Wednesday, April 30, 2008


There are a few things going on right now that I simply do not need to be dealing with:

1. I do not need these three pimples on my face - one on my cheek and two on my chin. As we were driving to my dad's funeral, I said to my husband "Seriously, I do NOT need to be dealing with pimples right now. I mean, like I don't have enough to be upset about." The one on my cheek was at least half as big as Texas. The two chin pimples, not so big, but still. I am 41 years old, and WAAAAAY past puberty. Why am I still getting pimples? (OK that is a rhetorical question, so don't mention the menopause thing) AND I am in a state of bereavement. Who needs pimples when they are grieving? As soon as things slow down, I'm filing a complaint.

2. I do not need the ants that have invaded our kitchen despite spraying THREE TIMES. Not only do I start feeling itchy all over when I see one, but I am in a state of bereavement.

3. I do not need to be missing two library books. OK, I actually found those, but for two days I fretted over them, because I COULD NOT find them. I hate having overdue books, even though I almost always do. But, just between you and me, the library ladies scare me a little bit, and I don't like to have to go up and hang my head in shame like a second grader while they tell me I owe $1.60. Plus there is that bereavement thing again.

4. I do not need the stomachache that is resulting from my new medication. I've taken half this morning and will take the other half after lunch, in hopes of keeping that stomachache at bay this time. It is a side effect that is supposed to go away, but I don't need it; because I am in a state of....well, you know.

5. I do not, evidently, need to walk down the applesauce aisle at Wal-Mart, because seeing the little cups of applesauce made me puddle up and think of my dad. See, while we were there that last week, Paul and my uncle were going to the grocery store so I asked dad if he would eat some yogurt and he said yeah, raspberry and blueberry. Then we decided yogurt wasn't a good idea, because it would increase the mucus in his chest and make him cough. So I asked if he would eat some applesauce and he asked if they make applesauce with cinnamon. And it took him about 15 seconds to ask the question because he had to stop and struggle for his breath between words. So I said yeah, they make cinnamon applesauce and told Paul to get him some cinnamon applesauce. So he did, and Dad ate a cup. Now, evidently applesauce is going to be a difficult thing for me to deal with for a while. So, in an effort to control my tears, I did a quick u-turn and headed straight for the Little Debbie aisle. You know, bereavement and all.

6. I do not need to keep using the word bereavement, but I think I'm going to see how many times I can use it at home before Paul puts his hands on my shoulders and quietly says "Honey...enough." I also wonder how long I can milk this grief thing "I just was not up to cooking today, can we order takeout?" "I could not find the energy to clean that toilet, would you mind taking care of that?" "I thought these shoes would cheer me up, so I bought them. Do you mind, Sweetie?" I'm thinking I can go quite a while on the takeout stuff, but the toilet thing will not fly. The shoes? Maaaaaaybe one pair if they're on sale.

Monday, April 28, 2008


With every fiber of my being I wish I was not going through this walk of grief. I wish I could turn back the pages of the calendar and be anywhere in time but here.

But I can't.

I can only be here. I can only deal with the situation I am in at the moment. And sometimes that is how I go through my days right now - moment by moment.

But God has blessed me over this last week and a half. He has opened my eyes to the beauty of grief. In the midst of this supposedly ugly walk that is mourning, I have been blessed with some beautiful moments. Moments that will not haunt me, but instead actually make my heart ache at their beauty.

There was something beautiful about my first moment with my siblings after our dad died. Dad's house was full when we arrived; but I could not tell you who was at the door to greet me, so desperate was I to find my siblings - even just one. There was something beautiful about embracing each of them and sharing our common grief at the moment we were finally all four together again.

There was something beautiful about standing in front of our dad's casket at the viewing, just us four kids huddled together, circling our wagons against the onslaught of heartbreak. There was something beautiful about the way my one brother put his arms around both my sister and me and whispered "We're going to be OK." As we wept at our father's casket.

There was something beautiful about the way my brother, the retired military policeman, directed us on how to fold the military flag that would later be presented to our dad's widow. The flag had been left with us folded like we would fold a bed sheet. And so it was up to Clint to direct us in folding it the proper way. There was something beautiful about the way all of our hands touched that flag in order to make it proper for its presentation.

There was something beautiful about my oldest brother, such a gentle spirit and a quiet man,
standing at the florist with his sisters and choosing flowers with us for our dad's service. There was something beautiful about the way this man, who never gives his opinion, spoke up and said "well, girls, I don't like that flower, but I like this purple one...."

There was something beautiful about the way everybody, including ourselves, referred to our brothers as "the boys" and my sister and me as "the girls" throughout the week, even though we are all in our forties - "The boys can take care of that, while we girls get this ready...."

There was something beautiful about the four of us lined up in the front row of the "family section" at the funeral. There was something beautiful about the way I grasped my sister's hand and she in turn, grasped our oldest brother's hand, who in turn grasped our younger brother's hand; linking us in grief.

There was something beautiful about the way I had to keep looking down the row of chairs to make sure they were OK, and occasionally seeing one of them looking back at me; all of our eyes brimming with tears.

There was something beautiful about the words written by my sister and read by her husband; and the words written by me and read by Paul. There was something beautiful about the similarity in those words, even though neither of us had read the other's tribute first.

There was something beautiful - beyond beautiful - in my brother's tribute and the way he mentioned each of us by name, incorporating memories of all of our lives into his eulogy.

There was something beautiful in the fact that my brother, being a veteran and a member of the American Legion, presented the flag to our step mother after the military rites at the grave side. I will never forget the moment Marilyn saw him step up to receive that flag and then start walking toward her. I will never forget how she audibly gasped as her hand flew to her heart and she breathlessly said "Oh, Clint...." I will never forget feeling beautifully blessed to be sitting by Marilyn for that moment, because she didn't know Clint would be the one to present that flag to her. There was something beautiful about seeing Clint bend down to her and, inches from her face, say "On behalf of a grateful nation...." and not only hearing, but watching him say those beautiful words to our dad's widow. I know she sees that moment as a beautiful gift. And so
do I.

