Category Archives: Family

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Signs From Dad

Signs From Dad

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Now that the Holidays are upon us I can’t help but miss my Dad. This will be the first Holidays without him and boy did he love this time of year. We used to say Dad decorated everything like Chevy Chase in the movie Christmas Vacation. Lights. Ornaments. Garlands. Everywhere!

Since Dad died in January of this year, he has been very busy from the other side sending us signs and messages. Almost too many to count. Writing about them reminds me that even though he isn’t here with us during the upcoming Holidays, he is never far from us.

Here are some of the signs Dad has sent us since his death.

SIGNS FROM DAD

One of the primary signs from Dad is music.  Songs when you least expect it.  There have been a few music signs which have made a big impact on me.  The first one was shortly after his death.  My Mom and I had stopped to have lunch.  It was probably the first time we had been out since he died.  We walked into the restaurant and were shown to a table.  As soon as we sat down, two of my Dad’s favorite songs (both from his Memorial Service) began to play.  My Mom and I looked at each other and knew immediately Dad was there with us at that moment.

The second time was when I was at the Dentist’s office.  I had walked from our house to the dental office thinking about my Dad the whole way there. When I sat down in the waiting room, two of my Dad’s favorite songs played over their music system. Hearing these songs opened the floodgates. Fortunately, I was still wearing my dark sunglasses. Another reminder Dad knew I was thinking about him. Luckily, I was able to compose myself before they called me in for my teeth cleaning.

Another time, my Dad sent music at Walmart. My Dad loved shopping.  When I walked in to Walmart, I thought about how much my Dad had loved to shop there. As I moved through the store, the song from Wedding Bell Blues by The Fifth Dimension played over the sound system.

“Bill I love you so
I always will…”

It wasn’t so much the song or the lyrics but the fact the song was about “Bill.” My Dad’s name was Bill.  I hadn’t heard that song in years and years. I knew immediately that my Dad was there shopping with me.

The most recent music sign form my Dad was this past Saturday.  I was sitting in LA freeway traffic. My mind wandered (as it usually does) to my Dad.  For some reason, I decided to change radio stations and ended up stopping on the one playing Christmas music. As soon as I stopped there, the song Blue Christmas by Elvis played.  This was my Dad’s favorite Christmas song.  He sang it all the time. It is my most favorite memory of him.  At the moment the song played, I knew my Dad was there with me in the car.  I began to cry.

ONE SPECIAL SIGN

One of the most special signs from Dad happened for my son.  He had wanted one of his Papa’s watches.  My Mom found one for him but it wasn’t in working condition. It probably didn’t even have a battery.  But my son loved it and wore it anyway so he could be “close” to his Papa.

Last week my son was in a school golf tournament in which his team came in first place.  This was the first time EVER a student team had won.  My son attributed the win to the fact that he wore his Papa’s watch which gave the team good luck.  As he was explaining his win to his roommate that night, my son looked down at the watch and saw that the second hand was moving.  He thought there was no way it was possible because we had never bought a battery for it.  He looked away and when he looked again, my son not only saw that the second hand was still moving, but the time on the watch was the exact time on the kitchen clock.  Then watch then stopped working again. My son said he was so moved, he couldn’t finish talking to his roommate.  He ran upstairs to his room and cried.  He then called me and told me the story.  I couldn’t believe it either. I said it was Dad/Papa’s way of telling him he was there with him on the golf course that day.  What an amazing gift!

I will probably write more about my Dad’s signs in the weeks and months  to come since there are too many to include in this article.  These signs are help to make the Holidays less painful.  They are just another reminder our loved ones are never far from us!

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Sending you love, comfort and peace!

 


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Father's Day

First Father’s Day Without Dad

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It’s a day I’ve been dreading since Dad died in January. This is my first Father’s Day without him. The first one in 57 years. I’ve been anticipating this day for months. I can’t escape it. It’s been in my face everywhere I go. It’s just another reminder he isn’t here anymore.  To be honest, I’m tired of those reminders.

Although I know it is actually healthier to cherish this day (rather than avoid it) as a way to honor my Dad, it all depends on where someone is on their journey. Part of me wants to avoid it. I know that avoiding Father’s Day can also be healthy. Another part of me wants to go to his favorite sports bar, watch sports and drink beer. If my Sister is up for it, we will probably do the latter.

If you lost someone you loved are not sure what to do, here are a few of the ways you can approach Father’s Day (or any Holiday):

WAYS TO APPROACH FATHER’S DAY

Be Prepared. Anticipating the grief associated with these events is normal. Knowing ahead of time may be tough can help you to decide how you want to spend that day. It could be celebrating with family and friends or being alone in your grief. Being prepared will help you to honor what works best for you.

Plan a Celebration. There is nothing that says you can’t celebrate on Father’s Day. It’s perfectly okay to throw a party. It’s perfectly okay to actually have some fun in memory of your loved one. If you do, they will be there celebrating with you.

