heart;
Not by granting you unbroken sunshine,
But by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows.
Steve is bow hunting this weekend but surprised me by driving 90 miles just to watch me run. I was in the middle of taking a lotus meditation photo before leaving for the race when he arrived. This is how the moment of his surprise was captured.
But the highlight of my father-in-law's burial was the miracle of Jamie.
Our nephew Jamie has autism.
He has an incredible memory.
He remembers faces, names, streets and maps.
He can tell you when a Disney movie was released. When he was three he could identify every car he saw.
Well now Jamie is twelve years old.
His autism is noticeable because he has certain impulses that can attract attention.
He utters words like "cutie" or "stupid" or a hybrid of both when he meets people.
Then he bursts out in laughter.
Sometimes he has the urge to topple over chairs, or fling things.
Because of his condition, he was the only grandson that was unable to be a pall bearer.
I think he gets an idea in his head of how something should look.
So, he closes things that are ajar or opens things that are shut.
Needless to say, I was nervous about how Jamie would react when he saw his grandfather laid out in a casket.
Jamie's parents are very admirable.
They calmly manage their son with consistency, patience, and good old screen time. (Jamie loves his Ipad)
It is clear that they prepared their son extremely well for what to expect because Jamie (and his two younger siblings) were composed throughout both days of the viewing.
The funeral mass though, I thought would pose a different challenge.
Due to the assigned order of processing into church, Jamie became separated from both his mom and his dad.
He somehow ended up in a pew in between Gabi and me.
When I saw what had happened, I felt an internal panic.
I did not know how to "manage" him.
I feared a scene or an outburst of some sort.
I think I uttered a "Oh Lord" under my breath--but I don't think I was praying.
The mass was beautifully concelebrated by two priests that knew my father-in-law.
I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Jamie was sitting without fidgeting.
I thought, it was odd and so I wondered if he had his Ipad. I saw that he was empty handed.
I quickly looked away for fear of jinxing the serenity.
I closed my eyes and this time said a prayer of thanks and urged God to keep doing whatever it was He was doing.
The liturgical service was not short, yet through it all, Jamie remained still and appropriately responsive.
In all my years of knowing Jamie, I had never heard him respond properly nor sit quietly for church.
At the end of the mass, everyone processed out in the same order, and I was expecting Jamie to break lose to try to join either his mom or dad.
He did not.
He walked out solemnly in between Gabi and me with his arms linked through ours, escorting us.
At the grave site, the Honor guard was waiting motionless.
With very sharp, crisp and precise movements,
they carried my father-in-law's casket draped in the flag of the United States.
They performed a march and a salute.
I was absolutely mesmerized by the flag folding.
It was a sight to behold.
The playing of Taps and the three volley salute took the sting out of having to say good bye to a great man.
The folded flag and three shell casings, for Duty, Honor and Country--were presented to my mother-in-law with a steadfast and unflinching gaze.
You had to be there.
It was one of the most solemn and beautiful ceremonies I have ever witnessed in my life.
And, through it all--yes even with the succession of shots fired--Jamie too, remained steadfast and unflinching.
A burial with full military honors is a perfect send off.
And so is Jamie.
Despite how "wild" and locked into his own world Jamie usually is, (and was right after we left the cemetery) I can see how he is thriving because of his parents' love.
There are two things that I am sure happened during my father-in-law's funeral last March 13th.
The first is, I know without a doubt that a Jamie miracle happened, and the second is,
I know that he made his Papa proud.