Thursday, September 19, 2013

One Year Down. A Lifetime To Go.

September 20, 2013

Dear Daddy,

Imagining life without you was not something I was ever capable of. That is, until I had to do it. The denial and disbelief lasted quite some time. I would pick up the phone regularly, just to tell you something funny. Some nights, as I drifted off to sleep, I would swear I felt your arms around me. I am still so grateful for the comfort that brought me. I caught glimpses of you across the room, at the edge of the park, at the foot of my bed at night. I would have ordinarily chalked it up to my overactive imagination....but I FELT you. I actually felt you with me, watching over me, as if you were absorbing my painful grief like a sponge. Those are moments I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I wished every single day that I would feel you again. Three months after your passing, you were gone. I haven't felt you again. At first I was crushed, almost panicked. The profound loss seemed tolerable, when I could feel the comfort from you, enveloping me. Then something clicked inside of me. All of a sudden I understood.
It was time for me to go on, to learn how to live without you. To my mourning heart, this task seemed insurmountable.
You will be quite pleased to know that once again, you were right. First hour by hour, day by day, month by month, I struggled to get through the day with dry eyes. Then the pain evolved into something else. My tears were no longer mourning the loss of your body on earth, but turned to tears of joy brought by beautiful memories of our life together. Remembering is still painful at times. However, I have found that the love we shared shines a light over me that grief cannot dim.

Love conquers all.....even death.
Phantom of the Opera

Your ashes rest on my mantle. I have spent the last year trying to decide what would be best for all of us. Some days, I feel serenity in knowing that your earthly body remains with me. I also often think that you would like to be taken to places that I think we would have found meaningful, together. I have come to the realization that accepting your death means letting go.....ashes and all.
Today, with your son in law and grandchildren, we will take part of you to our favorite lake, where we spent much of the summer. It is a place that reminds me of you the minute I see it. Reminiscent of our weekend trips to the lake when I was just a little girl. Part of you will be there forever. I am giving myself the gift of having a place to go when I need to talk to you, feel close to you. The ashes on the mantle just seem very sad.
I plan on taking part of you somewhere special each year, on this day. My heart tells me you would like that very much. Of course, some of your ashes with remain with me until the day I join you.

There are so many things to say, Daddy. My heart will never be completely whole without you. But, the moments of sorrow are far less than the feelings of everlasting love and gratitude I feel for you.
So many times I wonder if I thanked you enough, for being the man that you were. I would like to mention a few.
Had to stop for a kiss <3

Thank you Daddy, for.......

  • Being my hero, my first love
  • Giving me hope, even in the most dire circumstances
  • Being fair, ALWAYS
  • Working so hard to provide such a comfortable life for our family. You are the hardest working man I have ever met
  • Keeping me alive, as a preemie under two lbs., even when the doctor told you I would die within days. YOU saved me
  • Always making sure I was never cold, hungry, or without a comfortable home
  • Singing my favorite lullaby, no matter how old I was
  • Rides on the moped after dinner
  • Teaching me to fish
  • Showing up at a Pep Rally in High School, in the middle of a workday, just to surprise me. You had never seen me cheer or dance. You had tears in your eyes when you hugged me afterwards, I will NEVER forget that day
  • Teaching me honesty, integrity, and how to find humor in just about every situation
  • Being able to fix ANYTHING
  • Giving me away to my incredible husband, at our wedding. I know that day was bittersweet for you. I will never forget the look on your face, or the tears in your eyes, as I danced with my new husband. You were so proud of the young woman I had become. Nothing could have meant more to me
  • Loving your Grandbabies. I see you in them every single day, That is truly an enormous gift. To look into Olivia's sky blue eyes, I see you. It never ceases to amaze me
  • Adoring me, your sweetpea, with all of your heart and soul. I will never know another love like yours 
My very favorite childhood memory. Moped rides after dinner

The loss with be ever present, Daddy. Each year that passes will make the pain a bit less. 
Grief is a rollercoaster and sadly, I have been quite unsuccessful at finding a manual. ;)
I AM certain of one thing. Love is more powerful than anything else. It transcends time, space, even death. My lips will not kiss you, I won't be held in your arms again.
I am finally ok with that. 
Your love runs through my veins and is ever present. That is the greatest gift of all.

