Friday, May 19, 2017

Holding hands

A little while ago, I saw a picture online of a little boy holding a parent's hand, and it made me think of my dad. We clasped hands often. I had a special grip for helping him get up from a chair. When I left him to go home, we would press each other's hands.

In his final illness and on his deathbed, my sister-in-law, sister, and I held his hand as much as possible. When we brought my mom in her wheelchair to see him, he would put out his hand to hold hers.



When he was past the point of speech, he would sometimes pull the hand holding his to his lips and kiss it. He loved us all tenderly to the very end.

It's a painful realization that for the rest of my life on this earth, I can never take his hand again, never hug him hello or kiss him good-bye. Just gone.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Mother's Day

Well, about a month after her 85th birthday, my mom died. She passed just two and a half months after my dad. I felt like this time we knew the drill because we had just done it. Back again in the funeral director's meeting room. Same coffin as my dad, same schedule of viewing on Wednesday evening and burial and memorial service on Friday afternoon. Similar emails with the church office, same order of worship for the memorial service—different hymns and Bible passages. Meeting again with the pastor to go over the service. Siblings flying in again for the obsequies—but not so many of my folks' grandchildren, as they had used up their money and time off just a couple months ago coming for my dad's service, and we also felt that their seeing my mom at that time, while she was still with us, and comforting her then, was more important than coming to her funeral.

Different weather. The day of my dad's graveside and memorial services, in early February, was the beginning of a severe winter storm. At the cemetery, a freezing wind blew ice crystals against us, and some people who would otherwise have come to the memorial service stayed home because of the driving conditions. The day of my mom's graveside and memorial services, in mid-April, was a lovely spring day, mild air, trees in bud, flowers in bloom.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Abide with us

But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. — Luke 24:29 (KJV)

It has been 51 days since my father died. I wrote at the time how I woke my mother up and told her of his death. She came in her wheelchair to the room where he lay, and she saw his body. She came to the viewing of his body at the funeral home, and she was at the graveside service and the memorial service. But she has not really been able to take in the reality of his death. Almost every time I see her, she asks where he is.

This past week, we celebrated her birthday with family and friends. She was in her wheelchair, and for some time I sat next to her to watch over her during the party. I told her who all the guests were, and she asked me, "Where is Lou?" As usual when she asks this question, I said, "Dad passed away, Mom. Do you remember? You were at his memorial service. He's in heaven now." As usual, she accepted this and seemed to remember that it was true once she was reminded.

My sister was here from out of state for the celebration. After her last visit before going home, she came back to my house in tears. When she was leaving, my Mom had asked her, "Where is he?" "Who, Mom?" "Lou."

They were married for 64 years, five months, and eleven days. No wonder she can't comprehend life without him.

When I knew my mom's mom in her old age, she loved the hymn "Abide With Me." If I fiddled around on the piano, I could be sure of a grateful comment if I played that hymn. It is the beautiful prayer of one approaching death. I pray it on my mom's behalf.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need thy presence every passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless;
ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still if thou abide with me.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.



Words: Henry F. Lyte
Tune: "Eventide," William H. Monk

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Adjustments

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, I gather. For the past number of years, I've watched the Super Bowl with my dad, just to keep him company. I would buy some snacks and beer and we would partake fairly moderately while watching the game and the commercials. I'm not really interested in football for its own sake, and in recent years the commercials have been disappointing, but I usually had fun talking with my dad and posting my thoughts on Facebook.

Today my father has been dead for more than a week, and his funeral was two days ago. I don't think I'll watch the Super Bowl. My brother is staying with me, post-funeral. If he wants to watch the game, he's welcome to put it on and then I might watch it by default. But I have no plans about it. That's my "new normal," as the saying goes. I can no longer think of little things for my dad to enjoy and then do them.

Emily Dickinson expressed it well:

The Bustle in a House 
The Morning after Death 
Is solemnest of industries 
Enacted upon Earth – 

The Sweeping up the Heart 
And putting Love away 
We shall not want to use again 
Until Eternity – 

Friday, January 27, 2017

The longest day

It has been a long day. It started at about 2:30 a.m. I was in my father's room at the skilled nursing facility where he had been under hospice care. I was spending the night to monitor his safety. At some point I was so tired I told him (though I was not sure he heard or understood) that I needed to sleep for a little while, and I did sleep in a chair. I don't know what time that was. At about 2:30 a.m., I woke up and his previously stertorous breathing was silent. He had died while I was asleep.

Now it is about seventeen hours later. I have brought my mother the news of her husband's death, said good-bye to his body, told relatives about his death, drafted an obituary, assisted in sorting some of his papers and information, signed other papers, and been part of a meeting concerning his memorial service.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace.

Amen.

He was the best father in the whole world.