Here it is three whole years since my dad passed away. I reflect on the most difficult thing in my life. I have lost other people in my life but none as close to me. The grief comes in waves. One day you are fine and the next it’s hard to find your breath. I always miss him but there are times I just simply miss him more.
Three years ago I had a 3 month old baby, a 3 year old, and a 5 year old. I was busy, I was tired, and I was so deeply sad. At a time when I should have been thriving, I was stumbling, to say the least. Survival mode is a real thing and I was in it…in it deep.
On my 38th birthday my parents didn’t call me. I was sad and a bit hurt that they just forgot my birthday. I had just had a baby on Christmas Eve and I was hormonal. Then I learned my dad had collapsed and my mom didn’t want to call me on my birthday to tell me. He was admitted into the hospital with Pneumonia. He had been sick so we were almost relieved he was getting some care.
In true fashion my mom and dad had snowbird plans to head to Florida for the winter. I had a stern talk with my dad because three years earlier my father-in-law passed suddenly and unexpected on his journey down to Florida. I DID NOT want my parents to go but I knew there was no stopping him. I made him promise me he would take precautions and go to the doctor if he wasn’t feeling well.
Then came the call. My dad was sick…very sick! After the leaving the hospital in January he was feeling good for a couple weeks. But his health took a turn. This time he was admitted into the ICU. I’ll never forget that call. I knew it was bad. I asked for a picture and my dad said only send her one of me healthy.
This was the picture I got. And this is the dad I remember. He loved being outside. He grew up a farmer and it was in nature that he was the most peaceful. He loved being down in Florida during the winter. He would walk the beach everyday. He would sit on the beach and read. He was happy. So for this picture to be my last picture of him healthy…well it’s simply the perfect picture.
We got a call a couple days later that Dad wanted all the kids to come to Florida. (This is hard to write and recall). I knew in my gut that it wasn’t good. I keep thinking he must have known this was his end and he wanted to be surrounded by his 5 children and his wife. We all jumped in a plane, my sister, Binks, already flew down a couple days before, my two brothers and I flew down together with my 2 month old baby, and my sister flew in from Philly. If Dad called us we were going to drop everything and be there for him in this dire time. That was on February 21.
We surrounded my dad with love and laughs and lots of tears. By the time we showed up my dad was not his true self. He had such issues with breathing that he hadn’t slept much. He just kept saying over and over the second part of the Hail Mary, “Holy Mary Mother of God pray for us sinners now at the hour of our death.” In his time of despair he prayed. And he knew we were there and for that I know he felt ok to do what he needed to do.
On March 4th, 2017 we had to say our final goodbye. It was the worst day of my life. Damn this is hard to recall. Anyone who has had to say goodbye and watch someone pass over knows. We held his hand. We played music and sang. We prayed. We cried. We laughed. We prayed. We told him it was ok to go. We cried.
I was so incredibly proud of my family during this time. We banded together to support each other and support my mom. We watched our mom be there for our dad. There were so many special moments we witnessed and for that I’m eternally grateful. We each served a different purpose. The beauty of a big family is we could divide and conquer.
Now for the things I miss about my dad:
- His sense of humor. My dad and I shared a love of pranks. It was our thing. To hear his giggle was one of my greatest joys. I miss that.
- He was handy. He was a farmer turned engineer and he could just figure things out. He probably got calls everyday from one of his kids asking how to fix something or what we should do when our car made a certain noise.
- His love of nature. He taught us how to explore nature. When I walk around I know what certain plants are and what the name of that bird is. He taught us to be observant. This is something I pass down to my children and I LOVE IT!
- Watching him be a grandpa. He was a great grandpa. He was so carefree with the grandkids. They really gravitated to him. Little Man was only 3 months old when my dad died and it’s strange because he talks about him a lot. I feel they must have a special unearthly bond because he didn’t know him.
- When my husband’s dad died, my dad really took him in and treated him like a son. I’m so grateful for that. My husband and I so wish our kids had their grandpas around. It seems a bit unfair.
- Have I told you I miss his sense of humor? This is truly the thing I miss the most. He had the best mischievous giggle. He and I butted heads sometimes but we connected at pranks.
So here at the 3rd anniversary of his death I chose to celebrate his life. He lived it to the fullest. Especially in his “retirement” years which didn’t really exist. He worked very hard for his community and loved it. He was a good dad and I think he did the very best he could. I remember him always and feel sad sometimes. I try to teach my children the things he taught me. May he send me eagles when I need it most and may I honor his memory by keeping it alive!