I will leave you with this, Daddy. Our song.
I will watch carefully for the butterflies you will surely send my way today. 

I love you........forever. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Beautiful Death - His Ending, Our Beginning

My Daddy died at 5:00am on Thursday, September 20, 2012.

Conquering my fear of riding. My Daddy looking at me with pure love and adoration.
He was so proud that day.

Continued from Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4Part 5 & Part 6

After Great Pain, A Formal Feeling Comes
By Emily Dickinson

After a great pain, a formal feeling comes-
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs-
The stiff Heart questions 'was it He, that bore,'
And 'Yesterday, or Centuries before'?

The Feet, mechanical, go round-
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought-
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone-

This is the Hour of Lead-
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow-
First-Chill-then Stupor-then the letting go-

September 15-18, 2012

The last morning my Daddy was lucid, was the most beautiful. Every painful step of this journey led to this. This day holds some of my most treasured moments with my Daddy.
He kept puckering his lips. I asked him EVERYTHING I could think of. His speech was damaged during the last surgery so he could not speak clearly. His words were unintelligible. Chapstick....little damp pink sponges on a stick for his dry mouth, suction...geez. I had gotten quite good at this wordless dance of ours. I was failing miserably. I could see in his eyes that what he wanted was so simple yet I wasn't getting it. One corner of his mouth went up. It was the closest thing to a smile that I had seen thus far. 
OH MY GOD!!! KISS KISS KISS KISS KISS KISS! Daddy, do you want a kiss?! Slow blink yes and slight hand squeeze.
I kissed my Daddy a hundred times that day. Every time he woke and looked at me, another pucker. What I did not know at that time, was that he was arming me with kisses that would have to last me a lifetime.

Last kiss from my Daddy as a single girl <3

September 19, 2012

Heavy sedation, very strong pain meds, oxygen...but my Daddy appeared to be sleeping. We knew the truth. His breathing was becoming more labored, and he had developed a gurgling sound as he took a breath. Double pneumonia. I could feel that the end was near. I felt his suffering under the guise of peaceful slumber. 
I laid my head on his chest and sobbed my heart out. An angel disguised as our Hospice nurse had told me that he needed me to tell him it was ok to let go. I knew that time had come. Through my tears, I told him that it was ok to let go. I begged him to stop fighting and end his suffering. I promised him that I was going to be ok. I told him that I would always make sure that Mom and his dog were taken care of. Most of all, I told him how much I loved him. I thanked him for every hour he worked, every wound he kissed, second chances when I screwed up, giving me away to my love at my wedding, loving his grand babies, blessing me with the Mom I had always wished for, and being the very best Daddy he could. 
Even when he was gone, I told him that he would live on in me and my babies. "I am stronger than I think and I WILL be ok. I love you with all my heart, as much as a little girl can love her Daddy. Please go to heaven, it is ok to let go. Just look in on us from time to time. Thank you for always making me feel adored. I love you, Daddy."
I kissed him many times, smoothed his hair, and finally let go of his hand. 
I paused at the doorway and looked at the strongest man I had ever known. The first love of my life. I whispered that I loved him, would see him soon, blew him more kisses, and left. 
The last time I would hold my Daddy's hand in mine
That was the last time I would see my Daddy alive. Inside, I knew.
I went to my place of solitude, the place I can truly think clearly and feel my soul soothed. The beach.
I walked a mile or so, then down to the end of the long pier. There were several fisherman and a few tourists but I did not see any of them. I reached the end of the pier and dropped to my knees. The furthest point into the sea that I could reach. I sobbed, begged God to take my Daddy. I begged God to end his suffering and take him to heaven. I bore my soul, out loud, in a VERY public place. This is something I have NEVER done. At that moment, I felt the spiritual impact that this journey had on me. 
I opened my eyes and had six hands on me. Three people had stopped to touch me and pray. I never felt them until I saw them. Two women and a man. They whispered prayers, cried with me, and picked me up. I hugged them, thanked them and promised that I was ok. One couple said that they would watch me walk back down the beach, to my car, and to just wave if I needed them.
THAT is true kindness and compassion. I was overcome with gratitude.

