I realize what I'm about to write might startle some folks, but I've always known I wanted to actively participate in burying my parents. Additionally, I've contemplated what I wanted for them to take along into the world of spirit, into the Heavens. So, when the time came to say good-bye to Papa, my sister, Samuel, and Eliza and I included a few things that he would want to take along as he journeys into light and eternal love.
In his suit pocket, we placed a grouse and crow feather along with a snip of our hair. Mom allowed us to include a piece of her hair as well. In Native American tradition, women cut their hair short at the loss of a loved one and many times buried the locks with the deceased as a sign of eternal companionship.
Since Papa was an avid grouse and crow hunter in his younger days, it is most appropriate that those feathers travel with him in the spirit realm. Daddy always talked about the intelligence of those two birds; his respect for them were enormous, even if the crows did eat the corn kernals he planted and the grouse got away from him more than not.
In one of his suit pockets, Papa carries a small figurine of an English setter, his favorite dog in all the world. I've spent hours with him as he trained his beloved Bowse and Jane to do exactly what he needed them to do as he hunted for doves and grouse. In the other, he carries a carved wooden squirrel. Part of his morning ritual for the past couple of decades has been to throw some peanuts out on the back porch to the squirrels he had virtually tamed. As word spread in the animal kingdom around the neighborhood, crows and ravens became morning visitors as well. I would suppose Papa spent quite a chunk of change on food for his friends. He always worried that the neighbor's cats were going to catch one of them.
Myra, my sister, placed a cross-stitch piece she made for Daddy in the casket. I don't remember exactly what it said, but it honored him as a great father.
When the time came to close his casket, Myra and I left lipstick kisses on the top of his head and gently closed the lid. Later, after the service at this graveside, everyone left, and Samuel and I, along with the Townsend boys, Homer and Hubert, (how's that for some good mountain names), my cousins, Phil and Rob, shoveled the dirt on top of his coffin. Myra, my sister, and Eliza, assisted a bit too.
It gave me great peace to be able to bury my father. I've been with Daddy on more than one occasion when we buried a pet or an animal he found, and those experiences always were special ones that we shared together. I know he would be proud that all of us participated in returning him to the Earth.
I haven't cleaned the dirt from his grave off my shoes yet....I probably won't. It'll clean itself off with time.