Goodbye to Daddy
You may have noticed I have not been keeping up with my blogging lately. I’ve been spending time with family, especially my father, Dale. We live about 350 miles away from each other and I’ve been traveling back and forth over the last four months to help care for him. He passed on July 28, 2012 from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, a long word to describe a hideous disease called cancer.
Due to certain circumstances, Dad’s funeral was not until August 20th, just last week. The honor guard from the United States Army was present and made me extremely proud of my father’s service to his country. As they carried Dad’s remains to the table at the front of the service, I wondered how could 81 years of life fit into such a small box? How could that great, big 6 foot tall man, with the giant arms and hands be contained in such a little space?
The minister welcomed us and said a prayer and then it was my turn. Many years ago, Dad had asked me to sing at his funeral. Kind of hard to say no to that request. I wanted so much in my heart to make Dad proud. I didn’t want to cry. Luckily, I had my moral support with me, my 8 year old son, Adam. He stood right beside me, holding my hand. Each time I squeezed his hand twice he squeezed mine back as hard as he could – this was my plan to help me get through the song. Thank goodness Adam has a heck of a grip, because I got through Amazing Grace with only a few stumbles.
Months before, Dad had told me how he wanted to leave each of his children and grandchildren something special, something personal of his to remember him by. He never got to making that list, but he sure did talk to me about our family. It was so important to me to let them know what he thought of them. They deserved that gift, that gift from Dad and from his heart. I spoke to each of them, sharing Dad’s insight and some of the memories he had of them. I felt Dad there, so strong, like his words were coming through me as I remembered certain things he had told me. It was a moment of pure joy, and yet still the loss of him was ever present.
I remembered back to the last three weeks of his life. I had flown in from Vegas to San Diego to stay with him while my sister went on vacation. Mom was in the hospital, so Dad was by himself. We had so much fun together! Yes, he wasn’t at the best health in his life, but his outlook was good and his humor was definitely as sharp as a tack. He would go on and on about his times in the service, about growing up in Iowa during the depression, and so many other life long experiences. I soaked each and every sentence up like a sponge! Most of the stories I’d heard before, but I loved hearing them again.
Dad was very proud, and something about walking with a walker just didn’t sit right with him. So when we went to run errands, he would use his cane, and I introduced him to the electronic carts. He was like a kid in a go cart! I was chasing him up and down the aisles at Costco while he’s flipping u-turns and zipping around from here to there. For once I was actually glad he got tired pretty easily because he wore me out with those carts!! I’ve never seen anyone navigate a shopping aisle with one of those things like Dad could.
I enjoyed every day of caring for him, cooking, shopping, cleaning…the whole nine yards. It was such a blessing to have time for just Dad and to spoil him and shower him with laughter, reiki treatments, and those huge apple fritters he loved so much. And he was grateful for it all. I can’t even tell you how many times in a day I heard the words, “Thank You.”
The last week of my stay we were taking out the trash to the cans outside, Dad was handing me bags from the inside of the house and I was throwing them away outside. He had an empty cereal box in his hand and threw it in the recyclables. As I turned to give him kudos for making a basket, I saw his body fall from the top of the stairs. He never even touched the stairs as he fell. His arm was still outreached from where the box left his hand. Dad hit the concrete pavement head first. The sound of his skull smashing against the sidewalk turned my stomach. As soon as he hit, I heard a voice in my head, “This is his exit point.”
I ran to his side, but he was unresponsive. I grabbed my cell phone to call 911 and the call started but faded as my reception on my phone went out. Dad began to moan this low, deep moan and I ran into the house to get Mom and call 911 on the house phone. The ambulance came and took him to the trauma center in San Diego.
Dad had broken his wrist and his hip. Even while in the ER and without any pain meds at that point, he was still cracking jokes. He took my hand and looked me in the eye and told me he was so sorry he did this. He knew there was a part of me that felt responsible and that I should have done something to prevent the accident. I can’t even believe that this man had so much love in his heart that while in this deep pain, he still took the time to worry about me. But that’s just the kind of guy he was.
I stayed the night with Dad in his hospital room. He was in a lot of pain and I did my best to soothe and calm him. While he was sleeping he talked and said, “I just want you to let me go. I don’t want to live like this anymore. Let me go.”
The next day he was operated on to correct the hip. His wrist was put in a hard splint in the ER and that’s how it remained. The tumor in his throat was aggravated during surgery and Dad’s breathing became compromised. A day after the surgery his health started to progressively go down hill. It was heart breaking to watch him in so much pain. But even through all that, there were so many wonderful things that happened for us as a family. He was surrounded by his children, his grandchildren and his wife. On the day before his passing he asked, “Why is my mother here? She’s dead.” I knew his family that had passed was there as well to assist and ease his transition.
Dad left this world around 5am on a Saturday morning. He will forever be my hero.
He is still around us, making his presence known in many ways. My sister saw a shooting star on the way home from the hospital a few hours before he passed. When we got back to Mom and Dad’s house after his passing, Mom was looking at the door to the backyard where he had fallen and she began to cry. My sister and I went to comfort her and the most beautiful hummingbird flew up to the window of the door looking straight at Mom. There are no flowers or trees near this door to attract hummingbirds. It stayed there for at least 3-4 minutes and then flew away. My son has said he has seen his Papa at our house, watching us playing with the puppy and one night Adam saw Dad standing by my bed watching me sleep.
I kept asking Dad for a sign to let me know he was there at the funeral. You would think that in my line of work I would feel comfortable about the feelings I get for myself, but I always ask for direct signs when it comes to issues for me. With clients it is always second nature and so easy, but when it come to me personally, I want proof from the Universe!
As I sat back down after speaking to my family, the minister continued to speak about my father. One thing he did not mention about Dad was his sarcastic sense of humor which he used quite often, especially at the most inappropriate times. I looked across the cemetery, beyond where the service was held and saw this sign:
DANGER, FALL HAZARD
I had my daughter take that picture to remind me of Dad’s sick sense of humor (which I love EVERY BIT of). It was hard containing my laughter during that part of the service, as I know it was Dad’s way of telling me he was there and to lighten up. This is the man from whom I get that fabulous sense of humor of mine!!
I miss you, Daddy. I know you are close by but I miss our long talks, watching westerns and the Andy Griffith show. I miss making you pancakes for dinner and singing together in the car. I miss those huge bear hugs of yours and your amazing laugh. I am glad you are no longer in pain.
Thank you for being in my life and for teaching me to always be honest, to treat others the way I would want to be treated and above all to be true to myself. I love you.