Category Archives: Death of my Dad

2010 was very sad. My Dad died suddenly in August. I’ve shared some of my journey as we’ve dealt with this tragedy.

Home for the Holidays

It’s been an odd trip home this year for Christmas. I’ve learned a few things.

1) I’m not as good with red-eye flights as I used to be. Even though I dozed for almost three hours on the plane from Vancouver to Toronto, I was exhausted when I got to Mom’s place. After a full turkey dinner and pleasant evening, I finally succumbed to the lure of my bed at 8:30pm (I feel no shame since I’d been awake almost 36 hours).

2) I’ve somehow managed to deal with Dad’s death despite being over 5000km from home. Except for a quick cry when I first saw Mom, it’s been okay. It has been a very healing trip home. I’ve had my moments, but they’ve been more affirming than distressing. For that I am thankful.

3) My friends on both coasts ROCK (Robin and Kevin too, even though they’re in the middle of the country). Not that this was a new lesson, I’ve known this as long as I’ve known them. But it’s something I don’t mind being reminded of… and I frequently am.

I hope everyone is having a peaceful holiday season either alone or with family and friends. The new year is just around the corner waiting for us to start it all over again.

The bad Dad year Continues

I thought we were in the clear. My business partner’s Dad died (lung cancer) yesterday morning.

That was the cycle of three, three Dad’s gone in the past year…or so I thought.

This morning I woke to an email from one of my best friends back in Saint John. He has to travel to his hometown to say good-bye to his father today.

Father’s are frail things it seems.

So, take time out of your day and give yours a call, a visit and if you can – a hug. Your Mom too.

Tell them you appreciate them for what they’ve done for you and don’t hold their mistakes against them. After all they’re not infallible, invincible or as these last week prove – immortal, they are in fact – only human.

One Month Later

It’s been a month since Dad died. I still can’t utter the words without tearing up a bit, even though it feels like a bad dream and not part of my everyday reality.

I felt bad because I slid right back into my regular routine once I returned to Vancouver. But, Mom and I were talking on Skype on the weekend, it’s the same for her – shuffleboard, choir practice volunteering at the museum. Nothing has changed.

On the surface it made me feel very insignificant. Life goes on and all that.

But under the surface, there is still that great well of sadness. The feeling of loss that never quite leaves you.

I’ve see women (and men) go the weak widow(er) route. Vital people, who curl into themselves and wait for death to claim them after they lose their spouse.

It’s a sad thing to watch.

Even though we’ve lost our father way too soon, my brothers and I are very lucky.

Mom and Dad had a very active social life. When we look at Dad’s empty recliner, it’s not a gaping hole because except for afternoon soaps and late evening, Dad rarely had time to sit in it.

I’m relieved that Mom has chosen to continue living and keep up with most of their activities. Way to go MOM!

I Have A New Theme Song

Well, one to add to my list – but it’s a short list.

So far there are only two that spring readily to mind worthy of being my ‘theme. The first is an oldie, Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive. The second is from the movie Footloose, Bonnie Taylor, Holding out for a Hero.

My new addition started poking into my consciousness during my “OMG will I make it in time” flight home last month. Just two lines from Jewel’s, Hands.

“Not to worry ’cause worry is wasteful
and useless in times like this.”

had me calming down enough to not drive myself completely nuts on the 5-hour legs of my trip from Calgary to Halifax. (when I couldn’t text my brother and get updates on my father’s condition).

For this I am eternally grateful to Jewel.

Last night was a rough night, so I sang along as I played it over and over. Jewel has nailed my perspective, which makes her the third song in my “Sue’s Theme Song List”

Here are the rest of the lyrics:

If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we’re all OK
And not to worry ’cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I won’t be made useless
I won’t be idle with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear
My hands are small, I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own (x2)
And I am never broken
Poverty stole your golden shoes
It didn’t steal your laughter
And heartache came to visit me
But I knew it wasn’t ever after
We’ll fight, not out of spite
For someone must stand up for what’s right
‘Cause where there’s a man who has no voice
There ours shall go singing
My hands are small I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own (x2)
I am never broken
In the end only kindness matters (x2)
I will get down on my knees, and I will pray (x3)
My hands are small I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own (x2)
And I am never broken
My hands are small I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own (x2)
And I am never broken
We are never broken

Thanks Jewel

As I post this I’m reminded of today’s date. The lyrics for this song fit today’s theme too. My heart goes out to everyone affected 9 years ago when the planes attacked.

“In the end, only kindness matters….We are never broken”

Peace be with you!