My feet in Ventura of my favorite things in the world.

I started my walk back down the beach, my feet in the water the whole way. Immediately as my toes touched the chilly water, a serene calm came over me. No more tears, no more pain. I felt weightless, as if God really was carrying me back to my car. As I stared out at the beautiful sunset, my mind was filled with vivid, wonderful memories with my Daddy.

This is the sunset I watched that evening. Breathtaking.

September 20, 2012 - 5:10am

I was sleeping at my Aunt and Uncle's house, across town.
Cell phone ringing.....wish it would sleepy. OMG! I bolted upright and grabbed the phone. A piece of me tore away when I saw my Mom's smiling face on the screen, ringing as if she missed me and just wanted to chat. Before I could answer, I already knew. My Daddy was gone. He passed away at 5:00am exactly.
The funniest thing about this was that he did things HIS way. Even death was going to be just how he wanted it to be. 5:00am was his favorite time of day. He got up at almost exactly this time most of my life. He enjoyed his coffee, the newspaper, and the solitude before another busy day.
He also knew my Mom and I would be sleeping.
His last gift to us on earth...I believe he did not want us to witness his death.

I arrived 20 minutes after he died. Our angel/Hospice nurse asked me if I wanted to spend some time with him. The funeral home wasn't due for a couple of hours. She hugged me and said quietly, "This will take every single bit of strength you have, but it is VERY important that you say goodbye to him." Turns out, she was right.

When I walked into his bedroom, he looked truly at peace. I was devastated, heartbroken, in shock, and scared out of my mind. I did not think I could handle this. The room seemed to swirl and tilt, as I stood frozen in place. Suddenly, that feeling was gone and I sprinted across the room. I climbed in his bed, put my arms around him, and sobbed into his I had countless times growing up.

This went on for two hours.

I knew the funeral home was due anytime and I wanted to say my final goodbye in private. I kissed his face, his lips, his forehead, felt his hair, his moustache...and said, "This isn't goodbye, Daddy. I know you will stay close. I love you more than any little girl has ever loved her Daddy. Rest now but save me a place in heaven. We will fish again."

He will be waiting for me at the Pearly Gates, with a dirty Grey Goose martini in hand. In the meantime, I will live on to be the woman he was so proud of. I will never stop missing him but, I will go on with my life and be happy.

Because of course, that is all he would ever want.

To all of you who took the time to read our story, I thank you with ALL my heart and soul. This may have been too raw and painful for some but, I needed to tell the truth. Good, bad, and ugly. This took me 6 months to finish. I have never written something that was this difficult to put into words. Sometimes, I couldn't write simply because you can't see the screen through tears.

As much as it hurt, I can't wait to hit the "publish" button. Big step forward I need to take...and I am doing it. :)

I will close this painful series with joy, hope, and most importantly love. It shines in these photos.
I love you Daddy. I will always be your "Sweetpea".
Making fun of me for wearing
cowboy boots with a dress

Tiffany xoxo

Rides on the moped after dinner. Some of our most
cherished memories.
The last picture of Grandpa & Olivia....
and Chuppie, of course.

Our last dinner out together with Mom, Aunt Teri, and Uncle D, at Landmark 78 - 2007
Phantom of The Opera - 1998

Naps with Daddy circa 1976
Daddy's home with us.
There is an angel listening to him....
and a little Lego "Olivia" hugging him
Had to stop for a kiss on my way back down the aisle,
as a newly married woman.

