My dad passed away suddenly December 28th. It’s been a great shock and such a profound loss for my mom.
I got a call Dec 28th about 7:45 from my mom. My mom’s world had changed forever a few hours prior to this. Mike gave me the phone and I said hello how are you – she responded with “not good” as she was crying in earnest. I couldn’t imagine what could have happened to make her so upset, I was so unprepared for her next words “Dad is dead”. I really could not understand and I really did think I must not be hearing her correctly. She was crying and sounded so heartbroken that I realized she had just said what I thought I heard.
My mom had been on the phone in at her kitchen table talking to her brother. My dad was at the island in the kitchen having a smoke and watching tv. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees my dad collapse. She rushes to him, calling his name. Calls 911 and her neighbor. Her neighbor and herself try to do CPR, but he is already gone. He is taken to the hospital where he is pronounced dead. My mom is back home just 2 hours later calling about my dad.
I didn’t stay on the phone with her long as we were both just listening to each other cry and there were no words, but lots of questions – but she was not at that moment able to answer them all as she had more calls to make.
I sat on the couch for several minutes just numb trying to figure out what to do. We did end up taking the boys to Arkansas as I did not want to wait till the next evening to leave (my brothers were leaving then). My thought was to get to her as soon as possible.
My parents had been in Arkansas for over 8 years now. Since my aunt Nancy passed away 5 years before, they didn’t see my Uncle Howard and my cousin Marjorie as much as they had used to. Basically my parents had each other their dogs, and some neighbors. They did so much together and are in more remote area, so its such a profound loss for my mom to lose her husband. As much as I loved my dad and am very much grieving and am having a hard time with his death, I know it is nothing compared to how my mom is doing. They’d been together since 1980 having met through friends from the phone company. It’s the little everyday things he did for her. It’s the big things he did occasionally for her. Its everything. She told me she had never been in the house alone without him and can’t imagine sleeping knowing he isn’t there. She had come up to Illinois to visit without dad, but she had never been at home without him.
My dad was so healthy. He was not on any medicine. He was hardly ever sick a day in his life. He did get one of those life screening testing things done about 4 years ago. During that they did discover an anneruism in his belly. His doctor said they would monitor it. My dad doesn’t go to Doctors much and I doubt he kept checking that. His cause of death is listed as a massive heart attack, but we believe he had an anneerurism. He did not have the usual chest pains or arm tingling or shortness of breath. The attack was very sudden and my mom thinks he may have been gone by the time he hit the floor.
We got down Monday evening after driving all day Monday. My brothers and my aunt Carol arrived Tuesday morning having driven all night (after Todd worked all day Monday). We were able to have a private viewing of my dad Wed to say our goodbyes privately and we planned a small service for Friday. He had been a volunteer fire fighter and they had neighbor friends, so my mom decided to have a service for him in Arkansas. He was creamated.
The service was very nice. The fireman did a last call on the radio for my dad. It was so nice to see so many people at the service. My mom and him had only been down there 8 years, but the funeral home had many people there. On one side several fire fighters and EMT people sat. On the other side several neighbors and us family members sat.
The Fire chief presided over the service. He read a wonderful poem about “the dash” – representing the dash between our birth date and our death date. My parents liked the song Through the years and that was played as well. It was a short service, but so meaningful and such a wonderful way to remember the great life and a great man. There was an opportunity for people to share stories about my dad. Some neighbors and a firefighter shared their experiences of my dad. I stood up as well. I wanted him to be remembered for being a gentle person. A kind person. He was gentle, quiet, very easy going and had a wonderful sense of humor. He was always making us laugh. He came into my life when I was about 10. I never had any resentment towards him. I liked him right away and was happy to see my mom happy. They married in 1981. While I have had a somewhat rocky relationship at times with my mom, I never felt him being mad or angry with me. I can’t ever remember being yelled at by him or having him angry with me. He was very easy to get along with. When I was 12, he adopted me and my younger brother Brad (Todd was living with our biological father at the time).
We left Saturday, the day after the service.(My brothers had to leave Thursday evening). There is still much for my mom to do now. She had already pretty much decided back in October that she would be moving back to Illinois within the next 2 years. She has 5 grandkids now – the latest one just born in December (Todd and Donna had a little boy Sean on Dec 3rd) and one born this summer. So now she feels the need to be with family.
My dad was only 68. My mom just turned 60 in December. Too soon to deal with such tragedy. When there is no long illness (not even a short one) it is just so hard to take it all in. His only surviving sibling Lil is 93 or 94 and in Illinois.
I wished I had talked to him more over the past years. He was not much of a talker on the phone. I hadn’t seen him since last year August when we went down to vacation with my parents. He hadn’t been to Illinois since my brother Brad’s wedding July 2006.
My mom let us kids take a keepsake to remember my dad by. It was very odd to be in my parent’s home and see my dad’s things around the house – his fireman’s windbreaker on the back of a chair, his glasses on the kitchen island, his watch on the kitchen table, the t-shirts we bought for him as a birthday/Christmas present under the tree, the cordless mouse we had gotten him sat on the kitchen table and the cordless screwdriver we had gotten him was on the little wooden chair in the kitchen. His presence was everywhere. Yet he was not there.
I believe it’s often true that you never really realize how much you love someone till they are gone. That is how I feel right now. So many times I could have said I love you instead of my usual “how are you?”. So many times I could have said “you are a great dad and I am proud to be your daughter” instead of my usual “what have you been up to?”
I have had several people pass away in the past couple of months and my new Year’s resolution was to try to stay in better touch with people to stay reconnected to people. It now seems I should have not waited till New Years for me to start working on my New Year’s resolution. I had talked and emailed my dad more than usual as he was helping me with a project for my mom’s 60th birthday. For that I am glad.