New Normal

I used this phrase just after Dad died to update my Facebook status. It read something like’ we’re adjusting to find our new normal’. I’m amazed at the response it’s received.

I first heard this phrase after I lost my job a couple of years ago… during that big economic crash. I was attending a transitions course and that was one of the phrases they used. After all, losing a job is like losing a close family member. Your world changes and so does your perception of your personal identity.

Allow me to get philosophical for a minute.

Ideally we should always be striving for a new normal. Moving forward and not letting ourselves sit complacently by while the world revolves around us. Because quite frankly,

when the world revolves around us, it means we’re the only ones not moving.

I found a new normal when I graduated from High School, another after University and my wedding. New normals don’t always have to be to be because of bad things. A new baby creates a new reality as does having that child leave home as an adult, excited about making their own way in the world.

These are things to be celebrated.

So, what do I have to celebrate about my father’s death?

Well, celebrate his life for one. If there was no him, there would be no me.

I choose to celebrate the way he lived and even the way he died.

I don’t mean celebrate with party hats and cake. but to be thankful and grateful.

He’s dead, why be grateful?

I choose to be grateful that he was able to hold on until I got home and was able to say goodbye and the speed of his demise after that. I realize that wanting to be home was all about me and my ability to cope.

I’m grateful that my father was a man I could be and still am proud of.

I’m grateful that my coming home has been a comfort and not an inconvenience.

You’ll notice I added in the phrase “I choose.”

That dear friends is the key.

The situation will not change. I can only adjust my reaction to it. I can wail and pound my head against the wall but it will only give me a headache, not change what has happened.

So instead I make sure others are looked after, those who choose to wail and flail are given aspirin – and eventually a soundproof room. While I learn my lesson, treasure my memories and move on in my ‘New Normal’.

Air Canada Compassionate Discount

My first reaction as I sit here in stunned silence is WTF?

Dear Air Canada, Why even bother to pretend to have a compassionate rate?

I read the webpage on Compassionate Rates from Air Canada and got confused. It seemed to be setting up stipulations that made no sense, unless I cared more about receiving a discount, than getting to my Dad before he died.

I thought, surely I’m reading this wrong, so I called.

I spoke to a lovely fellow on the phone, who seemed to cringe as he told me I’d disqualified myself from their compassionate discount because A) I didn’t call them first and B) I booked a one way ticket because I didn’t know if Dad would die in a day, a week, a month or recover completely.

I guess I didn’t miss out on much. According to their website: “In many instances, a lower-priced fare may be found by shopping online at aircanada.com. Bereavement fares are intended to provide maximum flexibility for passengers who must travel during a time of family emergency but are not necessarily the lowest fares available.”

So I ask – why bother?

I am so much more frustrated with Air Canada now for pretending to have a Compassionate Rate than I was when I didn’t think they had one.

Ironically, WestJet offers the same sort of non-rate, with slightly fewer restrictions. The difference is that it’s easy to find their Bereavement Rate information on their website, it’s worded in a way that makes sense to someone who is panicking about getting there in time and gives a hint as to why a bereavement fare is valuable.

Because of the way WestJet explained everything up front and in full sentences, I’m not nearly as irate at them.

I had to do a search to find the compassionate rate on the Air Canada website. After reading their stipulations set out in corporate-speak, I can’t figure out any value for me to even attempt to get the rate. In fact it sounds like more of a time consuming inconvenience for passengers, like me, who are concerned about their family and getting there in ‘time’.

Unfortunately, I HAVE to fly Air Canada to get home at Christmas. WestJet doesn’t fly to Saint John during the winter. The closest airport they do fly into is Moncton. A hour away from my parent’s… err my Mom’s House, and driving down from Moncton isn’t always an option.

If that’s their MO for gettnig business no wonder they’re in trouble!

The Aftermath

It’s been quite the week and despite the death of my father, it hasn’t been all bad.

  • You may not be able to go home again, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a visit.
  • I’ve been able to walk on some of my favourite beaches without having to freeze my butt off.
  • Weddings and funerals seem to bring out all the old friends you haven’t seen in a while.
  • You have a chance to re-evaluate your life and change its direction if you find you’ve gone off course

It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that it has only been a week since I arrived home. It seems like much longer.

It’s still all surreal.

There isn’t much sadness in my mother’s house. Life had gone on there is teasing and joking. Often we’ll pause and we look at each other and wonder if it wasn’t all just a horrible dream.

Maybe I should rephrase that, there is much sadness but it’s not overwhelming. We all have our moments when we remember Dad isn’t just outside working. The shock is wearing off. We’re all aware that the reality hasn’t completely sunk in and that each of us will crack in a different point and in a different way any number of times over the next few years.