My Daddy always said, "I adore you, sweetpea."
Every time I look at this, I am reminded of his love for me.
Even in death, I am adored and will always be his "sweetpea".

December 8th, 2001
Daddy looked so proud and so handsome.

Daddy and his best friend....Chuppie

The love between us cannot be described in words. This picture says it all. My Daddy. My hero.

I will leave you with this....true love

Mom and Dad's 20th Anniversary
July 3rd, 2012

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Beautiful Death - Part 6

My Daddy died at 5:00am on Thursday, September 20, 2012.

August, 2002 - 8 months pregnant with Aidan

Continued from Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 & Part 5

September 10, 2012

This was a crucial morning. Daddy needed to be weaned off the ventilator and the sedation. We wanted the breathing tube OUT and needed to assess his cognitive abilities after his surgery. They slowly decreased the ventilator and tried to get him to breathe on his own. His stats immediately crashed and he became extremely agitated. They had to resume sedation and the ventilator. We were told that they would try again the following day. During the break from the heavy sedation, I was granted another miracle. 

He opened his eyes. He looked at my face, my eyes. He was making contact and wanted to tell me something. He squeezed my hand and slowly blinked his eyes as I stroked his hair and told him how much I loved him. For a moment, I saw tenderness in his gaze. A split second later, all I saw in his clear blue eyes was fear and suffering. It was like he was pleading with me to stop all of this. He hated being in the hospital and had made that abundantly clear in years past. I mean, who does like being there? No one. He was in pain, had a tube down his throat, and was unable to even move. In that single look, I knew what he wanted. It cut me in two but, I understood and my Mom and I would honor his wishes in EVERY way. We decided to give them one more chance the following morning, to wean him off the ventilator, after another night of sedation. 

We left the hospital late that night feeling empty, deflated. It was so important to keep a positive attitude and continue to have hope. We had accomplished that every single day of this nightmare. The energy around my Mom and I was different that night. In our hearts, we knew. We knew that death was knocking and nothing could stop it. It was a sobering moment.

September 11-14, 2012

These next days were a blur of fear, grief, and very difficult decisions. Daddy's team of doctors had tried several times to wean him off the ventilator and heavy sedation. Same result every time. His stats crashed and he became extremely agitated. We had a meeting with the entire team, including our angel of a social worker. My Mom and I bravely spoke the words we never wanted to say. Discontinue life support.

We stepped out of the room as they extubated him. We had seen enough horror for a lifetime and did not need to witness this barbaric task. He had talked about how awful the whole experience is and has had nightmares about it for years. We made sure he was adequately sedated before they began.
The doctors stepped out, with bowed heads and words of sympathy...wishing they could have done more.

I gave my Mom some privacy. This man had been the love of her life for 20 years. She stepped into a very broken family and loved us all until happy became our normal. I was an angry, confused 16 year old girl who didn't want any part of someone taking my Daddy away. He had been hurt enough. She never wavered. She took my verbal abuse, awful attitude, and loved me anyway. I was the daughter she had always wanted. She was the mother I always prayed for. We found our way because she never gave up on me. I still believe that God finally answered my prayers for a mother that would love me unconditionally. She was everything I ever wanted and wished for. She was also the absolute love of my Daddy's life.
I watched as she said goodbye to the man she had loved for so long. My heart truly broke.

I held his hand, stroked his hair, put my head on his chest. I told him how much I loved him and promised to take care of Mom and his beloved dog. I told him that he was the strongest man I have ever known. Kissing his face, I whispered that I would always be his little girl and I would never stop loving him. Ever.

As we sobbed at either side of his bed, nothing happened. He was still alive. I suppose we expected some dramatic end the minute they removed the breathing tube. Not my Daddy. He was going to do it HIS way, as he always had. Once again, I was in awe his strength and tenacity.
He was still alive the next morning. We realized that he did not want to die there. He wanted to go home. He had been trying to tell us that all along.

