Saying Goodbye

Today was the funeral of my father, Charles. The viewing was the hardest part. It was bad enough seeing dad lying in his hospital bed after he passed away. It was worse seeing him in his coffin. He was always a larger-than-life figure. He could fix anything. He gave sound advice. He loved people unconditionally. He was a Christian man who loved his country and absolutely worshiped his wife. I stated in earlier posts that he saved me from total destruction by taking me in to his home, driving me to A.A. meetings and counseling sessions and doctor’s appointments. He motivated me to take stock and had me prepare a written game plan and a life-saving TO DO list. So, yeah, seeing him lying there today was hard.

The funeral home put together a slide show of dozen of pictures showing dad over the years. One of my favorite photos was of dad holding me on his lap when I was a baby. He was only 20 years old at the time. I always said my father had to grow up rather fast. He was thirteen when his dad passed away. (I remember dad saying to me once, “You would have loved your grandfather.”)

Dad’s memorial service was very nice today. My grandmother’s pastor officiated. Grammy passed away one year ago this past August. After going to the cemetery, we all gathered at the church for food and fellowship. People shared many good memories about him. My oldest son Christopher was there, along with my ex-wife Antoinette. (I came to realize today that my ex-wife does not hate me, like I always believed. Nice, huh?) Cousin Sonny came, who is 84 years old. Cousin Eileen was there. She was very upset. She and dad used to play together growing up. Dad’s history teacher from Montgomery High School, Mr. Deffenbaum, came. He is in his 90s. He said, “Charlie was one of my boys.” He said he tries to get to as many funerals of his former students as he can. This was very sweet of him.

Mom was very upset today. It was hard seeing her cry. I have always been blown away by the relationship between her and dad. They got married in 1958 when she was fifteen and he was nineteen. I was born a year later, on their anniversary. Mom and dad weathered many a rough patch. Thing is, dad treated mom with tenderness, love, respect, and admiration. He once said in a letter to her on her birthday that she was the glue that held everything together. He said he was very touched by the way she handled us kids.

When our male cat Smokey got out of the house early this fall, dad was so upset. Smokey was his “buddy.” The cat would come into his bedroom every night and spend about ten minutes rubbing against him, purring, and saying goodnight. So dad was really sad when he thought Smokey was gone. Smokey came back later that night. Mom went outside one last time to look for him, and there was Smokey on the back porch. Mom started crying tears of joy. The next day, dad made mom a certificate calling her “The Hero That Saved Smokey.”

It’s really easy to miss someone as special as dad.

How Do You Go Forward?

Unfortunately, my father passed away at 5:07 p.m. on December 9, 2014.  Probably about twelve hours after my last post.  I expressed my thoughts about losing him, as he was not expected to live longer than a few days. Instead, he passed away later in the day on December 9th.  This was not a surprise to me, as he was very sick the past year.  He basically died from respiratory failure secondary to emphysema and pneumonia.  He had been on oxygen 24 hours a day.  Still, it is quite hard to accept that he is gone.  I have moments of denial, followed by extreme sadness and moments of acceptance.  I was with him when he took his last breath.  He had asked for “my boys” early in the morning on Monday, December 8th.  When mom told him we were there, he opened his eyes wide, looked at us, and gave us a “salute type” wave.  I am really grateful I was there for that.  Dad was definitely one of the good guys.  Protective, loving, supportive, stern, reliable, trustworthy, responsible.  He treated my mother like a queen.  They were teenagers when they started their romance, surviving 56 years of marriage.  Truly remarkable and inspiring.  I am twice divorced.  (Being a recovered alcoholic, I never knew how to be in a loving relationship.)  I can only hope that I too will discover a relationship like my parents had.

This is one of those situations where someone passed away during the Christmas holiday.  We’re making it through, enjoying the joy and love and magic of the season.  It’s hard to tell what it will feel like next season.  Being Christians, we truly do love celebrating the birth of our Savior, so that will make things easier.  Christmas is mom’s very favorite time of the year, so I hope that her joy and excitement for the season is able to survive through the coming years.

So how do you go forward when something like this happens?  Basically, you do it one day at a time just the same way you stay sober.  That, and by the grace of God.

I will truly miss you dad.

Losing Your Hero.

Every once in a while there comes a day when we must face hardship. Sadness. We question God, although we know He is Sovereign and He knows best. Still, we wonder why certain things have to happen. This is one of those days. My heart is heavy with grief as my father is facing his final days here on earth with us. I have always loved him, no matter how badly I sometimes treated him. I was not the easiest kid to raise. My lack of respect came from a god complex and too many drugs and alcohol. It did not come from a lack of love. I’ve been living with my parents since 2008, and I have been in awe of all the things my dad knows. The things he can fix. The problems he can solve. Did you know he never once had a late bill payment in his life? Amazing. He has a lot of integrity and discipline. I hope I didn’t embarrass him too much with my lack of those same things. Believe me, he rubbed off on me these last few years. Not too many people know he saved my life. I was homeless and jobless, getting drunk and high. He allowed me to move in with him and mom. I had no car. No driver’s license. He drove me everywhere. To AA meetings. To counseling sessions. To physical therapy. You name it. If I had to be there, he took me. He also showed me what a true marriage looks like. I don’t know any other couple as much in love as mom and dad. I can only hope to experience that kind of uncompromising love in my life some day. Right now, my only thought is how in the world am I going to move forward through life without dad? But I have to remember this: He took me in to his home in order to get me “up to snuff” so I could survive. So I could live. Thank you dad. And thank you God for helping me rebuild my relationship with dad these last five years. I am sure all who knew dad are going to feel empty without him. Just remember to reach out and grab the hand of Jesus. He knows exactly how you feel.