I’ve already cried more this past week than I have in a decade and I know there is more to come.

Perhaps this is easier to deal with because Mom has said a few times that neither she nor Dad had any regrets. They lived their lives according to their beliefs and ethics and judging by the full church at Dad’s funeral, this was appreciated by more than just my brothers and I.

Perhaps this is also easier because death and funerals have been recent topics of conversation between my parents, brothers and I. Mom and Dad spent time this spring updating their wills and legal documents to ensure everything was in place.

In the aftermath of Dad’s death, there has been no panic or guesswork.

With that little bit of preparation, this week was able to be devoted to looking after each other and dealing with the emotional aspects of Dad’s death instead of worrying about Mom’s future.

Time for me to make sure I have every thing done too… I’m not getting any younger no matter how ‘not-even-close-to-my-age’ I look.

Points finger toward the audience reading this, “Have you?”

Death Of My Dad – pt 3

My Eulogy for my Father:

The most amazing man in my world died this week.

We’re all in shock.

The most frequent phrase I’ve heard is, “What do you mean Dick is dead? I just saw him…?”

In my parent’s house, I find myself looking out toward the garage wondering when Dad will finish up and come inside.

Then I remember he won’t.

We’ve heard some wonderful stories about Dad over the past few days. It’s been comforting, learning how he’s touched other people and made them laugh. We’re looking forward to hearing more.

Dad was a straight shooter. He wasn’t much for pretence and he told it like it was. He didn’t demand respect, he earned it.

I’ve moved across the country, done a lot of traveling, met a lot of people, all of them make me realize how lucky I am and have taught me to value Dad for his intelligence, integrity, knowledge, kindness and his sense of humour.

It’s been his sense of humour that has carried us through this past week. Dad would have been furious if we wore sad expressions on our faces and moped around.

At one point on Friday in the ICU waiting room Mom suddenly smiled.

She’d closed her eyes and imagined what Dad would do if he was there. In her mind’s eye she could see him standing impatiently at the door saying, “Come on old girl, let’s go home.” And then he’d say slyly to a passing nurse, “Gotta call her that to keep her feeling young.”

I can see some of you smiling. You’ve heard him say that, haven’t you.

As Mom told us about her musings you could feel a shift in the room. Expressions softened and shoulders relaxed. That was the effect Dad had on people.

If Dad had been able to orchestrate his own death, this is the way he would have done it. Really, part of me wonders if he didn’t have a say in how this week has played out.

It was fast. Any of you who knew Dad also knew that being confined to bed would have killed him faster than any disease.

On Wednesday, the night he was taken to hospital, he and Mom went for a lovely walk along Saint’s Rest Beach and had a relaxing evening.

Scott who had moved home three months ago, was just up the street and saw the fire trucks go by. He was able to reach Donnie who ‘coincidentally’, was coming home from Grand Manan and was just west of Mom and Dad’s exit. They were at the house within minutes.

Mom wasn’t left to face this alone.

I was able to catch a flight from Vancouver the next morning. He made sure he was still there – so that I had a chance to yell at him for scaring us all, a chance to accept what was happening and a chance to say goodbye.

The doctors and nursing staff were wonderful. They answered all of our questions and trust me, there were a lot, many of them we asked over and over again. They never lost patience.

Even though none of us liked what was happening, Dad gave us all the chance to accept the reality and time to say our goodbyes.

When he sensed that we were gathered and ready for the final vigil, he simply stopped, sparing us all the agony of waiting.

Daddy took care of us, right to his last heartbeat.

On behalf of my Mom, my brothers Donnie and Scott, the rest of my family and myself, I want to say thank you to all of you. Thank you for your love and support, thank you for your prayers Thank you for being here with us as we celebrate the life of my father and honour the man that he was.

And I’ll add a caution and a request.

Don’t take life for granted. It doesn’t matter how healthy you think you are, circumstances can change in a heartbeat.

Tell the people around you that you appreciate them. Tell your family you love them.

As my family and I learned this week, you never know when that ability will be taken away from you.

Day 5

Death Of My Dad pt 2

My youngest brother, Scott, was waiting for me at the airport. I’d asked him not to come inside the airport. I didn’t want to burst into tears when I saw him.

I love small airports. By the time I’d used the facilities (cause God knew when I would use them again) my bag was waiting for me on the conveyor and the rest of the passengers had already left.

Scott waited for me in the truck. He even made me open the tailgate and haul my huge duffel into the box. I realized then that he was just as afraid to greet me too.

The ride to the hospital was a blur of updates, noticing changes along the way and silent pleas to get there fast. Non-existent midnight traffic helped.

