Dad, the cemetery, & me

Yesterday was the 2 month anniversary of Mom's promotion to Heaven. How strange to me that she's not here. Sometimes it feels a little like she's simply gone on a long trip. But, then I go to her house. And it's full of her - her magnolias, coke memorabilia, books and lady heads. Yet, her body is not there. Her smile and laughter are only on the walls (and in our hearts). It's strange for the house to be the same, yet so different. So much quieter! We all know how Mom loved to talk.

I got to spend the day with Dad yesterday. After eating lunch outside at an Italian cafe in downtown El Cajon, we went to the grave site. Last time we were there the family was sitting around her beautiful red casket, quiet and sad. Yesterday Dad and I sat in the memorial park's office and designed the headstone. 

The cemetery had suggested that we wait to choose it. They said it's common to pick it a while after the person has passed. In fact, some Jewish families do an unveiling of the headstone a year later, gathering together again as a family, officially finishing their year of mourning. 

It is strange to pick a headstone. Many of you already know this. But, it was a first for me. Since we had purchased a double plot, we had to decide if we wanted Dad's info on there now, or wanted to wait until later. Some people don't want to see their name on a grace marker while they're still alive! Or, perhaps their children don't want to see their living parent's name on it as they're still grieving the other parent. What a crazy choice to have to make! 

Well, thankfully Dad is practical and unemotional about such things. In typical Gene fashion, he went ahead and paid for everything, so that when it's time, it won't cost us a penny to finish off the headstone. All we have to do is tell them the year of his death when it happens (and since he has a mom who's 102, we probably have a while!). 

There is the option to put a phrase or word about the person on a grave marker. Dad had already decided what should go under Mom's name: Peggy Leslie 1940-2016 Woman of Joy. This was clearly the perfect choice. But, what to put under Dad's? I suggested I would talk to the siblings about a good phrase. But, Dad had an idea: Charles Leslie 1938- ____ Man of Integrity. Of course. The ideal phrase for my dad. And, even more appropriate that he could choose that title for himself. That's TRUE integrity!

After we were done designing it (and it looks lovely!) we went to find the spot in the ground where the bones are. Well, that was funny...we couldn't agree on the spot! Since there was no headstone there, we weren't totally sure where she was. After traipsing back and forth for a while, we finally laughed and agreed it didn't really matter. She wasn't really there anyway. Then, my sweet, strong Daddy put his arm around me tight and prayed to our God. He thanked God for Mom and for the life she lived and impact she had on us. He thanked God that she was out of pain and now in perfect Joy. 

As we walked back to the car I asked Dad if things are harder or easier now, 2 months later. He said, "Well, it's never really been hard, Kate. I get a little emotional and teary once in a while. But, I'm just so glad that she's out of pain." And then, the incredible character of Peggy Leslie came forward again when he said, "She never complained once. Except that she wanted to have more energy." 

What a life. A woman of Joy. And what a partner she had. A man of Integrity. All I can do is shake my head and thank my God for such parents. 

2 months out of pain. 2 months with her Savior. 2 months in the fullness of Joy!


Kate Hagen