How I Am Dealing with the Death of My Dad


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I am not going to pretend that I know exactly what others are going through when they experience the loss of a loved one, just as others have no idea exactly what I have been going through. In that case, I cannot pretend that I know something that I do not know. All I can do is tell my story, share my thoughts and give some insight into my current life and how I am dealing with my new reality.

Missing My Daily Phone Calls

My days driving home from work are no longer very enjoyable, whereas just a few months ago, they were part of the highlight of my day. You see, this was the time of the day, just as I left work that I would immediately put my headset on, tell Siri to ‘call Dad,’ and then spend the next thirty minutes or so talking with him. I no longer have that. I have some audiobooks that I try to listen to, but they do not provide the warmth, encouragement, and always positive energy that would reach out so lovingly through the receiver of the phone. It is his voice that I desperately yearn for—not the voice of a stranger and not music. I want that voice—that voice on the other end that wasn’t afraid to call his grown son, ‘babe.’ It is that voice I want to hear so badly, but I’m not in some type of denial or anything—I know that I will no longer get it.

Facing that reality each day is something that continues to tug at my insides and without fail, it continues to make that lump rise up into the throat. I find myself being torn between wanting to forget and not wanting to forget. I am stuck in limbo, trapped somewhere between those two trains of thought, and they seem to be constantly on the same track, heading straight for each other.

First Signs of Concern

I first noticed sometime around early February of this year that something was up, and that Dad was no longer himself. When I say himself, what I mean is that there were times when he was no longer answering his phone on my drive home, or he failed to text back during an Arizona Wildcats basketball game. These things happened, but they were rare.

When I was able to get a hold of him, he told me that he was not feeling so good—he was tired, just feeling exhausted and wiped out. At the time, I guess this worried me somewhat, but you know how it is, we tend to chalk things like minor illnesses or aches up to our parents just being older. After all, my dad was pushing 70, and I assumed that he had a lingering cold or something. However, as the days turned into a week and one week into two, we continued our almost daily phone calls, but I began to get concerned that he sounded a bit winded and there was a shortness of breath. The high-energy voice that I had grown accustomed to my entire life sounded a bit weakened.

The Immediate Aftermath Following His Passing

My dad passed away on April 5, 2017, about eight weeks after his first symptoms of illness, less than six weeks after a doctor told him that he had slightly-elevated liver enzymes, three weeks after being diagnosed with colon cancer, and two weeks after we celebrated his seventieth birthday in his hospital room. Everything happened so quickly. It is as if the illness steamrolled all of us, sending us into a spin cycle of shock and disbelief. Everything happened so rapidly, which gave myself and my family very little time to process what was truly happening. I still wonder if I have completely had the chance to process what has happened, and this also makes me wonder how my grief may differ from others. Do others who had months or years to prepare for eminent death have more time to accept the reality of their situation, or does it all feel the same? In my mind and also in reality, my dad was just here, living what seemed like a healthy life. He was healthy, or at least that is how it seemed.

Dad’s final resting spot and his last words of encouragement to us.

I think the days immediately after, leading up to the day of his memorial were oddly, some of the easier days that I have experienced. Perhaps it has something to do with the emotional shock, of maybe it had something to do with the fact that we seemed so busy making preparations, getting ready for family to come into town, and us, my mom, sister, and nephew being there for each other. I wish I could say that things have progressively gotten a little bit easier, but for the most part I would be lying. I do not know if the days get easier, or if you just learn to find ways to distract your mind from the constant barrage of reminders. There are moments when I can smile, laugh, and feel like everything is okay and that life can keep pushing me forward, but then there are other times when that sadness builds up in my chest and I want to sob like a child.

A Swirling Mass of Mixed Emotions

Now, here I am, rising up out of the grief, but often afraid that life will begin to return to normal before I’m ready for it. As I look around, trying to peek out of the fog, I find myself being twisted and turned in so many odd directions. I get glimpses of hope and happiness, and then I get socked in the gut with sadness and longing. I get up out of bed feeling happy and then feel the crash on my morning commute. I get up sad and then feel his inspiring words pushing me onward.

“There is always a delay in planting and harvesting—you must plant a seed to get a crop.”

