Monday, January 18, 2010

Remembering Dad

Yesterday was the 11th anniversary of my dad's death. When I tell people that my dad is dead it's always kind of uncomfortable. Not for me, but for the other person because it's like  they've stumbled onto a taboo topic, that they feel they shouldn't talk about. But it honestly doesn't bother me to talk about my dad at all.

January 17, 1999 was a Sunday (just like it was yesterday). My dad got up and took a shower because he wanted to go to church. My mom noticed how weak he seemed, so she asked him if he was sure he wanted to go to church, and he said he did. I went to church with my mom and dad, my older sister Kristin and my two younger sisters Laura and Chandra. (We were the only girls still living at home at this time.) My older sister Sharon and her husband Spencer were in town visiting, so they came to church with us as well.

Dad was tired and weak, so my mom and Sharon decided to take him home after the first meeting at church. When my mom and Sharon got Dad home, he collapsed as he was walking in the garage door to the house. Mom and Sharon tried to pick up Dad to get him to the couch, but they couldn't lift him. My mom ran over to our neighbor's house, and our neighbor helped my mom and Sharon get Dad onto the couch. Dad was dying. (Although, it's not quite clear when he took his final breath since dying usually happens in a process, instead of instantaneously.)

The rest of us were still at church (my brother-in-law and my three sisters) and my Bishop came into the room where the teenage girls were meeting and called Kristin, Laura and me out into the hall. He told the three of us that he'd just gotten off the phone with my mom and she said that my dad had just passed away. We went and got my younger sister Chandra from Primary (the children's organization) and my brother-in-law Spencer drove us home.

The drive home was silent -- no talking, no crying, just an awkward silence. We all knew that the end of our dad's life was near (he'd been battling pancreatic cancer for the past eight months), but I think we were all in a mild state of shock. The end of his life had finally come. As odd as this sounds, I was actually happy that Dad had finally gone home. After seeing him suffer and endure so much pain for months and months, I knew that he was finally pain-free.

When we got home we walked in the garage door and my dad's lifeless body was laying on the couch. I didn't look at him, I just quickly turned the corner, walked upstairs and changed my clothes. I'm pretty sure my other sisters did the same thing, and then we timidly crept downstairs. My mom, Sharon and Spencer were sitting in the family room with my dad, and one by one, we filtered into the family room. I sat on the couch opposite to the one where Dad was lying and sat between my older sisters Sharon and Kristin. It took several minutes before I could bare to in dad's direction, but after I did a few times it wasn't scary at all.

A short amount of time passed (maybe 30 minute to an hour) before the mortician and his team arrived with a hearse to take Dad's body away. The rest of the day had a hollow sort of feeling to it, although it also seemed like a normal day in many ways, too. Anyway, that's how the events took place on the day Dad died.

I don't have many pictures of just my dad and myself since I grew up in a large family and it seems like there was always several family members in every picture. Here are two pictures of me with my dad. The first one is of my sister Laura and me on my dad's back when I was in kindergarten (I'm the one in the dark blue sweater), and the second picture is of me and my sister Kristin with our dad a few months before he died (I'm the one on the left):

I think about my dad often, especially on the anniversary of his death. I have so much love, respect and admiration for my dad because of how he lived his life. He was raised in an emotionally abusive home, and he worked hard to overcome the issues that resulted from that. My dad wasn't a perfect man, but he was constantly improving and trying to change for the better.

I dream about my dad all the time, and one of my recurring dreams is that he's come back to life. My dad was very into technology and computers when he was alive, and I often dream that he's come back to life and I'm introducing him to all of the new technological gadgets and advancements that didn't exist when he was alive. (Like DVDs, iPods, digital cameras, cell phones, etc.)

Part of the reason it doesn't bother me to talk about my dad is because I know I will see him again someday. I know that life goes on and that death is truly only the beginning. I'm just trying to live my life in a way as to make both of my fathers proud -- my Heavenly Father and my biological father.


Loretta Valenta said...

Heather, this was beautifully said. I love the pictures of you with you dad! It is hard to believe that it has been 11 years since losing your father.

When your father passed away we were living in Kentucky but I was so thankful for the opportunity to be able to return to St.Louis for his funeral. He was a good man and he and your mother have done a wonderful job of raising a great family!

I have no doubt that both of your fathers are extremely proud of you! (((hugs)))

Michelle said...

I remember that day very well and I was thinking of all of you on the 17th. Your Dad was a great man and I'm so glad I got to know him!

Bryce and Candice Blood Family said...

Hi Heather! It's nice to finally "meet you!" I was in Sharon's ward in Mississippi. I remember when she was so excited you were finally able to visit her home and her talking about when there was a spider crawling on you. AAAAAHHH! I also remember her always talking about you fondly and about the day your dad passed away as well. I was so excited to find your blog and read your perspective on the events that changed your life. I know you must have awesome parents to raise such amazing, talented, postive, and faithful daughters! I admire you all so much! Thank you for your examples.

Mary M. said...

Though I only knew your dad for a short time (we joined the church the end of July 1986 and moved in April 1987)I really liked him. He was one of the brothers that visited our home after we joined the church. In December of 1986, someone left two very large cloth dolls at our front door for our two young daughters. I was touched by someone's thoughtfulness. We were on a tight budget at the time, and it was also appreciated besides being neat that someone thought of us. We don't know but suspected it might have been your dad. Anyway, it was fun to see your pictures, and nice to learn what happened, and to be reminded of him. Thanks.

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