Get Out of Dodge. If it is too much for you to be home alone during these reminder days, plan a trip away or go visit family or friends. It is perfectly okay to not be around if being in familiar surroundings with reminders everywhere is too much to handle. Just get the heck out of dodge.

Share Memories. Consider inviting friends over so you can share memories of your loved one. Ask your friends to share their own memories. Pull out old photographs or home movies. Tell stories. Laugh until you cry. Cry until you laugh. Memories are the best way to remember your loved one. There is no better way to honor them.

Start a New Tradition. If facing your usual traditions are too difficult, start a new one. Make a donation to a charitable organization, volunteer or plant a tree in your loved one’s name on Valentine’s Day.

Honor Your Grief. It’s normal to be both sad and joyful on these days. Expressing both kinds of emotions makes us human. Honor these emotions. Don’t avoid them. Worse, don’t pretend. Just feel.

No Fanfare. It’s also okay to let these days just be ordinary days. No celebration. Just another day.

So I’ve decided it is completely healthy to either acknowledge or not acknowledge Father’s Day. You have to do what is right for you.

Surround yourself with people who understand what you need – not what they think you should or shouldn’t be doing.

Let this days come and go. Even if this means choosing to do nothing.

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POEM FOR MY DAD ON FATHER’S DAY

“Special Hero” By Christina M. Kerschen

When I was a baby

you would hold me in your arms

I felt the love and tenderness

keeping me safe from harm

I would look up into your eyes

and all the love I would see

How did I get so lucky

you were the dad chosen for me

There is something special

about a father’s love

Seems it was sent to me

from someplace up above

Our love is everlasting

I just wanted you to know

That you’re my special hero

and I wanted to tell you so.

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Sending you love, comfort and peace!


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Dad's Death: Life Lessons

Dad’s Death: 10 Life Lessons (Part 6)

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My Dad died on January 28th, 2017 due to complications after a fall. He would have been 85 years old this year. He and my Mom would have also celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. This is the sixth in a series of articles written about his final weeks.

Article 6, Dad’s Death – 10 Life Lessons: https://goo.gl/SXh5NX
Article 5, Dad’s Death – The Aftermath: https://goo.gl/6YILxK
Article 4, Dad’s Final Days: https://goo.gl/k4PH63
Article 3, Dad’s End of Life Dreams and Visions: https://goo.gl/x2zvqA
Article 2, Dad’s Recovery: https://goo.gl/80ZBAc
Article 1, Dad’s Fall and Surgery: https://goo.gl/M7Xm65

REFLECTING BACK

Now that it has been almost 5 months since Dad’s death I reflect back on the life lessons such an experience brings to someone’s life. To be honest, this was the first time I had really experienced death. My previous interactions had only been on the periphery. On the receiving end of a phone call. Or in the dark of night after I had seen someone for the last time.

But this time, it was up close and personal. From the day my Dad fell, through his surgery, on the roller coaster that was his recovery, to the moment he took his last breath. It knocks the wind out of you. Like they say, you don’t understand unless you have been there. I have such a deeper appreciation for anyone who has been through or is going through such an ordeal. Suffice it to say, your life is forever changed.

LIFE LESSONS (BEFORE DEATH)

So what would I tell someone who hasn’t been on this journey yet?  I could easily say avoid it or run for the hills if you see it heading your way, but that wouldn’t be practical. It hit our family one sunny day when we least expected it. Once it hit, there was no where to run. We were thrown smack dab in the middle whether we wanted to be there or not.

Instead I ask you to accept death as a part of life. Accept that you have to face it and can’t avoid it. Accept if you prepare in advance you have a better chance of  moving through it in one piece. It won’t be pain free, but by planning there certainly may be less pain. If you haven’t gotten there yet, here are some of the life lessons I learned and wanted to share:

Talk about death – This is the most important item on the list.  Talk about death with your family. Their death. Your death. Don’t avoid it. Death is a part of life. It’s normal, natural and inevitable someone you love will die. It’s normal, natural and inevitable you will die.  Why send everyone into a tailspin after you die by not talking about it beforehand? Don’t approach it for the first time while someone is dying or after their death. The grief fog rolls in putting you in a parallel universe. You have no idea what hour or day it is. You have no comprehension of what anyone is saying to you.  Why would you want to have important conversations during this time?  Make it a family topic. Article: Having Conversations About End Of Life Issues

Ask tough questions – Although my Dad had an Advance Health Care Directive, we had never really asked him what it meant to him. The end of life medical techniques in an Advance Health Care Directive usually include: use of dialysis and breathing machines; resuscitation if you stop breathing or if your heart stops; feeding tubes and organ or tissue donation after you die. Since my parent’s trust was written in 1992 and amended in 2005, the laws have changed.  My own Advance Health Care Directive, written in 2013, is much more specific about these end of life medical choices. When it came time to make decisions for my Dad, his Advance Health Care Directive indicated he did not want to be an organ donor but was really not specific on the other topics.  As a result my family had to discuss what we thought Dad wanted (not what we knew he wanted).  Fortunately, my Mom, Sister and I were all on the same page.  If we had not been not been on the same page, my Dad may still be “lingering” in some acute care Hospital while we tried to figure it out.  Ask the tough questions ahead of time so you are not trying to figure it out during such a stressful and emotional time. Article: Advance Directive – Death With Dignity

