I've been meaning to write this post for quite some time now, and things have just been crazy busy, so it hasn't happened. And today, we finally had our internet connected, so I'm happy to finally sit down and write.
It's been three weeks now since my father has passed away, and that's given me some time to sort through my feelings and perhaps even compartmentalize some unresolved emotions. Even though I've really been fine since his death, I feel myself choking up as I think over the final moments before and just after his death. It's still a hard thing to think about...knowing that my dad is gone from this life. And while I have that incomprehensible gift of the the eternal Plan of Happiness, death is still hard. I think it's supposed to be hard, really. The moments we remember the most in life are our most difficult, our most trying...those are the moments that change us the most. And I can truthfully say my father's death has opened my eyes to a new perspective of our Savior's great plan.
My two older sibling and I flew in to NY on a Saturday, and immediately attended the wedding of a cousin, which was wonderful. Then straightaway, we went to the Veteran's Home, where dad had been placed just a day or two prior. The Veteran's Home was a gift from Heaven. I can't describe it any other way. From the awful hell-hole of a nursing home he had been in previously, this place was large, clean, friendly, and bright, even despite the rain, but most importantly...peaceful.
I walked in to see my father, and while I had prepared myself a hundred times to see his weathered and worn body as he still clung wearily to life, my heart instantly became overwhelmed with emotion and I had to shake away my tears as I greeted my dad. He was dying. I could see it. I've seen death many times as a nurse, and I could see that death was pulling it's shroud over his body already. Despite his incredibly frail and hallowed appearance, he squeezed my hand and told me he loved me as I hugged him and told him how happy I was to see him.
My siblings arrived soon thereafter, and we spent the weekend going to visit dad and talking and laughing and giving him head scratches (which he loves). My older sister brought her 4month old little girl, Clara, and placed Clara's little feet next to dad's hand while she kicked, and he squeezed her tiny little feet and reveled in her presence. Dad couldn't say much the entire time we were there. His lungs were filling up with fluid, and he was rattling and bubbling through his chest; we could hear it from across the room. But he could manage to squeeze out a few words, and most of them were, "I love you's".
Tuesday morning, my older brother and sister we scheduled to fly home, and had left the house very early that morning. At around 6am, the Veteran's Home called my mother to tell her Dad had become unresponsive around five AM. I talked to the nurse briefly and sent my mother to see him, and I called my sister to tell her to turn around and come back...they were 10 minutes away from checking in. I got up and my heart was heavy with the realization of what would be happening that day. In a desperate attempt to normalize the moment, I ate a bowl of cereal and began to get ready. While I don't feel like I should divulge much about this next event, I will say that there was a very strong prompting that I could not shake to encourage my 22 year old brother to go immediately to the Veteran's Home. I initially ignored it, since most confrontations with him result in arguing, contention and massive irritation, and I didn't want to start our day that way. Finally, I couldn't let it go and went in to see him. I'll skip the details of that conversation. Jacob (the 22 year old) went to the Veteran's Home just a few moments after we finished, and it was he, my mother and a very close family friend who were there when he passed at 9:30 that Tuesday morning.
I rode with Matthew, my 20 year old brother, and as we approached the Veteran's Home....I knew. I just knew. No one had called, but my spirit knew. I rushed into the room, and it was over. My father had passed just 5 minutes previous, and his warm, lifeless body lay in the bed. I quickly found my crying mother and we hugged for a long time. When Jonathan and Tabitha, my two older siblings arrived, I knelt at the side of my father's bed and placed my head on his shoulder and cried. I cried for so many reasons in that moment. I cried for his passing, I cried for my sadness, I cried for my mother's sadness, I cried for my kids and all of the grand-kids who won't have their grandpa here in this life, I cried for Dad's suffering....and then I cried tears of relief. I almost couldn't believe myself and the feeling that I was having that a weight had been lifted off of my chest. I was almost grateful that his pain and suffering were over, even if that meant death. I once had someone tell me that there are far worse things than death. And until that day, I wasn't quite convinced. I understand now.
The days following Dad's death were difficult. Not because of sadness, but because of the waiting. He passed on a Tuesday, and we had the calling hours Friday night and the funeral on Saturday morning. While we needed those days in between to prepare, it was torturous waiting for the "closing ceremonies" to begin. It's hard waiting for closure.
We spent quite a bit of time together as a family in those 8 days we were in NY, and most of it was good, and some of it was very very difficult....if you can imagine 5 adult siblings in a house, tensions mount and often come to a boiling point. Somehow we made it through. And while we disagreed and fought at times during the week, we could still come together and play games in the evening and laugh. I will never forget how healing that was for me especially. The last 9 months of gut-wrenching awfulness that I experienced as I sat front row on Dad's awful roller coaster ride from Hell, itself, made me incredibly....anxious before I flew home a few weeks ago. Honestly, my heart was full of angst and terror. I had been to strong for so long, that if death itself was going to be more difficult, I didn't think I could do it. I just didn't think I would be able to handle it or make it through, and it terrified me....more than anything else I've done in this life. But I can say that while my siblings and I don't always get along, I never felt alone the whole week. Never. I cannot tell you how wonderful that made me feel. Anything is possible when you know you have someone (or 4 other sibling-someone's) on your side. I love my brothers and sister. I really and truly do. We were meant to come as a package deal, and I am grateful the Lord knows what we need even when we don't...or when we think we know better.
My sister and I talked a lot during the course of the week, and as we talked about the whole experience of life and death and Dad's passing, she described it as being full tender mercies. I could not describe it more succinctly than she. As difficult as this trial has been, it was full of tender, such tender mercies. After 9 months of NO tender mercies, the final week was a gracious and soft, warm blanket of tender mercies. It was still a difficult experience, but so many things just....fell into place. So many things were made....easy (?). So many things that let us know that the Lord had not forgotten about us, and that He wanted us to know He loved us, and that He knew we were sad. There were many things that happened that week that were guided by the Lord's hand. Even as difficult as it was, we were never alone for any of it.
And so, while I sit here and type this with tears in my eyes, I am still filled with gratitude. Gratitude for knowing I will see my dad again someday. Gratitude that the Lord knew my heart, and calmed my troubled soul. Gratitude that my Dad's suffering is over. Death is hard, I don't know as though it's ever easy, and it's not supposed to be. It's the difficult moments in life that teach us the most. That guide us through the next wave of stormy waters and give us the experience to sail safely through. I will always miss my dad, and I don't know as though that hole in my heart will ever go away. But I hold firm to the knowledge that when we die, our spirit leaves our body and goes to Heaven. A place that is superfluous beyond our capabilities to imagine, a place that when we get there, we will instantly remember all that was wiped away by the veil of forgetfulness when we were born on this earth. I have a testimony of Jesus Christ and His infinite love and compassion for us. He knows us, He loves us, and He wants us to return to Him someday. We can. We CAN return to live with our Savior again someday. We can be eternally sealed to our families in this life, and know that we can be together....forever. Love and relationships extend far beyond the grave, if we only allow ourselves to follow the path that will take us there. If you would like to know more about being together FOREVER, please go to www.mormon.org. Only because I can't imagine what life would be like if I didn't know I could see my loved one's again!
This post has been a long time in coming, and I've shared the moments that I felt needed to be recorded. I hope that some day, these experiences (if I ever get them printed.....), will help my children through similar trials. In the meantime, life has handed us some super busy moments, and we are trying to keep up, so stay tuned, we're back online (literally)!!