On the day that he died, I had accepted his fate and the reality that he was going to pass. Just a few days prior, I was able to hold his hand, kiss him on the forehead, and say my goodbyes to him. In that moment as he laid in bed, his eyes looked as though they were getting heavier, becoming more and more difficult to keep open for longer periods of time, and his voice was strained, raspy and weakened. It was at that moment that I was able to thank him for being such a wonderful dad. I was able to look him directly in his light hazel eyes and tell him that he was my best friend. He was able to return his gaze, not shedding any tears or showing any signs of fear, and tell me confidently that we would see each other again someday. His faith was unwavering, his confidence unbroken, and his ability to inspire is something that lasted until his final breath. On that day, April 5, at 1:05pm, I felt sadness knowing that I would never see him again, but I also felt a calmness and comfort come over me. I knew that the man, for whom I will love my entire life was no longer inside that body. The body that laid there motionless, was now just the vessel that once held his soul and projected it’s kindness out to others. He was gone, but the grief and reality would take some time to set in.

Trying to Find Optimism as a Way to Pay Tribute

As the days began to turn into weeks, I started catching myself using the phrase, “who cares?” quite often—but not in an indifferent, jaded type-of-way. I think dealing with something on such a large scale of emotion has made me understand more than ever that there really is no benefit in sweating the small stuff. Small frustrations and simple complaints start to feel like a waste of time, and you begin to think, “Is it really that important?” Perhaps death and grieving gives me the opportunity to hit reset and reevaluate myself. I don’t know—maybe I’m trying to use these hard times as a way to make myself better—the ultimate tribute to my Dad.

“Don’t pass out in the storm, pass over the storm.”

As I get older, I am seeing myself beginning to look more and more like my Dad, which means that every time I look in the mirror, I see him in me. I find myself wanting to use words and phrases that he used to, just so I can keep that part of him with me. Other times, I find myself driving down the road or taking a walk, and audibly saying, “It is beautiful here, isn’t it, Dad?” just so I can hear his voice in my head saying, “yeah babe, it’s totally fantastic.” Other times I may just say things like, “I miss you, Dad!” Whatever it is, I like to keep these little fragments of his personality always accessible, so that I can try to keep learning from him and aspiring to be more like the person he was. I know that in the future, even in death, he will continue to be my main source of inspiration and motivation.

My First Fathers Day Without Dad

It is Father’s Day, 2017—a day that I have dreaded since the day he passed. I knew that there would be a constant bombardment of happy kids with their smiling dad posted everywhere on social media and that restaurants would be full of joyful families. I feared that it would be the most difficult day for me since the day of his passing, and in some ways I was right. I woke up, no differently than I do every other day, with him directly at the front of my mind. I feel like I can hear his voice more clearly than I have in the weeks past, which is neither a good thing nor bad thing. It makes me smile and it makes me cry. I think what continues to be difficult is that this will be the first of many Father’s Days that I will have nobody to call, and quite possibly, there will be more special days like this without my Dad than there were with him. Somewhere amongst this sadness, I am doing my best to try and have good moments where I can look back at the memories with my Dad and smile. I think the failure to find happiness, let out a laugh, and let a smile shine through would be an injustice to the way he lived and what he taught me. Yes, I have shed tears today and I’m pretty sure there will be more throughout the day, but I refuse to let grief overcome me and rob me of the days that I still live.

Does it Really Get Easier?

“It will get easier.” This is what everybody keeps telling me, and although I know that it is probably true, it is one of those phrases that I never want to hear ever again. Yes, perhaps the amount of time in between those moments that he pops into my head will increase, and it may become “easier,” but there is no denying that life will never be the same. I know this, I understand this, but I hate having to accept the fact. So now, what is there left for me to do? I’m not exactly sure because I cannot see into the future and I cannot predict how I will feel tomorrow, next week, or six months from now. I think all I can do is to try to do my best, stay close with my family, and try to live a life that would satisfy my dad. With his death, the words he breathed have not been silenced. As heartbroken as I feel, I am trying to find a way to reach down and find his words of encouragement, optimism and love, so that I can use them for good.

Quotes Taken From Dad’s Bible:

“Get out of your rut and have fun!”
“Loosen and let it go. Begin to dream again.”
“God can help you through the wilderness.”
“Reverence—A profound feeling of awe, respect, and love.”
“The man of few words and settled mind is wise.”
“We wouldn’t worry so much about what people think about us if we knew how seldom they do.”
“Don’t pass out in the storm, pass over the storm.”
“There is always a delay in planting and harvesting—you must plant a seed to get a crop.”
“Choose your words wisely.”
“If you want to be successful, face your faults. Successful people are always growing…successful people don’t say ‘look where I’ve been,’ but ‘look where I’m going.’”
“Let love guide your life.”
“Hope is confident expectation.”
“3 Things That Last Forever: Faith. Hope. Love—The Greatest is Love.
“If your eyes are on the problem, you are going to sink…get your eyes on the Lord.”
“The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.”
“Faith says don’t look to the past; but to the future…move toward what you focus on.”

Photo of Dad

Dad always had a way of seeing God’s beauty in everything!

 

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