There was something beautiful about sitting next to my grandmother at the graveside and putting my hand on her leg - and thinking it felt as big around as my forearm - then looking over at her and seeing tears falling down her frail cheeks. There was something beautiful in my thought, at that moment, that she had indeed seen the full circle of life with my dad, her oldest child. She was with him when he died. She was with him for his first breath and she was with him for his last. She held his tiny hand when he entered the world and she held his weakened hand when he left this world. And yes, I choose to see the beauty in that.

There is something beautiful in the memories that distract me each day and keep me awake each night over the past several days.

There is something beautiful about the longing in my heart to be near my brothers and sister, the longing to abandon our responsibilities and just sit together for days and remember. There is something beautiful about the longing in my heart to have just one more day with my dad; and yet feeling somewhat comforted that his suffering has ended and was, afterall, fairly brief.

And there is something beautiful in watching the colors of Spring emerge around me. Spring. The season of life. The season of beginning. The season of remembering that life does indeed go on.

And so must we.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8


But first, a thank you. Thanks to all of you who have left comments during the past week and a half. Thank you for your prayers and kind thoughts. This is probably the greatest thing about blogging - knowing that there are at least a few other people out there lifting me up in prayer and keeping my family and me in their thoughts. Thank you.

And now a warning of sorts. If you are not inclined to read about death, dying, grief, funerals, burials, cemeteries, or even dark humor, you might want to stay away for a while. I am still seeing the humor in life, so will post the "funny" when I see it; but I will also be posting the not so funny for...oh...I don't know...let's say....well however long I want.



My life, like so many others, is now divided into a great big BEFORE and AFTER. Before my dad died and after he died. Before I got the news and after I got the news. Before the funeral and after the funeral. Before cancer and after cancer. Ten days ago began my "after."

Ten days ago, I made a grocery list and still have not bought SOS pads and whatever else was on that list. I can't find the list, and I am desperate to find it, because it is my last bit of normalcy before I got the news. It is interesting to notice the little things that occupy our thoughts at times like this. I really want to find that grocery list. I feel a strangely overwhelming need to find that list.

Ten days ago, I had no idea that my kitchen desk would hold an ever growing stack of sympathy cards.

Ten days ago, we had decided to leave our recently unpacked suitcases standing in a corner on our bedroom floor. We would be using them quite a bit in the weeks to come, to go visit Dad, so why put them away? Or so we thought.

Ten days ago, I had never possessed a box of funeral home-issued thank you notes. Now I do.

Ten days ago, I loved my brothers and sisters and was proud of them. Now I cannot put into words HOW MUCH I love them and HOW PROUD I am of them. They are my heroes. I know, without a doubt, Dad would be proud of us and how we have held each other up during this time. I miss them more now than I ever have.

Ten days ago, I had no idea that there was not one pair of conservative black pumps in our entire mall. At least not in a size 7 1/2.

Ten days ago, I had some negative feelings about the funeral business. I still do.

Ten days ago, my prayer was "if it be YOUR will, spare him from this death. If not, make his suffering brief." Now my prayer is, "Make me strong enough to minister to those who grieve with me. Make me as strong as Dad was as he faced death."

Ten Days.

How quickly they've passed. How slowly they've passed.

Be strong and courageous....The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged.
Deuteronomy 31:7,8

I think of this verse when I think of Dad. He truly faced the end of his life with strength and courage. And dignity. Oh the dignity this man had.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I have very little tolerance for the funeral business. Until now, I had only been a "patron" of such business upon the death of a grand parent and then it was very much on the sidelines. Oh, and when I worked in a nursing home; and then it was a little more up front.

Perhaps it is because they work around grief all day every day, and they have to build a wall of stoicism around them; but these people CREEP ME OUT. My apologies to anybody reading this who may work in a funeral home, has a relative who works in a funeral home, or aspires to one day work in a funeral home, but I am in a period of bereavement so I get to say whatever I want.

I know a man who USED to run a funeral home. He got out of that business because it was too emotionally draining on him. His wife knew the end of that career was near when she caught him one night ironing a little pink baby dress. Some parents had brought the dress in so that their infant daughter could be buried in it. He thought the dress was too wrinkled to be put upon that precious angel, so he brought it home to iron it before dressing the baby for her funeral. I always say his heart was too big to work in the business of grief.

Anyway, yesterday my sister, one brother, and I were meeting at the florist to choose some flowers. On my drive over (about an hour's drive) my aunt called and asked if we could stop by the funeral home after we left the florist to approve the obituary and funeral cards. I was told he must have our final approval before 3:00 so he could get the obituary to the papers. So we three siblings decided to go to the funeral home first, since we had a deadline with them.

So we show up and the funeral guy says "I wasn't expecting you now. Your aunt said you'd be coming here after the florist. I'm due in another town." And my sister started falling all over herself apologizing. There was no way on God's Green Earth I was going to apologize to this man. We (and by we, I mean my dad and step mom) were spending LOTS and LOTS of money so this man could bury our father and "be there for us in our time of sorrow." So I simply said "We decided to come here first because we were told you had a deadline to keep regarding the obituary. We thought this would be the best way to handle things and allow you to meet your deadline with the paper." And his son piped up and said "oh, and we really appreciate that."

(and I'm sorry for the frequent use of the term "deadline" how inappropriate...or appropriate...whatever)

And, by the way, they were not due in another town to oversee another service. They were needing to meet with some roofers to go over a bid on another one of their funeral homes. And when the son said "Dad, you don't need to come with me to meet with the roofers," the dad said "I need to be there. There's a lot at stake."

Oh no he didn't!! Oh no he didn't just imply that his roofing project was more important than my dad's funeral.

This man did not look me in the eyes one time. Not even when he mumbled how sorry he was for our loss.

This man kept calling Marilyn "your mom." My sister finally said "I need to clarify something for you. Marilyn is our stepmother. I'm just afraid if you refer to her as our mom around certain people you will offend them." And he said "Oh, well, there's a lot of people to keep track of."

Umm...isn't that a huge aspect of his business? You know? PEOPLE?

