I’ve had a bit of a setback in my progress since my last post. My dear father passed away on May 23, 2013. Since then, I have been pretty “inward” again. I’m not getting out and I’m spending more days on the couch. Just as I was starting to see the blessing in the teaching of grief, I’m right back in the midst of it.
My daddy. My “fishing buddy” (as he used to call me). The man who loved me, unconditionally. The man I would call for advice. The man who raised me, cuddled me, and taught me all important life lessons. My role model. My rock. Is gone.
Although I have my mummy dear and my family, I feel somewhat lost and alone. I am heartbroken again. I have no regrets or feelings that things weren’t complete between us. My dad and I had a very close bond and were able to talk freely and openly about everything. I was blessed to be part of his caregiving when he was so ill. His emotions were raw and he was teary often. One night when I was there, spending the night to help out, I went in the bedroom and kissed him goodnight. He wrapped his arms around my neck, pulled me in for a hug and a kiss and told me “I love you so much. Never ever forget how much I love you.” He held me for what seemed like at least 5 minutes, repeating those words to me. I told him the same. We both sobbed.
I was there, with my sister Robin and my mom when my dad took his last breath. He passed peacefully. His body could no longer support his spirit. I was relieved that his suffering was over. He tried so hard to get better after his surgery in December. He had good days and bad, but he never recovered.
On June 1st, we had a memorial service at the Presbyterian Church that he and my mom had been members of for years. I wanted to speak at his memorial, and was able to, without falling apart. This is what I said:
It’s been a difficult year for me. For those of you that don’t know me,
I have been single since my divorce in 1978. When I’d introduce a “new boyfriend to my dad, and after he got to know him, my dad would ask, “Why don’t you get married?” I told dad that he ruined it for me, no one could compare to him. No one was as good, kind, loving and giving as my father. My dad would always say, “don’t blame it on me!” But it was a fact! No one could compare.
And then I met Raymond. From the moment we met, I knew he was “the one.” My parents loved him. But a year and a half after we met, he was diagnosed with stage 4-lung cancer and he passed on, last May. I was inconsolable. I couldn’t get off the couch for 9 months. But because of my dad’s illness, (and a trip to Colorado last fall to see my niece Lauren, get married) I did get off the couch and I was able to help my mom tend to dad’s needs.
Dad never fully recovered from his surgery on December 7th. In January, I remember my mom telling me that she and my daddy were talking in bed and Dad told her he was worried about me. When she asked why, he told her that “I had so much sorrow in my life, and he was worried that his illness was talking a toll on me”. The interesting thing is, that I found it an honor to take care of both Raymond and my Daddy. I hope I helped to make their transition and homecoming a bit easier.
My dad didn’t sleep well after his surgery. His dreams were fit-full and he talked in his sleep a lot. About three weeks prior to my dad’s death, my mom told me that in the middle of the night, as they lie in bed together, dad raised his hand up and said to her, “The man upstairs wants to know if we want to go for a boat ride?” Mom said “Jeez, we haven’t lived downstairs from anyone since we were first married!”
I knew exactly what he was referring to and I reminded my mom! About 3 days after Raymond passed, Robin had written a beautiful poem called “I Witnessed” on my blog. This was my father’s response to the post: He wrote these words trying to console my grief:
“The following is a pleasant way I like to think about dying: We are walking with our loved one down to the sea where a beautiful ship awaits our loved one. He kisses us goodbye and boards the ship.
We wave and watch as it sets sail and sets out to sea. The ship gets smaller and smaller till it is finally a speck on the horizon and then, poof, it is gone from sight.
But wait, there is a crowd on a distant shore looking out to sea, and they spot a little speck on the horizon. The speck grows larger and larger and they can see that it is a beautiful ship coming towards them. The ship docks and there is a glorious and happy reunion. Ray is with his family who preceded him. We will one day join them all, but first we must make the most of each day that we have with our loved ones, here on this side of the sea.”
My dad did exactly that. He made the most of each day he had. Daddy is indeed on the other side of the sea, but for all of us on this side, I hope you will remember his words about death and learn from his example…. live each day to it’s fullest with your loved ones, for you never know when they will be sailing away to their homecoming.
That is what I stood up, in front of 200 mourners to say. I wish that I had said more. I wanted to say what a good man dad was. I have never heard him speak ill of anyone. He was loving, kind, giving and generous. He was a real gentleman. He taught me so many values that I’ve incorporated into who I am… My dad taught me respect, perseverance, compassion, understanding, charity, honesty, humor and above all the importance of family. Our holiday toasts before feasts were always,enthusiastically “To Family!” I wanted to tell stories about Daddy. I wanted to share happy memories of my childhood. I wanted to share stories about my spring breaks to visit mom and dad in Bonita Beach, Florida. I wanted to tell everyone just how much my Daddy meant to me.
Two of the most influential men in my life are gone. In the past year, I’ve witnessed the transition process of Raymond, who I loved for a very brief time, and my Daddy, who I have adored since the day I was born.
I’ve never had much direct experience with death and in one year, I’ve been honored to be part of both of these significant men’s journeys through the last stage of life and I was able to understand the beauty and peace of their souls “homecoming.”
Although I have many painful, anxious, sad, scary, and fearful memories, I was able to see the dignity, the love, the acceptance and their grateful receiving of our tender caregiving.
I’ve been able to grasp the fact that life is indeed a cycle. There are many stages to life and although I mentally knew this, I didn’t quite get it, until I truly experienced the completion of Raymond and Daddy’s lives in this earthy realm.
I feel blessed to have been born into a loving, supportive family. To witness my mom so lovingly and tenderly take care of my dad’s needs was indeed an honor. My mom is an amazingly strong woman. I can’t imagine the depth of her grief, after 61 years of marriage and 64 years of being with her “soul mate.” My siblings all stepped up and helped in different ways. I was able to help with the caregiving of my father because I was Raymond’s caregiver and I totally understood what my mother was going through. My brother Bruce, who lives 5 minutes away from my parents, was there to help my dad physically get up, get dressed, shave him, and tend to any of his needs. He so lovingly took care of him. My sister Debbie was able to do all the organizing and handle all the details of the memorial. My sister Robin has such faith and a vast spiritual knowing, and was able to hold the space and the intention that all is, as it should be.
We were all there for my mother in anyway she needed. Just as they were there for me when Raymond was ill. Family is indeed so important in my life and we are all here, supporting each other in our grief.
My mom and sisters came out to visit me yesterday. We got talking about the holidays and how this years holiday season is going to be so different. No longer are we going to have feasts at mom and dad’s house. That torch is being passed to my brother (for Thanksgiving) and my sister Debbie (for Christmas.)
Life goes on. My daddy is gone. The end of an era. Nothing is ever going to be the same.