December 15th is the day our dad always bought our Christmas tree. It was an annual ritual that I will always cherish. On this day in 2017, the patriarch of the family passed away. Lung cancer ravaged his body and his final week on earth was heartbreaking to witness. My blog today is about DAD and what death does to a family.
We knew he would succumb to the disease. We all watched him actively die and it’s one of the toughest things to do. When he was initially admitted to the rehab center this final time, he was talkative and his normal self but a week later, things changed significantly. This wasn’t his first time in the hospital or a rehab facility as he has battled heart issues and a number of slip and falls for the past 4-5 years. But, the cancer ultimately took his life. He constantly asked for his oldest two sons so I knew this had to be important to him. I called my brothers in California and told them that dad wanted to see them they both jumped on a flight the next day to visit for the weekend. They were able to see him alive and we knew that dad was happy. His spirits lifted a bit even though he was weak and tired. My brothers didn’t know he was that bad off and both expressed that they were happy to see him before he passed away. It was a Monday when they had to go back home so we visited him before we would head to the airport. He was very weak and could only manage a very low whisper which was even harder to hear over the oxygen condenser machine. He asked my brothers and I to come closer which we did. In a very low and raspy whisper, he managed to say that he wanted all of the shit between us to stop and named all of his children. He said that he didn’t want any fighting or nonsense at his funeral and he wants us to all get along. This had to be incredibly important to him and heavy on his heart to muster up the energy to make the statements. I was taken aback but so very proud of him for finally putting his foot down. It was now or never for him to speak his mind.
My dad and I weren’t really on speaking terms because of the circumstances with my son. I would pop up to his house every now and then to say hello or bring him some food. I missed him and I missed our conversations. He had said some pretty mean things to me and at one time, he even told me to never come to his house again. I was crushed but I also knew that he was siding with other family members and I also had to recognize that he was hurting. He was absolutely crushed about his grandson being in jail and I totally understood his pain and anger. I wanted him to step up and be the peacemaker. I wanted him to be the leader and insist that we all sit down and talk about it. I wanted him to be the hero and fix everything. None of that happened but he did make his demands on his deathbed. Thank you dad for that. Whether or not we act upon on it is on us. I am open to honoring his words. I’ve always been open to work things out with my family. Dad’s final words just emphasizes it for me.
After my dad saw his two oldest sons, his condition went downhill rapidly. Four days later after they left, we would lose him. We would all gather in his room everyday. We knew that he could hear us laughing and talking. We spent the time reminiscing and thinking back on memorable childhood events. Did you notice that I said “we gathered in his room?” Yes, my dad brought us all together. I hadn’t been in the same room with all of my siblings and parents in a few years. It was a bit awkward because of the elephant in the room but apparently, we all overlooked that and spent the last few days celebrating him. Under the unfortunate circumstance, he managed to make it happen. He managed to get us all together. He was the leader and peacemaker that I was searching for. We are all grieving now. We have stuck together for our mother and for our children who are also grieving. It’s not about us. It’s not about hatred or harsh feelings. It’s about honoring dad.
It’s been two weeks since my dad passed and my heart is heavy. I still can’t believe he’s gone. Christmas was tough because he’s no longer here. There was no gift to buy him. There wasn’t the customary gift card that he gives to his adult children. He did, however, manage to buy a few gifts for the children before he went into the hospital. He was always thinking of his grandchildren. He mentioned in the hospital that he wanted those gifts wrapped in time for Christmas which they were. Christmas will be tough every year going forward.
My son called the day after the funeral. He was able to speak with his papa while he was still alert which was about eight days earlier. When I broke the news to him, he broke down crying. My heart ached for him and I couldn’t comfort him. All I could say was that I was sorry over and over. I wanted to hug him and tell him it would be okay. I felt helpless.
In his final days, my dad laid down the law and time will only tell if what he said will be honored. It’s too soon to say but a blessing behind his passing is that I’m now on speaking terms with one of my sister’s and that I was able to spend the annual Christmas ritual at my parents house. My oldest brother really wants us to all sit down and talk because from speaking with all of us separately, we all have different views, opinions and feelings about the situation with my oldest son. He has volunteered to facilitate such meeting and we’ll see how it goes or if it ever takes place. In the meantime, I will grieve the death of my father, support my son and continue to help raise his daughter.
Even if just temporary, dad was able to bring us all together. Thank you dad for the blessing. Thank you for your sacrifice in the name of your children.