I mean, we kept saying "Marilyn this. Marilyn that." How many middle aged people call their mom by her first name? I'm thinking very few.

When I left that funeral home I sat in the car and rubbed anti-bacterial soap all over my hands. If I had been near a toilet, I'm afraid I would have found myself vomiting into it.

Oh, and another thing. The son and the young woman working there were both in jeans and tennis shoes, which I found highly insulting. You don't run a business like that and greet mourners in jeans and tennis shoes. Am I being too picky on that?

One more incident that has me seeing red will, I'm afraid, result in a strongly worded letter when things have slowed down. The mortuary where my dad was cremated allowed us to have a private viewing before the cremation was performed. The room was set up much like it would be for a standard visitation, except there were not many flowers - just a few that my brothers had placed by the casket. Dad was placed in a very simple casket, dressed in a suit and tie. My brothers had bought two potted flowers to place on the floor, and a spray of red, white and blue flowers that set atop the casket. It was very nice for our brief private time with him.

Here's the thing. And I hope it has all of you seething like it does me.

When my brother requested the viewing the owner of the mortuary - RICHARD - said that would be acceptable. They would place the body of our father on a cot UNCLOTHED and covered with a sheet up to his neck.

Yes, you read that correctly. That is how they thought we four children should view our father for the last time.

I only wish I could have heard my brother, the former master sergeant, respond to that suggestion.

What kind of human being who deals daily with people in mourning suggests such a despicable thing? What kind of mind even thinks of that? It is so despicable I can't even type the words again. I cannot comprehend suggesting that to a man who has just lost his father. I am sickened and disgusted.

And I am sorry for my brother in having to deal with that, yet another horrendous detail in completing the business of death. Who knows what battle he had to fight to allow our father to be presented to his children with dignity. And why? Why should that have even been a battle?

I fully intend to make sure I have every detail correct on this and then write a very harsh letter to RICHARD regarding his cold hearted behavior.

I think our ancestors had it correct when they simply buried their dead on family land, placed wild flowers upon the grave, and used their energy to properly grieve.

Monday, April 21, 2008


My dad died around 10:00 Friday morning. That would be 10:00 his time, 9:00 my time.

I think.

Since Friday was my daughter's birthday and we had planned on celebrating it on Saturday, we went ahead with our plans, with the blessings of my siblings and my step mother, Marilyn.

So I did not get over there to be with my brothers and sister and step mom, until Sunday.

I felt very detached and incomplete all weekend. I DID NOT FOR ONE MOMENT resent the celebration of my daughter's birthday, in fact it was a happy distraction for me. But there was a longing within me all day Friday and Saturday.

A longing that started to melt away Sunday morning when I finally walked into my dad's house and found first one brother, then my sister, then my other brother, and was able to finally, FINALLY be in their arms and let our sadness melt together.

We would not even be considered that close, as siblings go, I guess.

But nothing glues us together like grief.

And it felt so good. So good to finally press our heads together and weep without words. Because nobody, nobody feels it like we do. Our history is too painful; our past is too stained, for anybody to know this pain but us. Our pain is not worse than the pain of others who have lost a parent. But it is unique. Boy is it unique.

On Sunday at 1:00 we had a private viewing, just us kids, our families and Marilyn before the cremation. What is there to say about a viewing? You all know how painful they are. This was different in that we did not have to line up by the casket and "greet" those who came to pay respects. We simply huddled in our grief and tried to believe with our hearts what our eyes were telling us.

That he is gone.

Each of us has our own scars and pain from our childhood and the divorce of our parents. They could fill a book. My oldest brother is a man of few words, a gentle spirit, who carries a sadness about him that, I believe, is due to his utter disappointment in the way things were in our lives; mainly with our dad. He did not get a final moment with Dad, like the rest of us did. He spent the night at the hospital two weeks ago and when Dad rebounded he headed home. He had made plans to visit dad tomorrow. He thought he had more time.

We all thought we had more time.

At the viewing, he waited until the rest of us had left the room and he was left with only his wife. I turned back to look at him and saw him begin to weep. I knew he wanted to be left alone.

But I could not leave him in that room weeping for our dad.

So I went to him and he said "He wanted to talk to me, and I didn't make it back."

And I said "Even the doctors could not have told us how quickly he would go. None of us knew. There was no way in the world you could have known you didn't have FIVE MORE DAYS." You know? Words that were meant to encourage but probably sounded hollow and meaningless. And my other brother came to us and reminded him of the things Dad had said about him and the way he raised his family and accomplished things he couldn't, like maintaining a loving, close relationship with his children.

He felt rushed to leave and let us move on, so I just kept saying "Take your time. Take your time."

After a couple of minutes, he wiped his face, took a deep breath and said "I'm ready."

For as long as I live, I will remember looking back into that room and seeing my oldest brother break down, and then feeling drawn to him, as if I could rescue him. For as long as I live I will remember my oldest brother, taking a deep breath and saying "I'm ready."

I'm ready.

Except he wasn't.

None of us was.

I struggled all weekend with thoughts of my dad's final moments. I worried incessantly that his last moments of life were filled with terror. I imagined a hundred different scenarios, each more painful than the last. But I was able to get a little peace when my aunt took me aside to talk to me and she quietly told me what his last moments were like. How he started to bleed at home. How it was worse than any of his other episodes (and I will spare you the details) so she knew he was probably close to the end of life. How he struggled for just a few moments and suddenly became calm right before he lost consciousness. My aunt estimates that from the time the bleeding started until he lost consciousness, only about 3 minutes passed.

Three minutes. It is a long time to be robbed of your breath. But it gives me comfort to know that his body was not battered by machines and needles for hours as he fought for life. It gives me comfort to know that he lost consciousness at home and never saw the inside of the emergency room again. I can get the images of a violent death out of my mind now. I hope.

And now I find myself wondering if he knew. Did he know that this was the end of his life. Did he know that it was time, that it was OK for him to stop fighting?

Did he allow himself to simply say "I'm ready."

Friday, April 18, 2008


I should have known something was wrong when Paul walked in from work at 10:00 this morning.