We arranged ambulance transport home, about an hour and a half trip from LA. Hospice was called. I left to prepare their home. My Mom stayed to ride back with him in the ambulance.
By midnight that night, Daddy was where he wanted to be.

Home, in his bed...with his dog at his feet. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Beautiful Death - Part 5

My Daddy died at 5:00am on Thursday, September 20, 2012.

Grandpa reading Green Eggs & Ham to Olivia, age 3 - 2008
Kisses from Grandpa - 2008

Continued from Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, & Part 4

September 9, 2012 - 5:00pm

Daddy made it through surgery. We thoroughly celebrated this victory. His surgeon told us that it had gone even better than he had expected. No obvious complications. The only way to tell if his brain had been damaged was to keep him sedated overnight, and bring him out of the sedation in the morning. We had to see if his cognitive abilities were functioning. We just needed him to communicate, even if it was just writing. He could not speak due to the ventilator. Another "wait and see". He made it through the day, we couldn't ask for more than that. We left him to rest with whispers of love and strength. 

Growing up, I loved animals. LOVED them. (still do) I would beg to live on a farm. He would laugh and tolerate my menagerie of beloved pets. He certainly wasn't very fond of them. About 8 years ago, my step-brother joined the Navy and needed someone to take care of his chihuahua. I NEVER thought my Daddy would go for that! Somehow, my Mom worked her charm and they adopted her. She reminded them of the Taco Bell dog, of course and named her "Chuppie"...short for "Chalupa". :) She became his best friend, his loyal companion. She is 16 now and taking care of my Mom. 

The detour from the story of my Daddy's death is to explain the gift that I found for him, while he was in surgery. I wandered the quite upscale gift shop. The nightgowns for sale were Oscar De La Renta and Chanel. I was sporadically crying, just looking for SOMETHING he might like. Nothing. Until, I saw the stuffed dogs. They did not have Chihuahuas of course. The polite volunteer asked if I needed any assistance. I said, "I am guessing you don't have any Chihuahuas in the back..." She set off to scour the back to fulfill my emotional, teary request. In what seemed like merely seconds later, she appeared with the dog. "I had no idea we had these. I have not seen them before. Is this what you wanted?" I hugged her (of course) and almost jumped up and down. It may have just been a stuffed dog, but to was a miracle. 


This was the day. The miracles, beauty, everything unexpected, began to happen. I had no idea what was in store for us. I didn't feel the need to that night, walking out of the hospital. He had made it through surgery. I found him a twin dog that IS allowed in the hospital, that the manager had never seen. 
Those were miracles to me. I knew we had more in store for us. I had the most important thing...HOPE.

I fell asleep that night praying that he would communicate in the morning. I wanted my Daddy back and I could actually feel it happening. I begged God, to spare him, to heal him. I prayed more than I had in my whole life. I suppose that is what witnessing miracles will do.

Part 6 to come soon....

A Beautiful Death - Part 4

My Daddy died at 5:00am on Thursday, September 20, 2012.

Daddy, my brother Bobby, & I
Our last picture together - 2009

Continued from Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3

September 9, 2012 - 6:30am

Surgery day. The struggle to stay hopeful is nearly impossible with the fear that is crushing my insides. I can see in my Moms' eyes that she feels the same way. When we got into the car at the hotel to go to the hospital, I asked her what she would like to listen to. "Something soothing." 
Sarah McLaughlin it is. I will never listen to "Mirrorball" again without the sounds bringing me back to those many drives between the hotel and the hospital. The deep breaths to ward off the palpable anxiety, the smell of coffee, the quiet, except for SM's haunting voice....until we reached the parking garage. Pushed the button, took the ticket, parked the car.
Walked straight into the building from the garage, took the first elevator on the left to the Plaza level. Turn left, then right, through double glass doors into a courtyard. Tower straight ahead. Two more sets of double glass doors, stop at the security desk. "Sapperstein Critical Care Tower Floor?" asked the officer. 4th floor, CICU, name, Daddy's name, ID check. Visitor badge issued. "Thank you Mrs.(Tiara), have a nice day."