Plan ahead – Don’t assume everyone knows what you want if its never been talked about. Prolong life or don’t prolong it? Die in hospital or at home? Burial or cremation? Open or closed casket? Church funeral or Memorial service at the Mortuary? Religious or party atmosphere? My Sister and I were lucky my parents had already pre-paid for most of their arrangements. This made it so much easier for us to make the remaining decisions.  If you don’t have the resources to pre-pay, at least write it all down. This is better than someone trying to guess or having family members fight about it. Article: Don’t Let Fear Stop You From End-of-Life Planning

Get paperwork in order – Make sure there is a Will or Living Trust, Advance Heath Care Directive and Power of Attorney.  If there isn’t one and/or it isn’t affordable to hire an Attorney, at least go to somewhere like Staples and buy the necessary forms. Fill out the forms and have them notarized.  Better yet, Legal Zoom is also a great resource. There is no excuse to let anyone you know (or yourself) die without these three documents.  It’s also important to know where any important files are kept or at least have a list of everything.  My Dad had files and lists but they were hard to decipher. This contributed to the anxiety we experienced after his death. Article: 8 Smart Estate Planning Steps to Die the Right Way

Speak up with Doctors – I grew to learn during my Dad’s hospitalization that Doctors are not often very clear. On several occasions when I felt like they were dancing around  subjects I asked, “Do you think my Dad is in congestive heart failure?” or “Do you think my Dad is dying?”  This directness seemed to throw off some of the Doctors. I wanted them to know honesty was the best policy. Towards the end when no one seemed to have answers, I asked for a Social Worker so my Dad’s case could be reviewed. We wanted a better idea of what was going on and our options. Things just didn’t seem “right.” So I went with my “gut” and contacted the Charge Nurse who got in touch with a Social Worker.  Dad’s case was reviewed and a Palliative Care Team took over.  Best decision we made. Who knows how long my Dad would have been in “no man’s land” if I hadn’t asked for help. I am glad I listened to my gut.  Article: Facing Mortality – How To Talk To Your Doctor

Life after death – Over the years, especially after two of my loved ones died by suicide I really understood there is life after death. I knew this because I received messages and signs from them. However until my experience with my Dad, I had never seen anyone seem to be in “this world and the next” at the same. The story he told me about his “visit” left me in awe.  My belief in the next life was strengthened by this encounter. This was the most amazing life lesson. Article: End-of-Life Dreams and Visions

LIFE LESSONS (AFTER DEATH)

Understand everyone grieves differently  One of the most misunderstood concepts about grief is that we all grieve the same way. This is the furthest thing from the truth. Grief is a unique and individual experience. How someone grieves, or more importantly how they choose to grieve, depends on many factors: The type of relationship they have or did not have with their loss, and the types and intensity of emotions that may or may not be involved. In other words, the intensity of how someone grieves directly correlates to the uniqueness of their relationship. This is why no two people will react the same way to the same loss. For example, my sister and I have very different relationships with our parents. Because of these differences, we will react in our own distinct way to their deaths. How we grieve will also be dependent on whether we decide to face it or not. We could choose to plunge into it head on. We could choose to avoid it. Once we make that decision, each of us will grieve in our own individual and unique way.

Be gentle with yourself – Too many times, we put our own self-care on hold because we are facing grief. If you are physically, emotionally, or spiritually drained you put yourself at risk of getting sick or being in an accident. If you are physically healthy, it makes it easier to deal with your emotions. This is why it is important to try to take care of you as much as possible. Be gentle with yourself during this time. Practice self-care.

Paperwork is inevitable – No matter how well anyone prepares for death, paperwork (and lots of it) will hit you like a tsunami. For the paperwork you can control, make sure there is easy access to legal, financial and healthcare files and forms at home. For the paperwork you can’t control, know ahead of time that insurance companies, lawyers and financial institutions take great pride (it seems) in the number of ways they will ask you for the same thing. There is never just one form to complete (except for the VA which still amazes me).  Just getting my Dad’s medical records from the Hospital and Fire Department took six tries. Be prepared for this to happen. Take it slowly and if possible, have someone who can help you to keep track of everything.

Be patient – Grief is not on a timeline. Be patient with grief and the paperwork reality that follows. Don’t push to be finished or become anxious when it isn’t. The entire journey takes “as long as it takes.” Accept this fact and you are ahead of the game.

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In this Ted Talk, Judy MacDonald Johnston shares 5 practices for planning for a good end of life.

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Sending you love, comfort and peace!


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