Birthday parties and funerals

“Presents don’t really mean much to me. I don’t want to sound mawkish, but – it was the realization that I have a great many people in my life who really love me, and who I really love.” – Gabriel Byrne

Somehow, I have made it through “The Year of Firsts.”

It was July 24, 2011, in the very early hours of the morning, that Dad was called to be with the Lord. At 1:40 a.m., he ceased to breathe on this side of Heaven, and continued his pain-free journey with those he loved who had gone on before him.

He may have broken a record for the shortest stay in Hospice, as he was wheeled into the room around 4:30 p.m. on July 23, and didn’t even make it a full 10 hours. I remember it vividly. And these past few weeks, as hard as I tried, I couldn’t help but to remember every single detail. Every single detail.

The Alzheimer’s ravaged his memory, but one thing that will always stand out during his last stage of life was his love of children. He was fascinated watching them, and enjoyed visits with his grandchildren and his great-granddaughters. His entire face lit up when he was around them. I think, too, that the kids had no fear of him. I believe some adults who knew Dad feared him because of his disease – not knowing what to say, how to react or if they’d somehow catch his dreaded, memory-sucking affliction.

So as we neared the one-year mark, this was how my brain functioned; like an over-worked diary that spit out timeline info on a continuous basis:

“July 10, the ambulance took him from the nursing home to the hospital; July 11, a ventilator was inserted; July 22, the ventilator was removed and the sedation was turned off…” and on and on and on my thoughts went.

Thinking I was going crazy (hey, no comments from the peanut gallery out there!), I shared my concern with a friend who lost both her parents recently. She asked how I was doing, and I was a bit emotional saying, “It’s one year today. He died at 1:40 a.m. last year, and I woke up at 1:55 a.m. this morning. My first thought was, ‘It is finished,’ and I cried.” With a hug she comforted me, and admitted that she went through this process as part of her grief experience as well. I felt better. Like I hadn’t totally lost it.

So I embraced those times and dates. Difficult as they may be, those memories are part of my history, and they make me who I am today.

I allowed my brain to continue:

“July 25, we met with the funeral director and pastor, planning the visitation and funeral. July 25 and 26, we collected photos and memories to celebrate his life on July 28.”

July 28 – a year ago today, at this very time – we gathered with several hundred people and celebrated Dad’s life.

But July 28 has another major significance for me. It is my granddaughter’s birthday. We will gather today, on her fourth birthday, to celebrate her life.

Could it be God‘s hand at work, as we gather today, to yet again celebrate life?

I believe so.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

14 Replies to “Birthday parties and funerals”

  1. Sounds like you’re handling the passing of your Dad quite well; you’re coping mechanisms seem to be all intact. You are not losing your mind. 🙂 I on the other hand I’m not to sure about; my Mom died while I was living in Iowa (March 29, 2011). I ‘knew’ something was wrong that day; calling all that would listen; only to be patronized by a brother that told me “they probably went someplace”. Well she had gone ‘someplace’ and I’ve yet to have closure. Someday . . . and I’ll be thinking of you . . . Meanwhile, life goes on . . . Thanks for blogging!

  2. Lynne – it sounds like you are getting through the grieving process with many memories. As painful as they now seem, as time goes by, they will be replaced with terrific memories of times you had with your father. When I lost my mother and wife within 3 months of each other, I thought the world was going to end. But with faith to lean on, I got through the “first year” reasonable well with the help of my kids. I haven’t forgotten the terrible images of their last days, but when I start thinking of them – I am immediately reminded of all the great years we had together. Having a granddaughters birthday to celebrate is certainly God’s hand at work. Thanks for writing such a beautiful reflection. 🙂

  3. As you know, it takes a while. I still miss my dad — and he died in 1998 when he was 65, too young. You will find yourself smiling at your happy memories as time passes, and the tearful grieving part will start to ease. But it’s all part of the process. Good to spend time with your closest friends, especially those who knew your dad. It helps.

    1. Thanks, Cindy. I am blessed that we had a relationship that was so strong that I would miss him so much. What was strange to me was that timeline…guess that is all part of the process.

  4. The year of firsts. Now, you measure time since you last hugged your Dad in years. Going back over what you remember is something I did too, sometimes I still do, but only small parts in detail, because the passage of time blurs the edges. A blessing, I guess, takes away the blunt pain, and leaves a tender longing.

  5. It’s so hard to lose someone we love. Your description of how much your dad loved the children made me smile. And now, you’ll be celebrating a birthday of one of those kids he so loved. So you can remember him as you celebrate her. There’s something beautiful about that.
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