But, he was going to take Kayla lunch at school for her birthday, so I kind of thought he just came home an hour early to take advantage of this glorious spring day. You know? Play hooky for a while.

I even made a joke and said "Did you get fired...?"

But no.

He had come home to tell me that my father died this morning. My brother, being the quick thinker and protector that he is, had called Paul at work to tell him first, so that Paul could come home and allow me to collapse into his arms when I heard the news.

My dad died today.

Today, my daughter's birthday. Today, my dad and step mother's wedding anniversary.

And now my house is littered with soggy tissues smeared with mascara and makeup that were fresh just moments before. Mascara and makeup that I had applied just before leaving to run errands on this bright spring day. You know? When this day was "normal."

Except now the day doesn't seem so bright. And it most certainly isn't normal.

Now my heart, like my house, is litterd with debris. The debris of sadness. The debris of a heart not yet ready. And I suspect my life will be so littered for weeks, months to come.

I prayed for his suffering to be minimal.

But perhaps I didn't mean it. Because now that it has happened, I am not ready. I am not willing to believe it. At least I guess I'm not, as I just kept whispering "no, no, no, no, no...not today. Not on my daughter's birthday. Not on his anniversary. Not before I got back there one more time. Not yet. no, no, no, no...." as I slid down the kitchen cabinets to sit on my kitchen floor. My floor that hasn't been swept in two days because I just don't seem to have the energy to maintain my house lately.

More debris.

We were told he appeared stronger and healthier than most patients in end stage cancer. We were told not to be fooled by his appearance.

And yet, I guess I was. Because I was not ready. One week ago, he was still showering and shaving every day, still sitting at the table to eat meals. Still maintaining the best of attitudes and making us laugh, sometimes AT his jokes, sometimes because his jokes were so NOT funny that he was the only one who laughed.

My sweet husband keeps asking what he can do. Who do I want him to call?

I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. How many times will I say this over the next few weeks?

I don't know. I don't know how to do this.

I have now become a member of that club to which nobody wants to belong. The club of people who have lost a parent. The dues are heartbreaking. They are too high. And yet we have no choice but to pay them and accept our membership.

And deal with the debris.

I want to be with my siblings. I want to be with the only ones who know this pain like I do. I want to gather with them like we have so often in our lives, as children and as adults, and search for a solution to our latest problem. Problems of divorce, division, loss, anger. Death.

But there is no solution to this. There is only getting through. Getting through the debris. Tossing the used tissues aside when they are soggy and reaching for a new one as I lie in my husband's arms and pray for numbness.

Right now I think that is all I can manage.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


I do not like having things up in the air. I like knowing what's going to happen tomorrow. I get very frazzled when I am left wondering what the next step is going to be in any situation. When I wake up every morning, I go over in my head the things that need to be done that day. In fact, I start doing that before I fall asleep at night.

Which could explain my chronic insomnia.

When something comes up that is not part of the plan, I go into a little bit of a tail spin. A CONTROLLED tailspin, but still a tail spin.

I am a planner.

So when we got the news, two months ago, that my dad's cancer was indeed terminal; I of course was not only struck with grief; but also with an utter sense of things spinning out of control. Because there is no way of knowing what tomorrow will bring, what the next hour will bring, when dealing with terminal illness. This was something for which I could not plan.

And that is difficult to handle for someone who is not good at playing the "What If" game.

But there are some things I decided I COULD control in this situation. I could, to some degree, start making a plan.

I decided to start with what was most important to me, my children. What would I do with my children when we got a call to get there as quickly as possible? Our children are 14 (tomorrow) and nearly 17 (in July) so we believe they are old enough to decide for themselves whether or not they want to be present while we deal with this issue of death. You know? Up close and in the midst of it.

So we came up with a plan for when we got "a call" and told the kids how we thought it should work.

For Kayla we decided we would first call one of our neighbors for whom she babysits. She could spend the evenings with them, sleep on their couch or in the guest room, and come home in the mornings to get ready for school. Or we could call the parents of one of her friends and get her there quickly; since I had already talked to one or two of the parents and asked if this would be possible. This was if she didn't want to come with us.

For Blake we decided he could stay home, and we would contact the parents of his friends and ask them to keep an eye on the house and allow Blake to call on them if he needed anything. I know. I know. Some would not agree with this, letting a nearly 17-year-old boy stay home alone over night, but in three months, he will be able to serve in some branches of the Armed Services. In three months he will be considered the age of majority.

So when we got the call last Tuesday that we had a matter of hours to get to Dad, we put the plan into action.

I started running through the house yelling "THIS IS NOT A DRILL. THIS IS NOT A DRILL."

Oh, no I didn't.

We asked Kayla what she wanted to do. She opted to go with us, so I told her to go pack a bag with at least 3 outfits, books, movies, medications, a pillow etc. and be ready in 30 minutes. She did great. And I mean GREAT.

Blake opted to stay home. I gave him money for food, instructed him to take care of the pets and lock all doors at night, and reminded him that we would be calling at least three families to let them know to keep an eye on the house.

As we were driving to Indiana on the first trip over, Paul's cell phone rang and it was Blake's friend Cody. First he said he was sorry for what we were going through. I know, this from a 16 year old boy. Neat, huh? Then he said that his parents said he could stay with Blake if that was ok with us. Of course it was. Then his mother got on the phone and assured us that she and Cody's dad would keep a close eye on the boys.

Let me just say this. Until Blake shows us that we cannot trust him, we choose to trust him. And having Cody here with him, was a huge help to us. Because, next to Paul, Cody's dad is the ONE man that Blake would not want to disappoint.

No. No way, would Blake want to disappoint Chief O.....

On that first trip, Kayla was such a good sport. She settled herself in the lounge on the cancer ward and read her books and watched movies on the portable DVD player. She sat in her Grandpas room occasionally. She never complained once, not even when we were checking into a hotel at 2 in the morning, and we were all bone tired.

And Blake? I got home and the only mess in the house, was what I had left in the kitchen from dinner the night before. The counter tops were clean, the pets had been fed. The litter box wasn't a disgusting mess.

