You never really fully comprehend how much family means until it is taken away from you. Monday evening, my husband was injured when a truck fell on him, crushing the bones in the top of his right hand and destroying his index finger knuckle and breaking his index finger. He spent the entire evening at the emergency room and did not return home till 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. He was in severe pain and utterly exhausted. I was worrying and fretting over him when the phone rang. It was the county coroner’s office calling to regretfully tell me that my father had passed away in his sleep.
I collapsed on the chair in utter shock. I had spoken with my father the day before, Monday. He had called me early Monday morning because he did not feel well. He said that he was drooling terribly and he was talking incoherently. He couldn’t put two sentences together that made sense and his speech was slurred. He did not want me to call the ambulance to take him to the hospital, so I called the State Police and asked them to go by and check on him and check his vitals to make sure he was not having a stroke or another heart attack. I also called a family friend and asked him to meet them at my father’s house and take him to his physician or to the hospital depending on the condition he was in.
Dad went to his primary care physician, who got him started on his high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, and heart medication once again since he had been off all of his medications since our ancestral home burned in October 2011. His physician checked him out and said that everything seemed alright and sent him on his way with his new prescriptions. I spoke with Dad again while he was waiting for his prescriptions to be filled, and he said that he was going to go home and try and get some sleep. He had not slept in three days, and had not eaten a decent meal (just snacked on things) in about two weeks because he just had no appetite for anything. So I told him I would check on him again Monday evening.
I called him again around 8:30 p.m. on Monday evening, and he still had not been asleep. At first his speech was alright for the first few minutes of our conversation, but then he started slurring his words once again and the last thing he said was that he had to go, Ken was calling him, he’d call me back.
He never did.
Tuesday morning, Ken was taking my niece and nephew out to see their Pop-Pop and to check on dad and see how he was doing. He tried calling, but no answer. When he got to dad’s house, there was no answer to his banging on the door, so he went around to look in dad’s window and saw him asleep in his bed. He called 911 at that point, and they came and found he had passed in his sleep. That is when the coroner called me.
When my mother passed away in 1992, Dad was lost without her. He never did remarry, she was his soul mate for life, and he used to talk about the day he’d see her again in heaven and he could fuss at her for leaving him to deal with everything on his own LOL. I know he used to talk to her all the time. I know in my heart that he is at peace now and happy to be reunited with my mother and feel whole once again.
My brother and sister and I are all dealing with this in the best way that we can. It’s difficult losing one parent, but when they are both lost to you – it seems even more difficult. I feel disconnected, as though I somehow don’t ‘belong’ any longer. I know that children are their parents’ legacy to the world, but that doesn’t lessen the feeling any. Perhaps, with time, that feeling will fade. I hope so.
I haven’t broken down yet. I’m trying to hold things together and be strong for my brother and sister, and to help with all the last arrangements that need to be taken care of. I will be traveling to Pennsylvania to attend the funeral and help them with anything else that needs to be taken care of. We didn’t need to worry about any of this when mother passed, as Dad was there to handle everything. Now, we’re on our own, and its quite frightening to be perfectly honest.
For various reasons I won’t go into, my brother and sister and I have been estranged from each other. The one positive out of this terrible incident, is that my sister has realized how important family is and how much she is loved and cared for, and I hope that this will bring my brother and I together once again as well. I know we’ll never be the Norman Rockwell family that sits around the table together every Thanksgiving and Christmas – but I hope that we will at the very least stay in touch with each other and be a part of each other’s lives once again. It is what I pray for.
I posted on Facebook, ironically, on Monday that I was “fearing that the old saying ‘we aren’t promised a tomorrow’ is just too close to home at the moment.”
I regret that my Dad never got to meet my youngest son (again) so that they could have bonded. They met each other once, on his way home from a run to Georgia, and Tre remembers crawling in Grandpop’s truck and playing in it. That’s all. I also regret that he had not seen my eldest son and daughter since 2001. That was the last time that I was home for a visit. I should have gone more often. It isn’t from lack of wanting, it was just lack of money, time, schedules. It is my deepest regret. Yes I talked to him on the phone several times a week over the last several months – and for that I am eternally grateful – but I just wish I had been there for him, to see him, hug him, remind him that he is loved – always.
Do not stand at my grave and weep…
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awake in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift up flinging rush
of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry…
I am not there. I did not die.
I know its cliché – but remember to tell the ones you love just how much they mean to you each and every chance you have. None of us are promised a tomorrow.