This became the routine, several times a day. It was just as scary the last time as the first. Those two sets of double glass doors were my only escape. Once I reached the 4th floor, I had to put one foot in front of the other. Deal with whatever reality would be. My knees felt weak that day, as if any moment I would collapse. As we stepped out of the elevator, I silently prayed for strength.

We had an hour with him before he was taken for surgery. They would be performing a balloon valvoplasty. Recurrence of symptoms, restenosis (the formation of new blockages), and death occur in 50% of patients. Very risky surgery reserved for critically ill patients with absolutely no options left. We had decided to do this to him. There was a huge risk of stroke or brain damage. It was very likely that microscopic particles could travel up and cause brain damage, as the balloon breaks apart the calcification. The surgeon assured us that he has had great success with this and truly thought it was his best chance at living. We believed in him and Daddy's strength. I hugged the surgeon as my Mom signed the final consent. I asked him to promise to do his best for my Daddy. He kissed my cheek, squeezed my hand, and promised. 
The procession from my Daddy's room to the operating room was ominous. They had 5 nurses, one bagging him as he was unhooked from the respirator. He was surrounded and barely visible to me. The vast almost all glass corridor seemed miles long. I ran to keep up and tried to get just a glance of his face. 

I will never forget the fourth hallway from the bottom
They stopped just outside of the surgical suite and told us we had 30 seconds. I stepped back to give my Mom her 15 seconds of privacy. As she stepped away, I whispered in his ear. "Fight Daddy. Please keep fighting. I know you can do this. I am so proud of you. I love you so much. Please come through this, I know you are strong enough. I love you Daddy." As the nurses unlocked the wheels and took him away, the tears started to fall and didn't stop. I was afraid that would be the last time I would see my Daddy. 

All I could do is pray he made it through surgery.

Part 5 coming soon.....

A Beautiful Death - Part 3

My Daddy died at 5:00am on Thursday, September 20, 2012.

My last kiss as a single woman. Daddy giving away his girl to her prince.
December 8, 2001

Continued from Part 1, & Part 2

September 7, 2012 - 3:00 pm

I had just walked into my Daddy's CICU room at Cedars Sinai, in LA. The sight was not as scary as I expected. I have a medical background and understood most of the functions of the hundreds of lines, tubes, and monitors attached to him. The things I did not understand, the nurse graciously explained. When the doctors talked and asked questions, I was damn well going to know what I was hearing, as well as be able to ask the right questions. My Mom and I were his advocates. Nothing was more important.

I remember vividly how small he looked in that big bed. The strong, funny, vibrant man I had loved all my life was now almost lifeless. After pacing the room for several minutes, inspecting every line, every wire, every tube, I sat down and took his hand in mine. It was one of the most difficult moments of my life but one of enormous gratitude as well. I was there with his hand in mine and he was alive.

My Daddy's strong, kind, hardworking hand

It was so difficult to leave the hospital that night. I had just gotten there and had only spent several hours with him. He was heavily sedated and the nurses assured me that he could hear me. That was tough for me to believe. His eyes were closed. Not even an eyelid fluttered. His hands didn't move at all on their own. I had to curl his fingers around mine. The notion that he could hear me when he couldn't even move a finger was unlikely to me. I wanted so badly to sleep in the recliner next to his bed. However, I knew that my Mom and I needed a good meal, several cocktails, and some rest. So, we did all of those things.

My heart and thoughts stayed with him.

September 8, 2012

After a fitful night of tossing and turning, it was time to get back to him. Starbucks were everywhere, even in the hospital itself. I swear the hundreds of lattes I consumed kept me upright. I was being pulled between exhaustion and sleep like taffy. Never completely on one side or the other. Just stretched to the limit and slightly sideways.