The second trip, Kayla stayed with a track team mate since they had a meet on that Saturday, and we decided it would be good to leave her with somebody that needed to keep the same schedule as she. That was the first night. On the second night, she stayed with one of our neighbors. Blake took her over and walked her in, and they both represented us well. I know this because our neighbors later said some wonderful things about both our kids and I was so proud that I started crying on the phone as he spoke.

Blake, on the second trip, had Cubby stay with him the first night and Cody stay with him the second night. Again, both of their parents knew we were going to be gone and agreed to keep close tabs on them. Again, Cubby's dad is NOT a man that Blake would want to disappoint. Not only is the man 6' 8" and almost 300 pounds, but Blake likes and respects him.

On the second trip, we left each of the kids some cash to use for meals out or emergencies.
During one of our phone conversations, Blake said that he had eaten some "nasty gross quesadillas from the freezer" and I reminded him that I had left cash for him to go get a couple of good meals.

His response?

"I'm not wasting that cash on food. I'm hoping to buy myself a new video game. You know? To console myself over the extreme loneliness I feel from missing my parents...."

Uh, yeah, right!

I rattle on like this to say that I think our planning worked. I feel confident that the kids were prepared, as well as they could be, for this emergency. I feel confident that they both got through the week well and felt secure with our arrangements.

And I felt better knowing that our preparations and our forethought made things a little easier on our family. I felt like I had a little bit of control in a very uncontrolled situation.

I will try to make this the last post about terminal illness for a while. Tomorrow is Kayla's birthday so I might come up with a sappy, boo-hoo kind of post.

You know? One that celebrates life.

Monday, April 14, 2008


I would never presume that my brand of suffering is worse than somebody else's. My problems are not any more upsetting, my worries are not any more consuming. It's all just different.

However; as I go through this phase of life, where I am dealing with the imminent death of my dad; I am struck with the unique nature of my grief - unique in that it's not the standard way one would hope to get to experience something like this. You know, if you have to watch your dad die, there are things that would make it a little more bearable.

I would HOPE to experience the death of a parent with the other parent by my side. I would HOPE to have the distraction of comforting that other parent, guiding that other parent, helping that other parent with decisions. I would HOPE that other parent would be comforting me. And I would HOPE to have the cushion of thousands of memories with my dying parent to fall into once he has gone. None of these things is happening for me and my siblings. And I am a little angry about it. I feel cheated. I feel REALLY cheated. They have been divorced over thirty years and that divorce still leaves its ugly stain on our hearts. That divorce has even cheated me out of a healthy grieving process. That divorce has scarred each of us four kids in different ways.

Instead of getting to comfort our other parent, we have to placate her and make excuses. We have to withstand her accusations and verbal attacks. We have to constantly reassure her of our loyalty and love. We are exhausting ourselves dealing with one parent's jealousy and resentment while we are preparing to bury the other.

There is a dimension to this process, this process of saying good bye, that simply should not be there. There is a dimension to this process, for my siblings and me, that, were it to be alleviated,
would lighten our loads just a little.

I have no delusions about the kind of dad he was. He was absent. Plain and simple. Once the divorce occurred he quickly saw the opportunity to cut and run and free himself from the business of parenting. I have no happy memories of him. But I have no unhappy memories of him. He simply was the distant parent who showed up occasionally but always sent child support and NEVER said a bad thing about our mother.


And if nothing else, I will forever be thankful to him for that.

And I will always love him, because he is still my dad.

And now he is in the end stages of cancer. And the right thing to do is be there and minister to him and love him. Simply love him. My children are watching, and I WILL NOT allow them to see me turn my back on a parent, regardless of the past. But even if my children were not involved in this, I would be there as much as I can.

Because it is the right thing to do.

And I don't understand why that is so hard for somebody to see. I cannot comprehend why it is so hard to see that doing the right thing is not a betrayal.

An that is why my grief is a unique kind of grief from what I wish it could be. Because I am preparing to say goodbye to a father I never really knew. And saying goodbye to him is like saying goodbye to hope, hope that he would eventually, someday, have decided that he wanted to know me and my family. Along with that, I am enduring a constant pull and strain on my emotions by a jealous and insecure mother who cannot understand why I need to minister to this dying man and somehow make peace with what my life with him has been like - and what my life with him SHOULD have been like.

Death. It is a part of life. And like every other part of life, I am trying to learn from it. I am learning from the dignity my dad is showing. I am learning from the utter, tireless devotion my stepmother is showing to him. I am learning from the selfless behavior of my children over the past week. I am learning from the utter, tireless devotion my husband has shown me over the past week.

I am learning that it's ok to accept help from other families. I am learning that it's ok to let the tears fall when they creep up on me at the oddest times. I am learning that it is not my job to know what will happen tomorrow; and so I must not worry about it. I am learning that it is ok for my prayer to simply be "Please God..." when my mind and heart simply cannot find the words. Because I know He will fill in the blanks.

Death is full of lessons. Just like life.


It does indeed go on.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


I do not know what day it is.

I barely know what time it is, as we changed time zones when we came here. True, we only changed by an hour, but even that simple ONE is difficult to add (or subtract) when your head is fuzzy with dread and fatigue.

And I do not look at that clock without doing the math because I want to remember what time it is at home.

Home. Where my children are. Where a touch of normalcy awaits me. Where I might for brief moments escape the oppressive waiting and dread that come with imminent death.

I have developed a fear of the telephone. The phone that rang at 5:45 yesterday morning to bring me more bad news. My mind still fuzzy from 3 hours of sleep; I somehow knew enough to feel fear. The phone never rings at 5:45 unless it is to bring bad news. Or news of a baby. And our newest baby arrived 3 weeks ago, so there was no hope in the way this phone rang.

No hope?

Another call to 911. More bleeding. Stay there. We'll let you know.

Why? Why, did we bring him home? Why didn't we keep him in the hospital where trained professionals could treat him?

Because he wants to be at home. And he told the paramedics just that when they stopped the bleeding and stabilized his vitals. I'M. STAYING. HOME

And so it continues. This hopscotch game of waiting on death. Jumping from "what if?" to "should have," from hope to dread; from fatigue to deeper fatigue; from "please let it be soon" to "Not yet."


