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 fifth 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
LEAVING THE HOSPITAL FOR THE LAST TIME
We left the Hospital for the last time in a daze. Going there had become a part of our life for almost a month. Especially mine. I think there were only a few days where I didn’t go. It had become my routine. Although I felt relieved to not be going back again, it was also a reminder that my Dad was not coming home with us. The numbness began to set in. We all felt like zombies. Everything seemed so unreal. The energy at my Mom’s house was one filled with extreme sadness. You could just feel it when you walked in. I was so thankful my children were home and we were altogether. This brought so much comfort to both my Mom and I. I wondered how would we get through this?
The first call I made was to the mortuary. We needed to make an appointment to set up Dad’s arrangements. What questions we were supposed to ask? What answers did we need to have? Dad and Mom had already paid for some of the mortuary services but what was left to do? My Mom, sister, brother-in-law and I were went together. This made getting through the meeting so much easier. Our arrangement director was calm, loving and understanding. We had choices to make but thankfully we all seemed to be on the same page. We let Mom take the lead and answered when she couldn’t. We learned about ordering prayer cards and death certificates. I took notes so we wouldn’t forget what we had to do. We needed to chose photos. Make a music CD. Create the Memorial Tree. Ultimately, we arranged for Dad’s service and picked those items we felt he would want. It was all about him and we wanted it to be special in every way.
We held Dad’s memorial on Friday February 3rd. Even though Dad had not been cremated yet, we wanted to have it while my children were still in town. We had it at the Mortuary not at a Church. Because were are Catholic, some people thought that was weird. Shouldn’t it be at a Church? No, My Dad wanted it at the Mortuary. No judging allowed. Not today. It was exactly what Dad would have wanted. Simple yet heartfelt.
I gave the Eulogy on behalf of the family.
I finished up his eulogy by asking everyone to raise their make-believe glasses in a toast to Dad:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
The rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His Hands.
This was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do but I know Dad was with us in spirit that day.
We even were able to get the U.S. Navy to come in and be a part of the service. It was so beautiful to watch how they folded and unfolded the flag then gave it to my Mom. If you haven’t seen the Naval Funeral Flag Presentation Ceremony before here is a video (from another service not my Dad’s):
The reception was right after the service in another room. The food was simple yet amazing. We walked around thanking everyone for being there. Mom held up okay but you could tell she was emotionally and physically drained. It was a lot to deal with after almost 65 years of marriage.
After the reception was over, family and friends ended up at my sister’s house. It was so comforting to be together. It was the first time we had been in my sister’s house without my Dad. It all seemed like a dream.
BACK TO REALITY
Once the memorial came and went, reality hit. Everyone else went back to their lives; we seemed to be stuck in an alternate one. We walked around in daze. After living with my parents for the last few years, I was used to Dad being around. Like all the time. Like every single day. Now he was gone but reminders of him were everywhere. His shoes by the back door. His sweater draped over a dining room chair. His Lactaid milk and other favorite foods still in the refrigerator. Mail coming in with his name. Callers asking for him on the phone. Emails for him about new books from Amazon Kindle. Reminders were EVERYWHERE.
A large portrait of Dad from the memorial service and his urn (which he will share with my Mom) became a predominant fixture in the dining room. Lighted candles formed a semi-circle around both. It’s like he was still with us but in a different way. We talked to his picture. We played the music from his memorial service. We knew he was around because of all the signs and messages we were receiving. This helped but we still felt lost.
A MOUNTAIN OF PAPERWORK
Unfortunately, there was still much to do in regards to legalities. I didn’t want my Mom to have to go through any of this alone so I tried to help as best I could. We made appointments to see the family lawyer. We stopped at the various banks to close accounts. We stood in line at the Social Security Administration. We sent off inquiries to insurance companies and benefit providers. We reached out to the family accountant.
What this left us with was more paperwork than we ever imagined. Our “grief brains” could barely remember what to do even after we had taken copious notes. At one point my Mom wrote a check to pay a bill from an account we had just closed. I even took the check to the bank and deposited it for her into another account. I somehow missed the fact (even though I had been there) that the account had been closed entirely. I guess I really had no brain cells left. When the check ultimately bounced my Mom and I realized we had no idea what we were doing. It was all an out-of-body experience. We must be living in a parallel universe. Going through the motions but having no real idea of what was happening. I reminded her all this was completely normal. I felt horrible I hadn’t caught it. After all I should be more aware as “grief specialist”. My Mom was depending on me. But this reminded me that no-one, not even a “grief specialist”, is immune from the side-effects of loss. I just had to learn to take my own advice and approach things one moment at a time.
So Mom and I started checking and double checking paperwork before sending it out. Often it was still sent back because we had both missed something. It became more than frustrating. In those cases where we didn’t miss anything, we would receive yet more forms needing yet more information. Everything seemed to come in waves. It was frustrating as all heck. The only organization that was surprisingly easy to deal with was the Veteran’s Administration. Yes a bureaucratic government organization was actually the most kind and efficient. My Mom made the call, filled out the paperwork once and received the check within a few weeks. So far, the VA has been the only organization where things went off without any issues. We are so thankful for their competency and expediency.
I now try to get to the mail first so my Mom doesn’t see it. That only works sometimes. When she does get to it first I can see her hold back the tears as she unleashes yet another set of forms from the envelope. When will this end?
Sending you love, comfort and peace!