How I am Dealing with the Death of My Dad
Dealing with the Death of a Loved One
Let me preface this Hub article by stating that I am NOT an expert of any kind in dealing with human loss. I lost my grandparents at the age of 13, almost 30 years ago, but besides that, the deaths of distant relatives and friends of friends have been all I have had to deal with.
My father went in for heart valve replacement surgery on September 11 of this year. We all knew the risks. Doctors gave him the odds of this happening or that occurring as well as the chances of him not surviving it. My dad did his research like I would buying a new laptop. He checked out this hospital and that, this doctor and that one, and several procedures. Well, to make this Hub shorter than it could be, he decided on a hospital, a doctor and a procedure. Unfortunately, there were complications from a previous surgery, with an abundance of scar tissue which hindered the surgeon's ability to effectively and efficiently manage the time in which my dad was under anesthesia. What should have been 4-6 hours went upwards of 10 hours! When it was over, he sat us down and told us of the complications; fluctuating blood pressure, flailing lung capacity and an extended period of time under anesthesia, so long they had to reapply.
Dad was in recovery and on a respirator. We saw him three times that night. I could do nothing but cry. The ten to twelves hours before and during the surgery were filled with concern and fear, but also with hope and confidence that, though extremely serious, dad would make it through this and his quality of life would be so greatly improved. He and mom would enjoy the next twenty-something years together. After the surgeon spoke with us, in that little consultation room, just off the waiting room, you know the one, with boxes of tissues to wipe the tears and fears away, my hopes turned to doubts and my fear of the loss of my dad turned to fear of "how to tell our kids". This is a fear that I have never experienced before, one from which I would have run if I could have, and maybe I should have. For during that final visit at about 12:15 am on the morning of September 12, the 28th anniversary of my mom's mom's death, we saw my mom's husband, my dad, for the last time "alive", if breathing via a respirator constitutes being alive. The nurses suggested we go back to the room where we were staying and when he wakes up they would contact us. We were to check back the next morning. We figured we were in for a long haul. How long until dad awoke? How long would he be in the hospital? What would his life be like afterward? Those questions were answered twenty minutes later, a mere two minutes after my mom's head hit her pillow. Her phone rang. "The doctor asks that you come back to the hospital," the female voice on the other line said. I was already back in the waiting room, for about two minutes, when mom and my sister came running in. "They called. They called." Mom declared, out of breath. Our lives were moments away from changing forever. We walked back into the recovery area and the sad, sorrowful, pitiful faces of the hospital staff were less than welcoming. One lady who we had not seen earlier said, "Why don't you come in this room?" as she pointed towards a small room with a table and six chairs and a bathroom to the far left. There was a microwave and a Freihoffers cake on an adjacent counter as well. The doctor mumbled some statement and then the words "he arrested" were uttered. And there it was, the end of my childhood, my innocence, my life as I knew it. To know you are living one of those moments as you are living it is simply surreal.
So, a million and a half tears later, thousands of thoughts and prayers, hundreds of hugs and kisses and dozens of cards and flowers, I am here, trying like hell to deal with the loss of my mentor, my hero, my role model, my dad.
That's my story. Now what am I doing to deal with it? I have spoken to so many friends and family who have been through this. It doesn't get easier, just easier to deal with, I am told. Well I wanted to put something out here to show YOU and YOU and YOU that you are not alone. So many more of us are going through what you are right now. Do you wake up and think of calling that loved one? Do you think 'maybe I will see him today', only to have it hit you like a ton of bricks ALL OVER AGAIN, that he or she is gone? I was driving my mom to one of the endless appointments that we had scheduled. It was DMV or SS Admin or the bank or the insurance company. Her phone rang, as it would anytime she and dad were apart. She couldn't go out for an hour without him worriedly checking up on her, making sure she was okay and well. Well for that split second that her phone rang, I'm thinking it's him. Then those bricks hit me again! I walk around mom and dad's house staring at pictures of him and her and us as kids and my kids with their grandpa. Sometimes I smile. Sometimes I cry, like a baby. See, you are normal and what you are feeling is healthy. Don't feel bad in feeling good sometimes. With the immense level of our sadness, if you or I can find even five minutes of joy, in an SNL skit or a win by our favorite team or a good grade on a test by our second grader, then take it, thank God for it and cherish it.
As for my dealings with the rest of my family, we are standing together in this immense time of grief. Mom and dad shared a two family house with my sister and her husband and kids. I have spent the past two weeks with mom, using dad's office. My faith tells me he is with me all the time and I honestly feel that. When the urn came back from the funeral home, we told my 7-year old that it was simply a "memory box" for grandpa. The whole cremation thing would be a bit much for a second grader to grasp. Joey, my dad's namesake, says his prayers nightly in front of that box. He rubs it and even kissed it yesterday. I make sure he knows that grandpa is with him where ever he goes. Instead of praying FOR grandpa, now we pay TO him. If you have any faith, use it and if not, trust me it helps so much. Without my belief in Jesus and that my dad is in Heaven with God, what is barely bearable would have been totally unbearable.
It is important for all of you to stick together, to help each other and to cry on each other's shoulders. That really good cry helps so much, if only for a short time. Death is sad and death is hard and unless you are in a situation where that person is truly "in a better place", maybe he or she was sick for an extended period of time, then death is devastating. Most of us simply cannot do it alone. Lean on your family. They are going through the same as you. Just like you have reached out and read my thoughts, you should offer your words of encouragement to your family. It will help them AND it will help you. After all, writing this and everything else I write, blogs, poems, even my dad's obituary helps me. So those are my sources of strength, family, faith and my writing. I suggest you find your sources and put everything you have into them. From what I am told, this doesn't get easier. It just gets easier to deal with. God bless you and your families.