And still there is that phone. That phone that haunted my four hours of sleep last night. That phone that rang in my dreams over and over and over again, only for me to force myself awake to hear that the hotel room was silent. That phone that I have so often in the last few days handed to my husband, my ONE, and said "Please carry this for me." And he knew by that I meant answer it, answer the questions, intercept the bad news, carry this load.

And he has. He has carried that cell phone and flipped it open when that obnoxious ring sounds and taken care of things, small and large. And in carrying the bright pink razor, he has carried me.

And I am so unbelievably thankful that he is my ONE.


We are staying in a hotel. Why, when my father is dying, did we choose a hotel? Because there are four of us, with spouses, coming in and out. Plus, my dad's siblings and mother. The house gets crowded and chaotic. Sometimes a good chaotic, sometimes not.

The hotel room is good. It allows me to escape the sadness; and through all of this so far, I have made a selfish vow that I WILL take care of myself to some extent.

Because my children are at home waiting for me. My children, the top layer of this generational sandwich. And I WILL be in good shape for them. At least as much as circumstances allow.

They are, after all, my other two ONES.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


The call came last night after supper; although it could have been a week ago, so tired are we and so long has the day been.

My aunt - "Your dad has been taken to the hospital by ambulance. The doctors are saying the family should get there. He is pretty bad."

He has terminal lung cancer and we had been told he had a year.

I live the closest to him and we are four hours away.

Three phone calls - one to each sibling. Get on the road. We're leaving now. We can get there faster than any of you. We'll see you at the hospital.

Another call - my brother "Heidi, Bill said it's a matter of hours. I'm leaving now." Bill - his best friend. My brother lives twelve hours away. He won't make it. None of us will.

Please, God. Let one of us make it.

Controlled panic.

It's not supposed to be this way. We are supposed to have a year. This death is supposed to come upon us like a dimmer switch. We are supposed to have time to adjust to each phase of darkness before the blackness hits. But no. Someone has plunged our world into blackness without warning. That kind of blackness that engulfs you and squeezes the breath out of you. I do not know how to do this.

How do you pack for what could be the last minutes with your father?

How long will I be there? Where are my tennis shoes? Why can't I find a brush? Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Why didn't I wash that last load of whites? Migraine medicine. Bible. Cell phone. I am not ready for this.

Driving, driving, driving. Will this road ever end? Phone call after phone call. More questions. "I don't know.'' "I don't know." I. DON'T. KNOW.

Twenty minutes to go, another phone call: "He has rebounded, and seems to be stabilized."

Hemorrhage from the lung. Failing organs. Fatally low vital signs. Three units of blood. Rebounding....


Do not get your hopes up, the doctor says. It is time to get your plans together. It is time to consider hospice. It is time for all family to get here that will want to be here. It could be days, weeks, months. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know.

And so it begins.

The roller coaster of a terminal illness. The fear of the telephone. The spark of hope with the words "stabilized" "rebound."


Except perhaps it is time to believe there is none; hope that is. Only that his suffering will be brief.

Thirty six hours at home and then back to his bedside.

I do not know how to do this.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Paul is a coffee drinker. I wasn't, until I finally grew up a few months ago and bought a real,
gen-u-wine coffee maker to have at our house. And I feel like a real woman now. Except I'm really not, because I put lots of cream and sugar in it. I'm pretty much a coffee sissy.

Until we had our new coffee maker, I had bought a couple of little things for Paul to use as the only coffee drinker in the house. I bought him a two cup maker. I bought him a four cup maker. I bought him a one cup maker. Actually I think I just bought those things because he is so incredibly hard to buy for on birthdays and Chrtistmas that I just kept trying with the coffee maker idea. They all quickly ended up in storage because Paul would say it was silly to go through the hassle of making coffe at home when he could get it at work.

Translation: why buy coffee for home, when it's FREE at work?

But I noticed that Paul was getting a lot of headaches on the weekends and I, being the expert on all things headache, quickly diagnosed him with caffeine withdrawal. I couldn't stand to see my beloved suffer from a headache each and every weekend.

Translation: it made no sense for him to be out of commission on the weekends when I needed him to help me around the house and to chauffer the kids to and fro during that 48 hour period each week.

The only answer was to make sure he had caffeine on weekends.

Call me an enabler if you will. We all have things we must do to survive.

So I bought the coffee maker. But not before calling Paul and asking if we needed the 8-cup or the 12 cup. We quickly decided on the 12 cup for the times when we have company. Plus, a "cup" according to the box equals 5 ounces. I do not know anybody who drinks a five ounce cup of coffee except June Cleaver. Well, I don't KNOW June Cleaver personally, but I've seen her on TV.

I also bought coffee filters, only to get home and have Paul tell me that our new coffee maker doesn't need filters.


With our new coffee maker, I had visions of Paul and myself sitting at the kitchen counter each morning sipping our coffee together, filling each other in about what our days entailed; gazing lovingly at our two offspring as they peacefully got themselves ready for school, laughing and bantering with each other. The kitchen would be sparkly clean, the dog would not be licking her private parts, the laundry would be caught up....

Um. Not so much.

In reality, Paul fills a travel mug while his laptop bag is slung over his shoulder and carries it out the door while saying, "Thanks for making the coffee. Have a good day. I love you."

And the two offspring laughing and bantering? Well, you know....

Then every few days, Paul brings home about 4 travel mugs that have been left in his car and lines them up on the dining room table, or drops them in the sink, without removing the lids; and I look at them and see nothing but shattered dreams.

So, about 4 weeks into my new habit of a morning cup of coffee, I started having heart palpitations. I actually had one "episode" of the type that comes along every now and then with my mitral valve prolapse.

"Hmmm. That's odd. Why am I having palpitations all of a sudden when I had been doing so well?"

I even mentioned it to my doctor and he said if I have another episode he wants to put me on a monitor again for a couple days.

Then. BOING. I realized one day that PERHAPS. JUST PERHAPS. The heart palpitations could be caused by the fact that I'm drinking like 80 mg of caffeine a day, and I'm supposed to have like...none.

