Tuesday, August 9, 2011


What a strange last few days I have had.  I went down to my mom's house on Thursday expecting to help take care of my dad.  I had brought a book with me - Lonesome Dove - that I idyllically imagined myself reading to my sleeping father.  I would make myself some lunch, talk to him, maybe take a nap on the couch.  I would go on a run around my hometown - something I had dreamed of doing many times, but never actually done. Oh, how things can change.

I came home from my run to find my mom still there (she was supposed to go to work once the hospice nurse left)  I was a little surprised to see her there.  I knew that my dad had taken a turn for the worse in night, but I didn't know that the nurse advised her while I was gone that my dad would probably pass away that day.  My idyllic day went out the window.  My solitary lunch turned into my mom and I chatting over homemade broccoli soup (which was great - I didn't mind sharing lunch!!)  My reading of Lonesome Dove to my dad was more of a unidentifiable wail as I attempted to comfort my dad through the reading of one of his favorite books.  It wasn't super effective as you can imagine.

In the end, it was one of the most sacred experiences of my life.  No, I didn't speak with my dad miraculously after a year and a half of silence.  No, he didn't visit us with his spirit before he drifted away to the other side.  But I spent time with my mom, sisters, and nieces that will forever be in my heart.  I did some theraputic gardening, cutting down a volunteer tree that was growing out of the side of a rose bush that needed pruning.  As the day wore on, more and more people came to visit.  Both of my uncles and my aunt came to say their goodbys.  We at homemade spaghetti..  We laughed at the sweet little babies who are my great-nieces. 

Later, after a scare when we thought we had lost dad and we were all close by his bedside, we cried and told him we loved him.  As the moments stretched on and he continued to breathe, we started to talk more and more.  Boy, you should have heard the conversation!  It was completely inappropriate, and yet completely appropriate.  We laughed and cried and asked stupid questions and waited to watch him pass from this world to the next.  I slept in my old room for the first time in over 10 years.  It was much louder than I remembered - at about 4:30am, several trains went through blaring their horns for miles and miles.  We were there when he took his last breath at 6:40am on Friday morning.  I was so glad and relieved for him that he was finally able to pass on.

We went to breakfast later that morning.  We laughed over the very real (for a few moments) possibility that I had sent a text stating "Grandpa died about 15 minutes ago" to the wrong number.  We went home and looked at old pictures and planned funeral talks and funeral clothing for the deceased and sorted out who would do what.  It was crazy and so intensely personal I can barely describe it.  I will always be grateful I was there with him that night into the morning when he took his final breath.

This weekend was spent in a flurry of activity to prepare for the funeral.  I told my mom that Shane would make a slide show to present at the funeral.  I bought a printer/scanner and scanned hundreds of pictures.  Others were emailed to me.  I gazed at pictures of my parents on their wedding day.  I looked at them dancing in 70's clothes.  I watched them go from having 2 children to 3 to 4.  I watched birthdays and wedding and blessings and baptisms.  I took it so personally - every picture that every person sent me would be included (except for 3.  And I am more bothered by the 3 missing ones than you can imagine.)  Late yesterday I got a goldmine of black and white photos of my dad and his brothers when they were young.  It was cathartic to go through so many good memories of my dad.  Every. Single. Picture had him in it.  Amazing.  Shane did his magic and put it to music to create a 25 minute video of my dad's life.  If it wasn't 35 megabytes, I would post it here.

Somewhere along the way, I told my mom I would speak.  I wrote a talk last night I think would have made my dad happy.  The talk I came up with is here.  I went to the viewing today ready for the day.  All I really wanted was to be able to get through my talk without sounding like a blubbing mess (Aside: I spoke at my grandpa's funeral when I was 9.  I wrote a poem.  I didn't know that the family prayer/closing of the casket leaves you feeling like a wrung out dishcloth.  I sobbed through the whole thing, and my sister had to come to my rescue and read it for me.  I didn't want to repeat that experience.)  It went off perfectly.  I choked up a little at the end, but it was okay.  I listened to my sister's amazing talk, the beautiful violin and piano duet of How Great Thou Art, my uncle's life sketch, and my childrend and nieces and nephews singing I am a Child of God with such a feeling of comfort.  The prayers given by my brother-in-law, my nieces, and my uncle were amazing.  I felt such love for every cousin, friend, aunt, in-law, and acquaintance who came to share this day.

My dad is okay.  He left this world to a much better place.  I miss him, but I don't miss visiting him in his resthome.  I don't miss seeing him stuck in his body.  I don't miss worrying that he was alone in a place among strangers. I love that he came home to spend his final days.  I love those who had a part in his care those final 6 days.  I am humbled by the man that he was and still is.  I can't wait to meet him again one day.  He has a special work to do where he is at, and I'm glad he didn't linger another minute longer than necessary here.

Good-bye, my daddy.  I miss and love you.  Watch over us always.


Britt said...

So bittersweet. Sad to lose your dad but wonderful to know that he is at rest after a difficult struggle.

He looks so dapper in your wedding photo!

Kasandra said...

Dear Becky: What a beautiful post and thanks for sharing this with us, happy and sad for you. You're an amazing writer. You made me realize again how important funerals are for the people left behind.

Ginger said...

You did such a good job writing this and will be so glad you have it someday. I can tell you lost a great man even if you really lost him years ago. He was beaming in the family picture of him with all his girls and you, by the way, were a beautiful bride.