Sunday, June 21, 2015

First Father's Day Without

On June 5th Wayne's dad's heart decided it had reached its quota of beats for a lifetime. Despite his pacemaker, his heart was beating at 31 beats per minute as paramedics loaded him into the ambulance. Upon reaching the hospital his body refused to carry on despite their efforts. His wife Millie, daughter Sherrie and her husband Todd were there to say good-bye. Millie told him to save a place for her next to him, in heaven.

50th wedding anniversary, 2004.

60th wedding anniversary, 2014.
He was 10 days short of his 85th birthday. Instead of gathering to celebrate another year, family members made plans to gather for his funeral.

Trip to New York City, 2005.
While Neil had been slowly declining due to Parkinson's disease over the past five years, his departure at this time was unexpected, yet a blessing. He was spared the further loss of his mobility, his ability to dress himself, feed himself, and other such things that able-bodied people take for granted. He is no longer in pain, unable to sleep and be comfortable.

Over the past few years, if I called their home and asked how he was, his response was often something along the lines of, "Well, I'm not sure I would call this living."

The family gathered and came together in a way that honored him. They worked through the details of the funeral, they helped Millie deal with health insurance, social security, utilities and other arrangements. Together they are focused on Millie's comfort, ensuring that her needs are met and that she is able to live the way she wishes for as long as she is able.

And despite the fact that anyone could say, "He lived a long life," people have understood that losing a parent -- no matter how long that person lived -- is still a very real loss and a grief unlike any other.

Wayne's sister, Laurie, had already booked a flight to Minnesota for Neil's birthday celebration, which was to take place the following weekend. A friend paid for the change fee to move the flight, got her into first class and arranged for a limo to pick her up at her apartment and take her to the airport at 4:30 a.m.

Another family member has no bereavement leave and co-workers chipped in to help cover the time away from work.

A co-worker of Wayne's attended the visitation, driving three and a half hours from the Twin Cities to Tracy just to visit for 20 minutes, turn around and drive back again.

And today, on Father's Day, friends of ours, one of Lindsey's close friends and her family, dropped off a plant arrangement and chocolates because they know that the first Father's Day without is the hardest.

Sometimes it is through loss that we truly know our blessings.

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