First of all, thank you all so very much for your kind and helpful words after my dad died. Every comment and email went to my heart, and I appreciated each one more than you can imagine.
Losing my dad has been the most profound and sorrowful experience of my life. I’m still not myself. I often wonder if I ever will be. I mean, I know time will pass and the pain will be less intense. But I don’t think I’ll ever look at life in the same way again.
Even though we all knew how sick he was, it still seemed as if Dad’s death was sudden. We knew he was in the final stages of Alzheimers disease, so maybe we were just in denial? But after the disease took away my dad’s ability to swallow, everything happened so fast. Hospice care kept him comfortable and my mom stayed by his side the whole time. All of us kids kept close, too, taking turns staying with Mom during the nights and several of us were there during each day. And after just a few days, he died quietly in his sleep. I was there…His breathing had been so loud and labored through the evening, but mom and I lay down to try to sleep around midnight. I woke up around 2:30 and heard his quiet breathing – almost a soft snore. Mom and I sat up at the same time and we both knew something had changed. And within a minute or two, Dad was gone.
Then came the funeral preparations, and part of this included putting together a video slide show of photos of my dad and gathering some of his favorite things to put in a tribute/remembrance room at the funeral home. So we went through many, many photographs…I had forgotten (or maybe just put away) all of my memories of a healthy, quiet, good, and extraordinarily capable man, and those memories came flooding back as we went through dad’s photos and keepsakes. Sad, bittersweet memories. It was good to remember how much he loved us and how much we loved him.
The funeral was amazing. Dad was a 30-year retired Naval Reserve officer, so he was buried with a full military ceremony. Dad would have been so, so proud to see the way he was honored. Then, during the last few notes of Trumpet Taps, a train whistle blew in the distance, and you could hear a collective gasp. See – my dad was a Model Railroad enthusiast. No. An addict. He loved trains with a passion, and was a very accomplished HO train builder. His attention to realism and detail were second to none. In fact, some of the members of his model railroad club were at the funeral, and I thought maybe one of them had gone off over the hill with a train whistle. So afterwards I asked one of the fellows if they had arranged that, and he just smiled and shook his head. He said, “If I had arranged it, we couldn’t have done it as perfectly. That was the noon train coming through New Hope.” That will be a moment I’ll remember all of my life.
I stayed a couple of extra days after the funeral with my mom. Her house was all tumbled, with having to move everything out of the Assisted Living place in rather a hurry so they wouldn’t be charged for additional days. So we spent a day sorting through all of those things, deciding what to keep, what to give away, what to discard. She just needed room to be able to walk through her bedroom, and to have a quiet, peaceful and tidy place to sleep. And although we didn’t intend to start, Mom began to go through some of my dad’s dresser drawers. Another painful process. So we just did a few, and put the rest aside for another day.
Then I left to come home on Monday. Leaving my mom’s house was so difficult, but it was time.
I was home for a couple of days, but had scheduled a Camp Wannasew weekend that was to begin on Thursday. I was so conflicted about going. I was awfully, awfully tired physically and emotionally, and I had so much work to catch up on. And I felt like I just couldn't go and be "normal"...I was worried about being around so many new people. But Dave convinced me to go. He thought it would be a needed respite, and that maybe it would be good to be out of my element for a little while. As usual, he was right. I wasn't my normal self, but that was ok.
And I'll tell you more about my weekend later.
Again...Thanks friends, for all of your kind words.