Witness: Marsha Smith Durkin
Location: Austin, Texas and Lake Bluff, Illinois
Date of Encounter: January 2007
My father passed away after a year long struggle with a stroke, open-heart surgery, a second stroke on the operating table, ICU, a long hospital stay, and eventually a nursing home stay. During this time my mother faithfully visited my father daily (they had been married 61 years). My father was 89 and my mother was 82, they both were still living at home and doing well previous to my father's stroke. My father was quite the jokester in his day, sometimes which was unappreciated by his little girl (me), but my mother got a big kick out of it. I was living in Illinois when my father passed away and it took me several days to get to Texas for the visitation and funeral as the road to the airport was frozen (in Texas) and no one could get there to pick me up, so I waited until the road to the San Antonio Airport was driveable again. It took a few days, and everyone waited on me.
In the meantime my father's body was taken to the funeral home. The funeral home director asked my mother to bring his Masonic apron to lay across his waist during the visitation and burial because he was a Mason for many, many years. My mother went to my father's dresser and retrieved the apron in the corner of the second dresser draw where it had laid for many years. My mother took it to the funeral home and left it with the director. When she got home she got a phone call from the funeral director telling her that ummm, this was an apron with "girlie" pictures on it, not a Masonic apron. My mother burst out laughing amidst her tears. Apparently my father had laid this apron on top of his Masonic apron just for this occasion and my mother totally understood this and said, "Yes, that is your father's sense of humor, he knew I would take that to the funeral home."
I was surprised, I had forgotten my father's sense of humor as I had been gone from home for such a long time busy with my own family and extended family up north in Illinois. I regretfully did not get home to my parents house as much as I should have. Well, my father was buried in Sam Houston Cemetery at San Antonio Air Force Base as he had been a pilot in the Korean War. His funeral was beautiful and I had forgotten how they shoot off the rifles at a military funeral — they are very, very loud, and the noise pierces through your whole body. My mother jerked at every shot as so did I. She was given the flag that lay across his casket. I remember how she looked so small and so sullen as I held tight onto her arm, my brother doing the same on the other side.
After the funeral, the family gathering, a few days to make sure my mother was okay, I flew back to Illinois. I arrived in the early evening. When I went to bed that evening I slept very heavy "like a log," my father would say, only to become suddenly and abruptly awoken by a rifle blast loudly above my head. I did not touch the ground, I think I was almost airborne. I stood in the middle of my bedroom almost deaf exclaiming out loud, "Dad that is not funny!" As I know he would have thought that was hilarious! I will never forget how loud that blast was and I know it was him, and Dad, it wasn't funny!