It’s the one year anniversary of my father’s death. It’s also happens to be my husband’s birthday.
I wanted to share a journal entry I wrote last year, after I spent 8 days with my father and stepmother helping her with hospice care at her apartment.
I have been thinking of my dad all day long. And my husband. And how surreal this day was one year ago today.
I arrived in Colorado a week and a half ago, on a Tuesday. My father stopped eating shortly thereafter, and didn’t eat anything for many days, except a popsicle now and then. My stepmom Gail and I took turns caring for him. I think she was very grateful for that, and I was very grateful I could be of service to them both.
My stepmom and I had some wonderfully sweet conversations. She brought back a basket full of pictures from his house from my childhood. I took pictures of the pictures so that I could bring them home with me. There was also a letter I wrote to them, when I was about 13.
Gail let me go take breaks once in a while, and I explored around Pueblo. I went to the Pueblo Dam and walked around, and I visited downtown Pueblo – the art district and the beautiful riverwalk. I also visited the City park/zoo and walked around a bit and remembered four years before, when I brought my daughters and my husband there to meet their grandpa and step-grandma for the first time. The City Park was one of the places they wanted us to visit. So many memories of that day came flooding back because it was a very small amusement park with kiddie rides the girls loved. (It was the first time I’d seen my dad and stepmom’s face to face in 29 years. Talk about an emotional reunion).
I spent the week helping to care for him and trying to cook for Gail (sometimes she found an appetite). I also wrote a lot, and corresponded with a new pen-pal and all that “normal” stuff helped ground me and helped keep me going during that emotional time.
My father recognized me up till the day before he died. At one point, about two days before he died, I sat on the bed next to him and told him I loved him, very much. He put his arm around me and said, in a very weak, almost child-like voice, “I’m so glad you came out to see me.”
I was so glad to hear that, from him directly. I mean, I’d known, but this was one of the last, very clear things he’d said to me. Tears welled up in my eyes and spilled out quietly. Especially since my mother gave me a really hard time about going in the first place, it was so wonderful to hear those words.
[Tears are welling up in my eyes now, as I am re-reading this].
That night that my stepmother gave me something to remember my father by – the necklace he always wore. I was deeply touched by that.
Gail told me the nurse told her he had a couple of days left. I had to leave and it probably would have been before he died. I had never been apart from my daughters more than a couple of days, and they really started to miss me a lot. As much as I had wanted to, I couldn’t stay any longer.
I left at noon on Tuesday, April 29th. I wanted to go to the Garden of the Gods on my way back to Denver. I thought I’d be back home with my children and husband before he passed.
And while my dad wasn’t awake when I left, I kissed him on his forehead and said goodbye and he groaned a little. I said goodbye to Gail and her sisters who came to see me off.
I was in the Garden of the Gods at 1:10 pm and walked around for about an hour, mostly just to walk and meditate before the 18 hour train trip home. Afterward, I stopped at a Starbucks and called to talk to my husband and daughter for a bit and take a bathroom break and get a cold drink. I texted my friend about 2:30 pm.
I got back on the road and back into Denver, dropped the car off and got taken to the train station. I called Gail to let her know I got into the station. It was about 4:30 by then. I told her I arrived safely and the train would be on time. That’s when she let me know my father passed away. I was a bit stunned. I thought he had more time.
It turned out that he passed about 2:45 p.m. Less than 3 hours after I left him.
And it dawned on my then that my father passed away on my husband’s birthday. Maybe so that I’d never forget the day he died. I don’t know.
According to my stepmom, he passed very peacefully. He was so medicated that he didn’t struggle at all. My father had woken up some time after I’d left. She called out a priest to give him his last rites…and afterward, he just closed his kind blue eyes, took a last breath, and went to sleep.
And, though I thought I would have handled it calmly, I ended up bawling my eyes out, and having trouble talking. I thought I would have found out when I was home, not in a train station, so far from home, and so close, but yet, two hours away from them, no car, and with my train on the way. There wasn’t anything I could do.
After I hung up with Gail, I made some phone calls to my two older sisters and my husband. I spent only about 10 minutes on the phone. And there was one other person in the train station trying to sleep. I felt so alone at that moment in my grief. But I had my cry and I wiped my tears and meditated. I thanked God for letting me be able to spend 8 days with him before he left this world. I thanked God for putting some wonderful people in my life. I had met the acquaintance of a few kind strangers in Colorado, who helped me in various ways big and small while I was 1000 miles away from home.