The past 8 months have been so stressful and hard for me, and I need to release all the pent up anger, frustration and sadness before it eats me alive.
Back in June 2015, while the family was at the beach, he was complaining of severe back pain. He couldn't enjoy himself, could hardly walk, sit, or spend time with his family comfortably. It was a shame, because Nags Head was his favorite place. When he got home, he went to his doctor who sent him in for an x-ray (thinking it was a fractured rib or slipped disc or something). What they found were lesions, which was indicative of Cancer. After further testing it was revealed that he did indeed have Multiple Myeloma (blood cancer).
At first They were very optimistic and started Chemo and bone strengthening treatments."This can be managed. This is something you die with, not from" The first few weeks went well, but the treatments quickly started to rear its ugly head.
He couldn't eat or drink without gagging, lost his appetite, was tired and nauseated all the time. He lost weight...a lot of weight. He had to use a cane to walk, He would get winded and exhausted very quickly.
A few months later he was hospitalized. A host of issues were fighting within his body. Dehydration was causing his heart rhythm to get out of whack, which caused things, which caused things, which caused things. A month or so later his kidneys started shutting down and he was put into ICU and immediately started on dialysis. Dialysis wasn't helping, seemed to be getting worse, then they realized the plasma in the blood was thickening up like a gel in the kidneys causing problems. They started a new treatment, plasmapheresis, that seemed to help.
Then in November, right before Thanksgiving, he contracted Cellulitis on his legs, which put him back in the hospital for quite a long time. By this time he was so skinny and weak he couldn't even get out of bed. He was in constant pain. His treatments were causing issues that his body couldn't handle.
The doctors came in and gave him the low down. He had an aggressive form of Multiple Myeloma and they could continue the chemo and things, but it was just causing so much other issues that it seemed to be contrary to what his wishes were. They decided to discontinue chemo and go home. For a month and a half he was at home in a home hospice situation. He could barely get out of bed. He could barely eat or drink. He had good days and he had really bad days. Some days he was his old self, and some days he was barely coherent. At Christmas he wanted to take my boys out to see the Christmas lights. Just getting up out of bed and trying to get to the car was exhausting. He was gasping for air, could hardly stand, even with help, and was in pain.
We were told "It could be 2 weeks, it could be 6 months...we just don't know".
February 6th- We got a new puppy. We came over to see him and show off our new baby. We made plans to come over the following night for the superbowl and watch our Carolina Panthers play the Denver Broncos. He requested my cheese and sausage dip (not that he could eat any of it). My oldest brother and his wife came down from Cleveland, OH to visit and watch the game with us. They a
had just been here the week previous and made the decision to come down again because I think they could sense the end was near.
Feb 7th- Superbowl Sunday. We watched the game, sat in his room and talked, had food and enjoyed ourselves, My mom had noticed that my dad had no urine output all day and made a note to tell the hospice nurse the next morning at her visit.
Feb 8th-Husband and I had the day off together and went to Body Worlds exhibit at the Discovery Place in Uptown Charlotte. As we were wandering through the exhibit I got a text message from my brother saying that they hospice nurse was just there and that dad's kidneys had completely shut down and he had about 72 hours left. I was in shock. I told them we would be there in a few hours. We finished the exhibit, ate lunch and went straight to my dads. He seemed in good spirits.
By 8pm that night I could tell things were going south. He wasn't coherent. He was talking and having conversations with people we couldn't see or hear. I stayed behind for a little bit while charles took boys home to bed. We sat in the room with him, holding his hand and talking to him. He talked about going to a beautiful park. Then he mentioned there were a lot of people at the park, and could he go?. The part that really got me was when he said there was a bridge and could he go across the bridge. My mom was there and he asked again if he could go across the bridge. She said yes and he said "you'll let me go?". She was crying and said ":yes, of course".
By this point his speech was very slurred, he had the deep rattle (the death rattle is what they call it) and couldn't keep his eyes open. He was so weak. All I could do was cry and hold his hand and tell him I loved him. I left around 11pm. At that time he was still talking and then started waving. He had an excited look and smile on his face . I truly think he was waving at those loved ones who have already passed and were waiting for him to cross the bridge. Believe it or not, it was a very spiritual experience. I do believe that in these final hours he was attended by his loved ones who were there to help him cross. I especially believe his mother and my daughter were there to comfort him.
I told my mom to call me-I said "I dont care what time it is. Call me as soon as anything happens".
I got the call 126am on February 9th. She said "Dads gone".
She had gone to bed about 1130, shortly after I left and my brother and his wife had gone to bed.. she was laying down next to him and kind of dozed off. She woke up about 1230 or so and he was asleep, breathing deeply and calmly. Then around 115 she woke up again, and he was gone. She thinks be probably died around 1am. He went so peacefully.
I woke the boys up and told them he was gone. I was going over there before the funeral home came and picked him up. Because of his decision to be cremated, this was our last chance to see his earthly body. I asked if they wanted to see grandpa one last time and say goodbye. They said yes. We had a family prayer and went over to my moms. I sat on the bed and held my dads hand and told him I loved him and I was so appreciative of the wonderful life he gave me. Finn and Peter went in and said their goodbyes. Finn was a mess. Peter was strangely calm. AT 245 the funeral service came and took my dad. I will never forget seeing him on that stretcher being wheeled out to the van. That is an image forever burned into my brain.
Charles took boys home and I stayed and slept on the couch. I called work and told them what had happened. Luckily they had kind of been expecting it and they took care of my schedule for the week.
FEB 10-11-12 The aftermath.
