Thursday afternoon I went to the local vegetable market (DAC) to get brown rice and veggies that I was going to cook Friday at the Diabetes Clinic. I was successful finding all I needed and on the way out I saw the orange flowered plant used on alters at this time of year honoring the dead. So I bought this one (photo above) and came home to begin constructing my shrine for my father. There are round beach stones gathered from his favorite place on the Oregon coast (where his grandfather homesteaded land), a little black plastic dog like our Inky that we had as kids, a family photo of him with kids, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, a mahjong board, and center top the photo below of him saluting us with his tongue out. More will be added as the week goes on: his favorite foods (things with gluten which he was allergic to), tools (he was an engineer), more photos, etc.
I was lucky to spend the last month of his life with him this summer either in hospitals or nursing homes. One insightful nurse realized that he was inhaling food when he ate, which caused re-occurring pneumonia, so brought a speech therapist to help strengthen his swallowing reflex. One exercise was sticking his tongue out as far as possible and holding it there for 15 seconds. My sister and I would, several times a day, stand at the foot of his bed and stick our tongues out at him. The response was always a huge grin and the gesture was returned. It soon became the salute for any new person who entered his room. These were the final joyous motions I saw from him and are wonderful to remember.
Jim and returned to Oregon at the end of August for his memorial service. He had declared long ago that he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes spread on Otter Rock, just north of Newport. My uncle made arrangements for an airplane to fly over the gathered family, then out over the ocean where it released his remains together with flower petals. Over 100 of us gathered for the weekend and together stood on a cliff above the ocean to watch. Very shortly after the ashes were spread we realized that there were 2 or 3 whales swimming north very near his resting place. We watched them move rather slowly with periodic spouts (perhaps his pall bearers). Then a group of sea lions followed, surfacing and diving. It was truly a very special homage to my father.