Three years ago, we were all sitting in a hospital, waiting for the patriarch of our family to die....
We were in DC, packing our household goods into a moving truck. I got a phone call from my mother on the 27th. She told me the doctors were not releasing my father from the hospital. As Gary and I packed, I cried and tried to figure out what to do. After all, although the truck was being picked up by the moving company the following morning, we still had to clean our house and pass inspection, before driving to Kentucky where Gary would check into his new command, and we would close on our house.
Finally, after many tears and heartfelt discussion, we decided that the boys and I would fly to Oklahoma, while Gary stayed behind to take wrap things up. This was a hard decision. Gary and my father were very close. They had been ever since we married. My dad even took to calling me his "son-in-law's-wife." But, needs must, and we made that decision.
Saturday morning, the boys and I got on a plane and flew to Oklahoma. When we arrived at the hospital, Xavier, 6, did not want to go into the room. All the wires hooked up to his Papa scared him. He really didn't understand what was going on, but he knew it was bad. Dominic was too young, at 3, to understand it at all, and Gabriel was completely overwhelmed. I was just heartbroken.
My dad was a fireman, and my entire life he was larger than life. He could move a piano on his own. He could leap tall buildings in a single bound. Now, he was hooked up to a machine that forced him to breathe, being given the highest dosage of morphine allowed, and in incredible pain. He had lost at least 100 over the previous year. The cancer had, quite literally, eaten him from the inside out. It was such an awful way to die.
My family was flying in from all over. My uncle drove up from Dallas, to bully the nurses. What would we have done without him? My cousins, sister, brother, uncles, aunts... we were all there. It was a blessing when my father lost conscience at about 9 PM. My cousin flew in from Phoenix and arrived at about midnight. My family did what it does in these situations. We talked. We laughed. We cried.
My father would stop breathing for a few minutes and we would all start bawling. Then, he would start breathing again, and we would just stare at him. Finally, early Sunday morning, on the 29th of April, my mother's birthday, my father died. He drew his last, painful breath. He left this earth. We said goodbye.
Since we were in the middle of moving, and the people we were buying the house from kindly moved our closing date back, we were able to stay with my mom for two weeks. My cousin, Jerry, also stayed in Oklahoma. I'll be honest. I think the children would have been completely ignored if it were not for Jerry. My children all love Jerry absolutely and completely. Of course, I always have, as well. But those two weeks solidified a love so deep, it can never be changed.
Over the course of three days, my father died. My 6 year old cousin burned down her older sister's house. My 3 year old son fell and split his head wide open. It was not a relaxing week, by any means. Then, my husband arrived, held me in his arms and cried with me.
I spent those two weeks helping my mother get all her finances figured out. We spent time going over my father's retirement information. We created a budget for her. We laughed and we cried. We went shopping, and we ordered a headstone that had a huge catfish with an arm sticking out of it. We put cough drops in my father's pockets before he was buried. As a matter of fact, we found out later that every single person in my immediate family put a cough drop in his pocket. He did like those honey lemon cough drops.
It did not seem as though I had time to grieve. And, in fact, I probably did not. It was only after closing on our house, three weeks later, and beginning to unpack that my mind had time to dwell on the fact that my father was gone.
Most days, I don't think about Papa being gone. I most miss him when I talk to Gabriel. Gabriel is so much like Papa that I have a hard time listening to him, sometimes. I miss Papa for Gabriel. Gabriel and Papa would have had so much fun sitting out in a fishing boat, talking about politics, history, and the economy. These are Gabriel's favorite topics. They were also Papa's. All I can do is support my boy in his quest and love, in honor of Papa.
I miss you, Papa. I hope you're having fun in The Great Lake in the Sky.