I know. I'm pretty brilliant like that.

So I now make 1/2 caf coffee and I drink ONE cup a day. Then have ONE cup of decaf in the afternoon. I've been doing it like that for a few months and no palpitations. Smart me.

The thing is I can't drink just ANY 1/2 caf. I have to drink Folgers Simply Smooth, because I have a history of ulcers (I am just a buffet of medical ailments, aren't I?) But Simply Smooth doesn't come in 1/2 caf.

So we have to make our own. We mix the red can of Folgers Simply Smooth with the green can of Folgers Simply Smooth Decaf and have our own house blend. But this makes coffee buying at our house a very distressing event.

We still have to keep regular on hand for the times Paul is making a pot for himself; but part of that regular has to be mixed with the decaf so we can have our own 1/2 caf (which we have so cratively marked with a sharpie with a big '1/2' on the can) and then we have to have plain decaf on hand for my afternoon cup.

The pressure of figuring the ratio of full caf to decaf needed at our house so that all coffee needs are met is enormous.

And yet I am off to the store to buy coffee. And I'm taking my calculator.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


Last week while Paul was in London (or Lille, or Hamburg, I wasn't keeping track) I sent him an e-mail that went something like this:

On the morning of Saturday April 5th, I have an urgent appointment at the um...the...medical offices of Doctors Christopher and Banks. The Doctors are having a special on their therapy sessions - 40% off.

I knew he would understand this urgent psychiatric need because it is really not much different than the "last minute management meetings" he frequently gets called into at 5:30 on Friday nights. Interestingly, these meetings are always held at one of the downtown drinking and dining establishments, and are usually facilitated by the management team of Jack & Coke. How can I argue with management?

How can he argue with therapy?

So this morning I got up and fortified myself with a cup of coffee and half a piece of his birthday cake - Peanut Butter Crunch - dressed for battle (cell phone? check. credit card? check. 40% off must-have coupon? check) and reminded Paul that I was only going shopping to save him some money. He does not even try to argue with my logic anymore.

And off I went.

I entered the store and immediately noticed that the atmosphere was charged with controlled chaos. But no matter. Sometimes therapy is hard. You must break through those things that frighten you in order to come out the other side a whole person.

There were probably about 25 women shopping in this little store; and as I slowly walked around and immersed myself into the world of spring tops and capris (because I am a proponent of immersion therapy) one of the clerks saw me and said "Oh, Hi Heidi."


I am such a bad girl.

Out of ALL these women who came in today seeking therapy to make themselves better, more well rounded individuals, she knows ME by my first name? Yes, I am the one who has sought therapy there so often that when I walk in it's like Norm walking into Cheers.

They do not even offer me a dressing room anymore, because they know I'm going to say "No thanks; I'm sure of the sizes." I must change my ways.

So I have two choices. I can either go cold turkey and put myself on a complete spending freeze for a set amount of months; or I can immerse myself in shopping until it makes me absolutely sick and I never want to step into a clothing store again.

I think I'll run this by Paul.

Any guesses as to what he'll say?

Thursday, April 03, 2008


Perhaps you all can help me with these questions that are swimming through my brain lately.

-Is Tupperware the only one who makes an orange peeler? Because I couldn't find one at Target. I found an avocado slicer, a pineapple corer, an apple corer, a melon baller, a lemon zester, a grapefuiter, a grapefruit SPOON....but no orange peeler. Oh, we have one, but I refuse to put it in the dishwasher because if it's not available when I want to peel an orange, well, then I get a little flustered, because once you've peeled an orange with the Tupperware orange peeler, there's just no going back. So I have to just keep washing it by hand so that it's always ready at a moment's notice. I'm thinking that having another one (or two) on hand would relieve this stress in my life.

-Is anyone else's husband (or important male in your life) really hard to buy for? And I mean REALLY hard to buy for? I mean for birthdays and Christmas? Because mine is so hard to buy for, that when I try to shop for him (for his birthday) I almost get resentful and wish he were just a little more self centered, just a little more greedy. But alas he's not, so I just buy more things for myself.

-If pet hair sticks to everything, like clothes and furniture so doggone well, WHY, for the love of Fido doesn't it stick to the pet?

-Are jean designers EVER going to make a flattering jean that does not sit so low on the waist? Because I am getting REALLY tired of seeing the backsides of so many women at the mall. Today I saw most of a woman's backside, WHILE SHE WAS STANDING UP at a changing table in a public restroom. It was so disturbing. I also saw a mom, about my age, who was wearing low rise jeans and a top that showed about two inches of her abdomen. The tattoo sticking out of the back of her waistband was a pair of eyes. SO. CLASSY.

-Why, when I double space between paragraphs on my blog posts, does it show up as a triple or quadruple space in the editing window?

-Does anybody else cut their own hair between visits to the salon? Anybody ever done it with sewing scissors? The big ones? You know, if you can't find the hair scissors? Hypothetically speaking, of course.

-Does anybody else then dread visiting your stylist because you know you are going to have to confess that yes, not only did you trim your bangs, but you cut the sides and top as well, because you were desperate and couldn't get an appointment? Hypothetically speaking, of course.

-Does anybody else hate to hear "What's for dinner?" some days, because you just couldn't think of anything exciting to fix so you wasted all afternoon THINKING about dinner instead of actually PREPARING dinner?

-Has anybody else ever had to hide their face behind a magazine in the doctor's waiting room so the other patients wouldn't see you laughing at the old lady who was listing VERY LOUDLY the foods that gave her gas, to her friend that brought her? Something like this: "I just been eating cereal for breakfast 'cause that bacon gave me gas. Bacon gives me gas, even if I put it in the microwave. Same with Brussels sprouts; I love those but they give me gas real bad. And baked beans? Those baked beans give me gas. And I love broccoli, but it gives me gas...." Gas gas gas gas gas. That's all I heard from across the way. And I couldn't stop giggling into my Good Housekeeping.