My mother is beside herself. She doesnt know how to cope without him. Every time she walks into her bedroom she expects to see him there, but doesnt. I walked into their bedroom and at my dads bedside table were his scriptures and his glasses...just as he left them. It punched me in the gut, an overwhelming sadness.
Moms siblings all come in to town. Dad's sister and nieces and cousins arrive as well. Flowers are pouring in. Food is pouring in. people stopping by to express condolences. It is a time of tears. Memorial arrangements are finalized, obituary is being written and photos are being uploaded to the slideshow.
FEBRUARY 13th- The morning of dad's memorial. I receive a beautiful calla lily plant from my work family. It is a live basket plant that I can transplant into the yard when the weather gets nicer and I can have them forever.
The sky is blue. The sun is shining. It is a gorgeous 60 degrees, just the kind of day my dad enjoyed.
We have a family meet and greet ahead of the memorial. We greet guests as they arrive and shed tears and hug and talk. My dad had asked me to play the piano as a prelude at his memorial service. I went to the chapel as people were sitting there and played "If You could Hie to Kolob" and "How Great Thou Art". A few minutes before the service the pianist arrives and takes over and I go and have prayer with my family.
We start off with "Be Still My Soul". One of my Dads favorite hymns.
One of my dads good friends from Church, Don Shaw, got up and spoke about some of the things that we as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, believe. He spoke mainly of the plan of happiness, of how we came to earth to receive a body and be tried and tested and it is our job to find the truth and find a way back to our father in heaven and to gain a testimony of our saviour, Jesus Christ.
We had another speaker, who was a friend from Church who seemed overcome with emotion. He spoke of my father in a very sweet and loving way. He spoke of our Savior, and of the resurrection and atonement and his sacrifice for us.
My dads sister, Gretchen, got up and spoke about her brother. She was funny and sweet and loving in her remembrance. She told about how my dad loved to travel. She spoke of how funny and witty he was and he could make anybody laugh. She talked about how he saved them from getting into trouble a lot of times with their mom. She would be upset and he would say or do something to get his mother laughing and get her to forget that she was angry and they were to be punished.
We had a gorgeous musical interlude. It was a piano and violin duet with two members of their ward. They played Nearer My God To Thee. It was so beautiful and really brought an amazing spirit to the room.
My brother Pat got up. He spoke about the love he had for my dad and that he was a great teacher and was always willing to help anyone in need. He was strict, but loving. My dad is not Pats biological dad, but he adopted Pat when he and my mom got married. In Pats eyes my dad is his one and only dad.
My brother Tom(dads youngest son) got up and said he was able to really get to know dad after they started working together at the ice cream store that my dad brought to Charlotte. He talked about how my dad would listen and give advice and really loved his children. He would talk your ear off, and anyone who wanted to chat. He loved people, he loved serving people and getting to know people. Basically if you've got the time my dad would talk your ear off if you would allow it. He was always the champion for the underdog and always wanted to give help and a chance to those would accept it.
Then it was my turn. I said it has always been hard being the youngest because I had to go practically last after all the good stuff has been said. I talked about how the day before he died we were at Discovery Place at the Body Worlds exhibit and how it started with the earliest form of life, from fetuses and kind of went through the entire life cycle. At the end it had a quote on the wall from Abraham Lincoln that really struck a chord with me. It said " And in the end it is not the years in your life that count, it is the life in your years"..
He had a lot of life in his years. He loved to travel. He loved to make people laugh. He loved to help people and serve people.
One of Charles cousins posted a condolence on my facebook wall that said "I read this the other day and think it is so appropriate. In our memories there is no death". I said that is what I am going on today. I have lots of great memories of my father, and the memories I will keep closest to my heart are that He loved the scriptures and the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was so proud of his children. He let us make our own mistakes, he loved us even when we made bad decisions. He loved his family. He was a great dad, husband and friend and will be greatly missed. I know that I will see my dad again someday and I will work hard and live my life in a way to continue to make him proud.
My dads oldest son, Todd, got up as the final eulogy. He talked about how you could mention that you were going to visit a certain city and my dad would always have a restaurant of a sight that you needed to see. He knew a little bit about everything. He loved to read and loved to learn. He talked about his career at McDonalds, and how growing up we ate A LOT of McDonalds and from a young age we could all tell the difference between a 2 star experience and a 4 star experience. We could then tell you what needed to change to improve the ratings.
He talked about my dad finding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and how he could tell a difference in my dad. He talked about how ,my dads faith made him a better father and husband.
He talked about how my dad would help and serve others and how he was a man of his faith and principles, and how much he loved his best friend Linda, his wife of over 41 years..
The final speaker was the bishop of their ward and he closed it with a sweet testimony.
We ended with the song, Abide With Me.
It has been only 2 months and I still feel sadness. I still feel an empty hollow place. I wish I had listened better. I wish I had said "I love you dad" more often. I wish I had not taken for granted our time here on this earth. I wish I wish I wish I wish a lot of things.
Recently I have been thinking a lot about my dad. I have been feeling melancholy and a little sad. I have been praying that I can shake off some of the darkness and cobwebs and remember the plan.
I happened to be the organist for church today and our opening hymn was Families Can Be Together Forever.
THEN-For our closing song we sang my dads favorite hymn Lead Kindly Light.
I DID NOT CHOOSE THESE HYMNS!! They were given to me by the music chair. She chose the songs and decided what we were singing and I found out this morning what they were. She must have had some prompting or spiritual guidance in this song selection because It was as if he were trying to speak to me and tell me he loves me and to remember what I have been taught.
I needed to hear that today. I needed to feel that again. I know that God knows my pain and is here to help comfort me in any way he can.
I love you dad. I miss you every day.