My father in law left me instructions on what he wanted to be done after he died. He'd already been in contact with the funeral home and set things up there, but for the last three weeks of his life, we discussed the details fairly often. You see, he'd woken from a sound sleep one night to see a man standing in his room holding a baby. He thought it was my husband and yelled at him to get out, but the person told him that it was almost time to come home. He brushed it off and went back to sleep.
When he woke, he told us that he believed it was St. Joseph with the Child Jesus. From that night on, he and I talked about what he wanted done when he passed. I was the one home with him all day, so we spent a ton of time together.
He was specific with many things. I suggested a couple of things, like a bagpiper, but was very careful to remember what he'd said for the readings, songs, and the like. I told him I really wanted to use the Patriot Guard Riders.
I'd seen them at a funeral I'd worked almost two years ago, and I'd asked for a card. I kept it in my wallet all that time. I knew that, when the time came, I wanted to have them in attendance. Even more important than what I wanted, though - my sister in law Joann, who passed in August, was the most rabid motorcycle enthusiast I've ever met, and she rubbed off on me. When I went to Harley Davidson camp, it became a daily topic of conversation between us - and I knew that, by using the PGR, I'd be able to feel like I'd had Joann in attendance, even though she wasn't there physically.
From the PGR website:
Our main mission is to attend the funeral services of fallen American heroes as invited guests of the family. Each mission we undertake has two basic objectives:
1. Show our sincere respect for our fallen heroes, their families, and their communities.
2. Shield the mourning family and their friends from interruptions created by any protestor or group of protestors.
We accomplish the latter through strictly legal and non-violent means.
The PGR were started as a shield against the Westboro Church protestors. Their mission is equal parts amazing and awe inspiring, and I knew I wanted them. They come to funerals of veterans, riding motorcyles and carrying flags. A big bunch of rough and tumble, burly, bearded, intimidating as hell biker men and women (not bearded women, though), on loud motorcycles, dressed in leathers and covered in patches and pins, all in honor of our fallen Heroes -
It was simply breathtaking. My father in law was a veteran of WWII, flying 50 bombing missions in the European theater. I wanted to honor his service, and even though he didn't like a fuss made over him, I think he would have loved this.
As the funeral home wheeled the casket out, the PGR stood in lines of respect. They then mounted up and escorted us to the church.
It's blurry, but we were moving - and no, I didn't snap this picture while driving. My kiddo took it.
At the church, the riders lined up outside, and they stood in attendance for the ceremony. At the end, they saluted as my father in law left the church for the last time.
Pop didn't want to be buried here, but at a monastery up north, so there was a transport issue. He was going to return to the funeral home and be transported the next day, and the PGR ride captain asked if I wanted him to be escorted to the airport. I didn't want to bother anyone, but he encouraged me, saying that it would be their honor to do so. When today came, it was pouring rain, and I had my doubts - but when I got to the funeral home, he was there and ready - and I rode with him. In the pouring rain. Wearing my Harley gear from camp and my beloved sister in law's helmet.
I like to think Jo-Jo would have been happy that I wore her lid. It was a perfect melding of all that has happened, and I loved every single minute of that ride. I was soaked, cold and exhilarated. It was, in other words, simply amazing, and I am grateful beyond belief to Rich, the Ride captain, and the entire PGR for the experience.
I wanted to get a picture while on the bike, but he moved faster than I could. Trust me - I did ride.
At the end of the ride, Rich presented me with a plaque for the family. I almost lost it again - I swear, I've never cried so much in my life as I have this past 2 weeks.
Rest in Peace, Pop. Job well done.