Posts Tagged ‘father’

I’ve been remembering an image that brings me to my knees with sorrow and pain and worry and longing and dread. The picture of his face has been prevalent in my mind for the last several days — I don’t know why. Perhaps a story I read, a video I watched, a memory that won’t go away.

When my father was in the hospital for the last time, a few days had passed since he had been flown by life-flight — he was stable and coherent and… alive, he was alive. The doctor made arrangements to meet with the whole family to discuss his case — in a waiting room down the hall from my father’s room. I thought this was odd that the doctor wouldn’t include my father in this discussion… I didn’t think it should be a mystery to my dad. The waiting room was filled when the doctor arrived and we all watched him and waited. He explained that my father was alive but it was only temporary, he would die. In a few days, in a week, at some point in the near future, he would die.

I can remember when I was about 7 or 8 years old, there had been a couple of significant deaths in my family at that point — death was a mystery and it was scary and it was unknown. But… it made the people who were alive so sad, so alone, so lost. I would lay in my bed at night and cry thinking about my own death, cry silently and think about death and how scared I was of it. It was the unknown. It was the sadness. It was the finality. I would lay there thinking… I wanted out of that particular journey.

It’s occurred to me recently… my fear is not of death. My fear is not about the unknown. My fear is not about leaving people behind… they will carry on when my time comes (hopefully when I’m 103), just like I’ve carried on when I’ve watched someone I love take their last breath. But, I think, I’m more afraid of what will be left. Who will comfort the people I love when I can’t anymore? Who will take away their sadness? Who will make them red velvet cake and buy new tires for their car and give them financial advice and talk about books and call on their birthday and hug them… who will hug them?

After the doctor was through talking to us about how my father was going to die, my mother and I went into his room and sat down. He never looked at me. His gaze remained on my mother the whole time. His lip quivered in that way it does when we are just about to cry and the thought of crying is taking over our face and our body and we can’t control it. His eyes were red and bloodshot with tears that he was trying so desperately to not let fall down his cheeks. His hand reached out for hers. And there we all sat, in silence — pondering an imminent death.

I remember that look and his quivering lip. I remember thinking he was afraid and there was nothing I could do. I remember thinking I just wanted to opt out of that particular journey. But… that option didn’t exist, so I was there…until the end, in every moment. And I sometimes fear my children will one day be standing over me, seeing my quivering lip, wishing they could comfort me — not knowing what to say, pondering an imminent death. I wonder if they’ll wish they could opt out of that particular journey. I’ll want to tell them to stay there, in the moment… every step of their journey, because sometimes the journey seems too hard and sometimes I scream at the top of my thoughts, “I want out!” — but the mystery of this journey looks better when I stay connected to it, unveiling it myself — a little at a time.

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Next Wednesday, March 31st, will mark the one year anniversary of my mother’s death. I’ve thought about it a lot these past couple of weeks. I’ve thought about the mourning process and how long it lasts and what exactly it is — really. I think mourning is different from grieving — I have my own thoughts on grieving. But mourning, it’s different… I think mourning might, at some point, settle in to relief.

I had a great-aunt, Aunt Dot. I loved her, we all did. She was crude and funny and bossy and rough around the edges and caring and nosey — she was wonderful. Long before I was born, she was badly injured in a car wreck. It left her paralyzed from the hips down. Her husband worshipped her — worshipped her. He lifted her in and out of her wheelchair and in and out of the bed. He drove her everywhere. He put her leg braces on her and propped her at the sink so she could do dishes or cook. He cleaned. He cooked. He did everything for her — he worshipped her. When she passed away, I remember my uncle and the lost look in his eyes. I remember seeing him get into the car at the funeral home as we all were leaving to go to the cemetary — he collapsed in the back seat. He was inconsolable. He had lived his life for her — and now she was gone.

A few months later, he took a trip. It was the first time he had been away from his home in about 30 years. I would never have asked him if the feeling he had was relief — but I’m sure that’s what he was experiencing.

I think when you go through a health struggle with a loved one — cancer, injury, prolonged illness — and then they pass away, the mourning period looks different. I think at some point you have to admit that the feeling you have is relief. It’s a little scary — relief. It’s hard to get a handle on it.

We battled cancer with my father for 2 years from diagnosis until he died. Six weeks later my mother was diagnosed with cancer — in between my father’s death and my mothers diagnosis, my oldest sister’s husband died from colon cancer. Cancer sucks. That month and a half was so not a good time in my world. We battled cancer for 14 months with my mother from diagnosis until she died. Thirty-eight months straight of a long hard battle for my father and my mother — that I lost. It took its toll.

I wrote some things for my mother’s funeral that I had her minister read (I was, of course, unable to speak). One of the things I mentioned was how I felt like I hadn’t had a chance to mourn my father’s death because the battle never ceased long enough to breathe — 38 months.

So, I mourned — for both of them — when my mother died. But then the mourning gave way to relief. And the relief gave way to guilt. The guilt is leaving — slowly.

So, next week will be the one year anniversary of my mother’s passing. I’ll wait to see what the day will bring. I’ll let you know.

And now, enjoy this song by Anthony Skinner. We were fortunate to have Anthony and his wife sing this song at my father’s funeral.

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Shortly after my father passed away, I was eating lunch with some friends. This was actually the first time I had been out with friends since he passed. His illness was long and hard and messy and unexpected and sad — it was sad.

Lung cancer.

He had been a smoker for a long time but had actually quit several years earlier, or so we thought — he was a sneaker. His illness started out with a diagnosis that we didn’t expect. It quickly went to a surgery that we didn’t expect with an outcome that we didn’t expect. But, this isn’t about the perils of smoking — I guess it’s your choice if you wish to die a most painful death.

My father loved to google. He loved to research everything on his “more powerful than NASA” computer. My youngest daughter has a nut allergy — fairly severe. I don’t think I can explain the number of links that my father sent me on a daily basis, the number of articles and websites that he bookmarked all about nut allergy’s. He had the same fervor when it came to finding out about lung cancer. When someone said that we had two lungs, he corrected them to say the lung was divided into 5 lobes — 3 on the right and 2 on the left. The surgery to remove his cancerous tumor required the removal of all 3 lobes on the right side. But this story isn’t about lobes, or smoking, or peanut allergies. This story is about pennies and dimes and quarters.

So, back to that restaurant on my first outing after my father passed away. When we sat down at our table, I noticed a lone dime on the table at my place. I didn’t touch it, assuming the waitress must have dropped it (I realize it was only a dime, but still). The waitress approached the table and focused on the dime. She looked at me and asked if I had put it there. I replied no. She was startled and immediately began to tell our table a story of death and reoccurring dimes. She said she began finding dimes everywhere after a dear friend of hers passed away. Her story stuck with me because my father’s death was still so fresh on my heart and because she was so determined that a group of strangers who sat at her table understood her story.

I began to notice dimes everywhere after that — in the laundry, on the floor, on my desk at work, in my car. I know this isn’t unusual. You hear a story — you hope it’s true… you imagine it’s true. I found enough dimes though to spark a google search on the subject. Turns out many people have stories of finding dimes shortly after a loved one passes away. I don’t think believing in Heaven is a pre-requisite for believing a force more powerful than you could be sending you a message in the dimes.

So, my dimes.

I believe my father was letting me know he was ok and that we should move on — I’m a big believer in moving on. In case you’re wondering, when my mother passed away, I didn’t find an unusual amount of dimes… I found quarters — she always was a big spender.

And now, a little something from Billie Holiday and Teddy Wilson.

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