This was an important day. We were due to meet the heart surgeon who would hopefully be performing the valve replacement surgery. This guy is a pretty big deal and I was nervous and worried that I would flounder as my Daddy's advocate. Surely I would be absolutely intimidated by being in the presence of this man. I had done my research before arriving in LA. This is a man who routinely performs true miracles. He saves MANY lives and is one of the very elite in his field. He has developed techniques that no other surgeon would ever attempt. He is a one of a kind, heart healing genius....who would be trying to save my Daddy. We had won the heart surgeon lottery. He would arrive in 5 minutes.
Perfect. I have started sweating profusely.

His confident but unhurried stride into the room put me at ease immediately. I stood and our eyes met. He shook my hand firmly then patted the top of it with his other hand. His eyes were so kind, so unassuming. My preconceived notion of this man was way off. He was the polar opposite of any expectation I had.

He wore black Levi's, a polo shirt, and sneakers. 4 phones but no white coat, no expensive suit, no ego...just a down to earth, exceptionally kind man whose passion in life was to save as many little girls Daddy's as possible. Well lives of course but, this is my story. ;)
He explained my Daddy's condition in great detail without a hint of condescension or unintelligible medical speak. He asked us if we had any questions and of course we had a list. He listened intently and answered every question with patience and compassion. To say that I was impressed with this man would be hardly enough. He is without a doubt one of the best people I have and will ever meet. God bless this amazing man.
He had explained that the buildup of calcifications in my Daddy's aortic valve was his greatest risk and something needed to be done immediately or he would arrest and die. There was great risk involved with this procedure. Microscopic pieces that are invisible to the doctor can travel up and cause brain damage.
He would die without the surgery. If he still had a chance, we weren't giving up on him. Not yet.
My Mom signed the consent form and the surgery was scheduled for the following morning. 8:00am on a Sunday. This man was truly an angel.

Later, in my Daddy's room, his eyes slowly opened. The nurse said."You guys, he's up! Come here!!" My heart nearly leapt out of my chest. There they were. Eyes as blue as the sky...looking very slowly back and forth from my Mom to me. I took hold of his hand. I leaned close to him and said,"Daddy, I am here with you and Mom. I am taking care of her so you don't need to worry. I love you so much. More than any little girl ever loved her Daddy. I am so proud of you. Oh how I love you Daddy." I smoothed his hair, kissed him all over his cheeks and forehead. He ever so slightly squeezed my hand and stroked my fingers with his thumb. A jolt went through me. He heard me. He understood me. He answered me. I asked him if he would like me to guess what he is thinking. Slow eye blink - yes.

"You adore me, your sweetpea, you are scared, you are glad I am here, and you want the hell out of this place." Slow blink....slight hand squeeze. I got it all right on my first try.

Turns out we were pretty good at this wordless dance we would continue until the end. It was beautiful. Just by a look, we knew what each thought and felt. I felt his love bore through my soul, the way he looked at me. No facial expression, just his eyes. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life.

I slept next to him that night. Surgery tomorrow morning. I fell asleep with his hand in mine, praying to God to save my Daddy...please please please just save him.

Phantom of the Opera - 1999
Part 4 to come....

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Beautiful Death - Part 2

My Daddy died at 5:00am on Thursday, September 20, 2012.

Daddy, Bobby, and I - Christmas 1982
It takes a talented man to play piano (by ear, couldn't read music, self taught), and the kazoo at the same time. He was probably wiggling his ears too. He was a man of many talents. This photo is the essence of our father.

Continued from Part 1.

