A week and a day after my father’s funeral…

DJ MacLeod, June 2014

Duncan James MacLeod (1925-2015), on his 88th Birthday, in June 2014

It feels unfair to my three or so loyal readers to explain only at this late date that an increasing portion of my distraction these last few months, and especially since my previous post of January 17, can be attributed to the failing health of my father, Duncan James MacLeod, who passed away a little more than two weeks ago. He had experienced congestive heart failure in December, and on March 12th had been taken to an emergency room by ambulance after an initial complaint of unbearable abdominal pain, which had seemed to be merely a flare-up of another, less dangerous condition.

As I continue to re-consider in what form to continue this site or its mission, assuming I can figure out well or practically enough what that mission might be, I’ll also post some personal reflections, including my eulogy for my father, but before anyone apologizes for expressing impatience at my lack of productivity or overdoes any condolences, please understand that in my family, especially on my father’s side, we are encouraged to celebrate the life that has passed into eternal life, and otherwise to get on with our own lives in good humor. The idea is not, at least as I have observed and experienced it, a strict refusal of mourning as some inhumane test of Christian faith, but a gentle refusal of excessive mourning. Otherwise, I’m the one who ought to apologize, if anyone should, for not having shared enough of my personal life to make myself comprehensible to my internet friends and other readers, on this matter as perhaps on others.

I’ll have more to say about that all later, either here or at my father’s site or both, but for now I’ll just post the selection of recordings we played for a rather captive audience, after the bagpiper was done, before the eulogies (there is a good explanation for the roughness of the first selection):

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/playlists/94949211″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”600″ iframe=”true” /]

As I sat at the front of the Church of the Open Bible, not far from one of the two excellent self-powered speakers we had rented (and had gotten working only at the last moment!), I as usual found Dad’s operatic performances most transportive. They were recorded near the peak of his vocal development, before the illness and other disasters that ended his grand operatic career around the time I was born. Sometime during “Eri Tu,” probably the first part, I stopped worrying about how anyone else was hearing it all, and simply gave into the depths of my father’s voice, played back as I think he had always wanted people to hear it, or as close as possible for us, before a reasonably large audience of family and friends. My uncle Ross’s daughter Lori, who was seated in the row behind me, must have seen me close my eyes, and have thought I was breaking down emotionally, all alone. She reached out to me to offer support. Though I did not feel in need of it at that moment, I was and remain grateful for the kind gesture.


Postcard from the collection of the Indiana State Library

I think, however, that the single song I found most personally moving was “The Prayer Perfect,” number 7 on the Soundcloud playlist, a musical setting by Oley Speaks of a poem by James Whitcomb Riley, since Dad’s rendition of it came across to me as his message to all of us – the same one he had been delivering throughout the entirety of his final stay at the hospital. I have since learned that the song is often requested for funerals. I frequently find myself singing it to myself, or playing it back mentally, not always able to tell the difference, as if my voice and my father’s voice could merge, not in a duet, something we never tried, but as simply one voice.

16 comments on “A week and a day after my father’s funeral…

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  1. My condolences, CK. My own father died two years ago. He also was a veteran of the Second World War and I remember how often he wore his WW2 Vet cap.

    I’ve missed your blog. I’d like a second chance to have a temperate exchange with you. I hope you’ll carry on and give me that chance.

  2. Colin, I am sorry for your loss.  This post carries on the family tradition you describe for mourning quite well.

    And a good tradition it is.

    Indeed, the prayer you print is as perfect as a prayer could be.


  3. I’m so sorry. I assumed this was the reason for your quietude. I lost both of my parents in the last ten years and have gotten to know them better through the boxes of letters, photos and yearly calendars my mother kept since their courtship and wedding during WWII. A family never ends. But you know that.

      • No, not yet. I told my mom I’d like to do this but I had no idea how much stuff someone who never seemed the slightest bit sentimental could accumulate. The boxes fill an entire room. My father had a 30 year Navy career so there are many, many letters and mementos. So many hopes and dreams–some realized but mostly not. It’s very strange reading them knowing how things turned out, as you may imagine. I feel too close to it at times and have asked my daughter to organize everything chronologically; maybe type up the contents of the notes and letters, backs of photos, etc., in order to give each of my seven siblings a copy in book form. It will be a labor of love but also a family quest for identity. A strange journey.

        • Wondering why none of those seven siblings and associated broods if any aren’t volunteering…

          …though among my cousins there are already a few would-be historians, and organizing them has been a challenge. I’m still hoping to begin to facilitate the process on-line – maybe create a model for a “family archive site” in the process, including a “how to deal with your family’s technophobia and pre-internet habits and assumptions” piece.

          • We’re spread out all over the Eastern Seaboard, each of us having settled, interestingly–and only just now realizing it–closest to where we were born. Plus, they are all either not especially interested or technophobes or both. A private website is a great idea.

            • doesn’t have to be “private” – everybody should be completely fascinated with one’s family, just like everybody should be forever fascinated with one’s vacation photos. Well, anyway, there’s no reason to prevent strangers from accessing, say, the WW2 material: There are historians and archivists with unlimited appetites. There’s also a VA-sponsored or -affililated (I think it was VA) documentation project.

              • I’m a bit wary of strangers with insatiable appetites but maybe I could turn over what we’ve got to this VA project and they can figure out what to do with it. Thank you, CK. This is a revelation.

                • I’ll see if I can dig up the addresses and forms. Was a few years ago that Dad and I were discussing it. We were going to do a video interview to contribute to the archives, but it turned into another good idea never realized.

                  • You just reminded me that my dad was interviewed by some Hospice people. Wondering now if that’s the source of a little tape I found in one of his boxes. I’ll have to take it to Radio Shack and see if they’ve got a player for it.

    • Thank you. To answer your question: Europe – 3rd Army, 65th Infantry Division. He had expected to be sent along with some of his brothers to die in the invasion of Japan, and always thanked the Manhattan Project for saving him.

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