I was in the intensive care unit less than half an hour after landing.

Donnie, my other brother and his fiancée were waiting for us. After a brief conversation where the boys warned me to expect Dad to look bad… to which I replied, “It can’t be any worse than I’ve imagined.”

Trust me, having a vivid imagination isn’t always a good thing.

Without going into the gruesome details, it was bad. In many ways worse than my imaginings because I saw the levels of his medication and the nurse answered many of my questions. Unfortunately I asked some intelligent questions.

An hour later my feet began to hurt. I could hardly believe I’d been there so long I challenged Daddy to get his ass out of that bed… I guess I should have been more specific as to the how he should do that. ( This is a joke, you’re allowed to laugh. You’ll understand more when you read my eulogy.)

I returned to my brothers who were waiting for me in case I needed support. I shooed Donnie and Louise home and Scott and I crashed on the couches. We’d all been up close to two days.

Fast forward – 18 hours later Dad was on 100% oxygen and meds to move his blood through his body. It was up to him the medical staff could do no more. Dad’s blood pressure dropped continuously all night.

Scott and I had the midnight vigil again. This time we stayed up all night talking while Donnie and Louise spent the night with Mom. by 9am they were back along with Dad’s two sisters who lived in Saint John. His oldest sister in Ontario couldn’t come so we had her on speaker phone to hear the doctor’s update. Dad’s brother’s health is frail, we chose not to tell him until it was over.

We had a choice. Continue the meds and let him linger for hours or stop the BP meds and let him go in minutes.

We walked into the ICU unit to make our decision when Dad’s nurse stopped Mom. “Dick has made the decision for you. His heart just stopped.”

Day 2 done. Day 3 off to the worst possible start.

Death Of My Dad – pt 1

I’m not sure what caught my attention about her as she walked onto the skytrain. Maybe it was the exhausted way she dragged her oversized duffel-bag behind her, even though it was only six-thirty in the morning. She bent over awkwardly sideways trying to balance the knapsack she was carrying over one shoulder. It looked, like despite her effort, it was going to slip down over her arm anyway.

Luckily, the train was still half-empty so she was able to have one of the single seats which gave her room to drag her big, wheeled duffel close beside her out of the way of embarking passengers. She placed her knapsack on her lap, turned to the window and went still.

Not just still – unnaturally still.

If I hadn’t seen her come in I would have assumed she was a statue. Well, except for her thumb. Her thumbnail rubbed back and forth over the centre of her bottom lip. The movement was so small I almost missed it.

She fascinated me. I couldn’t take my eyes from her.

She had her cell phone gripped in her hand, pressed against her duffel-bag. I could hear it buzz against her luggage every few minutes. She’d check her messages and her lips would tilt up ever so slightly then her eyes would close and she’d take a deep breath. Her shoulders shook, just a bit until she seemed to get herself back in check. When her eyes opened again, there was an extra sheen to reflect the rising sun.

Suddenly, I understood.

I wanted to catch her eye and offer her comfort but the few times she looked around, her glance skipped over people and focused on silly things. Like to where the upright pole attached to the ceiling or the empty place where an ad should have been in the overhead marketing slots.

Her sadness was almost tangible, at least to anyone paying attention. The guy, sitting across from her, was oblivious.

She looked back out the window as we entered the tunnel. For a brief split-second, our eyes met in the reflection.

In that moment of clarity, I realized that she, was me.

*****

This was the start of my journey home.

My brother, Scott, called me Wednesday night to tell me Dad had an aortic aneurysm. He went into cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital. They took him immediately into surgery and he was given a 10% chance of surviving the surgery.

I was on the earliest flight I could get. Hence the 6:30 am skytrain ride.

The flight across the country was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Even harder than giving the eulogy at his funeral.

Being out of touch for the 5 hours between the gate at Calgary to the gate in Halifax left me in a panic. Was Daddy going to die? Would I make it in time to say goodbye? and then chastising myself for letting doubt seep into my thoughts. Dad was strong, healthy and stubborn. He’d be fine.

I broke down in the middle of the airport in Halifax. I had a three hour layover and there wasn’t an earlier flight I could catch. I could probably drive just as fast, but by then I’d been up for so long I could hardly stand, let alone attempt to drive.

Mom didn’t need to have two of us in the hospital.

The plane from Halifax to Saint John was cute. A little, ancient looking 16 seater. It gave me the comic relief I desperately needed.

When I got to Saint John less than an hour later I was calmer. I was home, Dad was still alive and Mom was at our house trying to get some sleep. She’d been up for over 40 hours by then too.

Day 1 complete