September 6, 2012 - 8:30am

Kids first day of school. During the madness of braiding hair, adjusting jean waists, finding new shoes, and taking pictures, inside I am paralyzed with fear. My Daddy was barely alive all the way across the country...and my Mom was alone. My Mom and I had decided that I would take the first flight out the following day. I would be home for their first day of school, I had a day to process all that was happening and calm myself, and the ticket was half the price. Win/Win. I just prayed that he would hold on until I got there. 
I tucked in my babies that night, gave them lots of extra hugs and kisses, and promised to call as much as I could. They were so strong, even my sensitive, precious girl. She put on a brave face, kissed me several times, and told me to take those to Grandpa but save a couple for me. Standing there in the dimly lit, very pink room, I could hardly believe the sweet girl snuggled in her bed was only 7. In some ways, she is wiser than I. I was proud. So. Damn. Proud.

September 7, 2012 - 3:30am

My dear sweet husband got up with me at this ungodly hour to put my luggage in the car, and hug and kiss me goodbye. I don't know what made this hug and kiss any different from the million others over the last 11 years, but it was different. It's like he sent all his strength and courage to me. He sent me off on my difficult journey loved and confident that I did not have a thing to worry about at home. He worked, took care of the kids, house, 3 cats, and our gargantuan dog. Damn, he is a good man. I couldn't have loved him more than I did at that moment.
I drove off, not playing my normal choice of music in this situation. You see, I am an emotional cutter when it comes to music. If I am sad, I saturate myself in the sadness because that is what feels normal to me. 
As I approached the airport, I was belting out Aretha and demanding some "Respect" for about the 10th time. I felt like I was ready to take on anything....for an hour or so, anyway. 

The flight seemed like it took days. I arrived in LA a little before noon and picked up my rental car. My Daddy had just gone in to have a stint put into his femoral artery. My Mom was waiting anxiously...alone.
The rental SUV boasted every feature known to man. What they don't tell you is that all of those features are disabled on most rentals. Fucking nice. If it wasn't for some free iPhone navigation app, I would have been lost in Beverly Hills for the remainder of the day. I mean, does ANYONE have a Thomas Guide anymore?!

Finally, at the hospital. Rock star parking, right in front. That has GOT to be a good sign, right?! I am usually the chick walking through the parking garage, furiously clicking the panic button on the remote to find my car. 
Cedars Sinai is HUGE. HUGE HUGE HUGE. Holy crap, how will I find my Mom?! Turns out, with the limited information I had, there were signs everywhere. I found the waiting room in no time. Turns out I was in the wrong waiting room but, eventually my Mom found me. We hugged for a long time. I felt strength run through me. All at once, we were surrounded. Two attending doctors, and a social worker. They took us into a lovely, modern room. Comfortable but brutally scary at the same time. I couldn't help but wonder how many families have sat on this couch before us and how many will after? How many tears had been shed here? 

As the doctors started talking, I could hardly concentrate after "extremely grave condition". I was certain at that moment that the next tears shed in this room would be mine. The social worker took my hand in hers. 

The dam broke and I lost it. Pulled myself together fairly quickly, trying desperately to listen and understand every word the doctor had spoken. We were left with,"Let's see what happens in the next 24 hrs." This is something I had heard before...when my girl was hospitalized just after her 5th birthday. It's one of the most unsettling sentences, in a hospital setting, that you hear. A churning mixture of hope, fear, dread, and panic filled my insides. 
They shook our hands. I awkwardly hugged all of them. I hugged all the nurses and doctors. To this day, I am not sure why...maybe it gave me hope...maybe it was that I was so thankful for all they were doing, to try to save him. I don't know.

We were told by the very sweet social worker that he was being brought into his room now and we could see him. Through a set of double doors and around one corner. No long walk to steel myself before facing this sight...we were there. I let go of my Moms hand and she kept walking. I hid around the corner, willing myself strength and not to cry. I had promised myself that I absolutely would NOT cry in his room. I could not be responsible for adding to his pain by having to listen to his little girls heart break. 
My Mom poked her head around the corner and said,"come on!" 

I squared my shoulders, dried my eyes, put a smile on my face...and walked into my Daddy's room. 

I did not cry.

The first time I saw my Daddy in the hospital

Part 3 coming soon.....