-Has anybody else had to run out for a grocery item EVERY DAY of the week, because, even though you have enough of some things to feed the local track team, you have forgotten the chocolate syrup you have to take to your mother's for "Dessert Night", the vegetable oil needed for your husband's birthday cake, pancake syrup because your family members treat it as a beverage, and Tums because, for some reason your stomach is a little upset lately?

-Do any of you get really excited to see, like say SIX comments on one of your blog posts, only to click over to them and see that two of them are your own? It's kind of a Ziggy moment....

-Have any of you seen my white bra? Oh I don't mean while I'm wearing it, silly! But like anywhere? Because I have completely lost my new white bra, and with spring upon us I will be wearing my standard spring uniform of white t-shirt and pastel cotton cardigan, so I really need that white bra. I don't think my red one or my "coffee" one will cut it, unless I'm going for a "Sex and the City" look, which I'm totally not; so I actually had to go out and buy a new white bra so I'd have plenty on hand. You know? To relieve that stress in my life.

It is so hard to be me.


I will not go into ALL of the reasons this pregnant man, who is evidently going to be on Oprah today, makes my skin crawl.

I will leave my religious beliefs out of it. I will leave my utter lack of understanding of the transgender mind out of it.

But I will say this about the pregnant man; he was a woman. He felt the need to be a man. He felt like he was really a man all of his life. He had his body changed into a man's body. Well most of it. He kept the parts that would allow him to grow a child.

So. If he did not enjoy being a woman, and all that came with it, I think he is absolutely NOT entitled to enjoy the most beautiful and magical part of womanhood - growing and bearing a child. I feel like he is stealing something from the rest of us. He has turned womanhood into a freak show. And our society has done a good enough job of that over that last few centuries without his help.

Womanhood is not a cafeteria line. We do not get to walk through and choose the parts we want and the parts we don't. We do not get to forego cramps, menopause, wrinkles, sexism, cooking, cleaning, panty hose,etc. only to choose the best part - motherhood.

And now he is going to be on Oprah. And People Magazine. And who knows what other publications and news stories.

I smell a carefully crafted scheme.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


How has my morning been?

Well, thanks for asking. I'll just tell you about it right now.

Yesterday evening Blake called while he was out with Cody. Or as we like to say "Dumber called while he was out with Dumb..." But it is said in love, I assure you.

Anyway, he called to say he was going to wrestle after school tomorrow (which is today), so Cody would pick him up in the morning so they could go to wrestling together, and could Kayla ride the bus, and I said alright; thanks for giving us some notice, because sometimes he tells us THAT morning that he's not driving and Kayla has to scramble to get her things ready to get on the bus and then it puts a kink in the morning; and here we go with one of those run on sentences that we all love.

But poor Kayla had lots of stuff to carry. She had, not in order of importance:

-Her backpack which was stuffed to the gills, because she missed two days of school last week, so she had makeup work to finish.

-Her track bag.

-A Wal-Mart sack holding her volleyball uniform which had to be turned in today.

-A Wal-Mart sack holding her gym shoes because they ran in the rain yesterday for track practice and she changed into her gym shoes for the indoor part of their workout.

-Her lunch bag, which usually goes in her backpack but it was too full.

So I took pity on her and drove her to school so she wouldn't have to contend with all that crap...I mean junk....I mean all those things that are vital to her education and her development as a well rounded young woman...on the school bus.

I decided to look at this early trip as a "glass half full" kind of thing. While I was out anyway I'd just go ahead and stop at the mall after I dropped her off and get my morning walk in. I try to walk a little over 3 miles at the mall most mornings.

By the way, do your local malls open early for walking? Ours opens at 5:30 and they have little signs up showing the distance per lap, etc. I thought it was standard operating procedure for malls, but I've heard of communities that don't do this. It really is a great service the mall offers.

Anyway, I got into the mall right at 8 and I could tell as soon as I walked in that something was amiss (rather than a mister) because I heard lots of people talking and laughing. More than I usually hear when I'm there walking with the over 70 crowd.

Turns out they are holding try outs for the game show Deal or No Deal at the mall. Turns out the line ran the ENTIRE length of the mall. I don't know how long that is, but one lap around the whole perimeter is .66 miles. And the front of that line was pretty crowded because it was actually one of those giant maze-like things that you see at theme parks. You know to keep the line manageable? And of course it wasn't a single file line. It was about six people deep, all the way from Bergners to JCPenney.

I was really ticked off.

Because I like my walk at the mall. I like the relative quiet, even though there are usually about 30 other people walking. I like the music they play over head. I like the time to plan my day, compose blog posts in my head, and just gather my thoughts. I like to come home afterward and feel good about my self for exercising first thing in the day. And I like to window shop while I walk.

So I stayed just long enough to walk the length of the line to see if it did, indeed cover the whole mall. Well, and to see if they happened to be serving free coffee and donuts anywhere, but they weren't. Sure enough, the line did run the entire length of the mall. So I said to myself "I'm not staying and trying to walk in this mess. This is RIDICULOUS!" As I was leaving, I noticed a few people actually sleeping on the benches of the play area. Can we say CLASSY? Did those people stay all night? Had the mall allowed these people to camp out? Did these people really think they had a snowball's chance of being chosen for the show and then actually winning?

Could any of these people actually EXPLAIN this show to me?

If the managers of the mall can use their facility for this, will they be willing to open it up the next time there is a community emergency that displaces its residents, like a tornado, or flooding? Would they have been willing to open it up to the homeless last winter when the temperatures were about 6 below?

So. With my non-walking morning, I can go to the gym and exercise, which would probably entail time on the treadmill and I HATE the treadmill; or I can get on the elliptical machine here at home, or I can run the vacuum and try to convince myself that those magazine articles are right when they say housework burns calories, or I can go clean my craftroom and the bathroom and then finish the laundry, or I can make my grocery list and then head to wal-mart because I need stuff to make my husband's birthday cake, or I can sit in my favorite chair and stare out the window and CONTEMPLATE exercising, or I can get out my college English books and re-learn the evils of the run on sentence.

Actually typing this entry has worn me out so I'm going to start with the 'sitting in my favorite chair' option.