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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cuba - Si!

Hola! I'm currently in beautiful Cuba, enjoying the sun with my mum for a week. What a great place to escape to, especially for sun lovers! We spent today touring Havana, an intriguing city of faded glory that makes me want more. I'll have to share the highlights of our trip with you when I get home.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Missing Dad

Grief is a very odd thing.
One moment I'm just fine, and the next, I am liable to fall apart at the smallest word or thought.
Last week I heard Dad's voice on the voicemail greeting. It was lovely to hear him again, strong and healthy. Today I called, and hearing him almost rendered me a sobbing idiot on the freeway. Bizarre.
One of the memories that repeatedly stabbed my heart when Dad was in hospital over Christmas was how he would double me on his bike. I cherish this photo, and just thinking about it was almost too much for me to handle. Usually, he would have me sit sidesaddle on the crossbar in front of him. I clearly remember the feeling of the gear cables under me and the way his knees would stick out.
And this one is just heartbreaking. He was so young and handsome, and proud of his new baby. That's me, by the way. Kind of cute - look at those rosy cheeks!
I don't know if it's completely normal, but the same memory or thought can simultaneously give me a massive lump in the throat and a smile on my face. Over and over again, I picture myself arriving at my parents house, opening the front door, and hearing a hearty, "Andrea!" with his favourite jazz tunes playing in the background. My dad would greet me as though he'd been hoping to see me all day, and would then hustle me into the kitchen to get a drink or a snack.
It's happening right now - the lump and the smile. And blurry eyes. Such sweetness, mixed with the sadness of never again.
And now I'm really fighting the tears as I think of one day, that day when we'll have a happy grand reunion. I know exactly how he'll sound.
So grateful.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Party's Over: A Long Recap

This past week has been a whirlwind.
Last Sunday, after Dad had been at home for a full day, he quietly stopped breathing and stepped into eternity.
I had been at a ladies' spa afternoon and had just left to return to Mum's house when I heard the news. I stopped by the river to text you, Southern Ange, and to reflect on this momentous event. It was a beautiful day and I thought how Dad would have loved the view of the water, the barges, and the late afternoon light.
I'm so, so glad that we had taken Dad home; it would have been horrible to have him die in yukky Surrey Hospital! Instead, it was a lovely time with the sun shining through the windows, the plants all around, the peace and quiet, and the home atmosphere. What a blessing, and now that sun room is even more special to us.
Over the next days, we had so very much to do.
First, we visited the cemetery and chose a plot. We went from there to the funeral home to make all the appropriate arrangements. For me, this was all uncharted territory, and despite the sadness of losing Dad, it was kind of fascinating.
We all went into the casket room and roamed around; this particularly spectacular casket, with its seagulls and "Going Home" on baby blue satin, was morbidly mesmerizing. Please, never choose a tacky casket like this!
I still can't wrap my head around the amount of money you can spend on a box that gets put in the ground. Even more so, a box for burning. It is mandatory to have the body placed in a rigid container before cremation, so we had to choose something. But to spend more than a thousand dollars on a box that will just get burned up... it goes against everything a thrifty Scot believes! I think Dad would be very pleased with our frugal choice, and it was definitely not the seagulls! Blech!

Tim was our director of organization. He carried a black book around with him and wrote everything down as we made arrangements. Where would we have been without him??
The days flew by and every waking moment was spent fielding phone calls for Mum, answering the door, receiving visitors, and doing all those billions of jobs. The people in the church were amazing and brought us lunches and dinners every day! We were all exhausted and I didn't feel that there was any time at all to cry or focus on grief. Until Thursday, when I was actually at home alone to work on my tribute speech. There I was, happily writing away and going through photos, when something clicked inside me. Dad will never meet me at his front door again, enthusiastically calling out my name in welcome as though he had been hoping all day to see me. And down I went. It was probably a good thing to cry and cry.
On Friday, the big day, I was so tired after a late night of last minute planning, but excited to be able to celebrate Dads life. My Uncle Mac had flown in from Ottawa to represent Dad's siblings; it was wonderful to have him there!
The Delta Police Chief (Dad was a volunteer with Delta Police) had decided that an escort was in order , so we drove all the way to the cemetery behind a police car with lights flashing. We went straight through the stop signs with the siren going, and all kinds of vehicles pulled over for us. When we got to the traffic lights, they had blocked the intersection with another police car so we could go right through. Dad would have been in his glory!
It was a cold, blustery day. We stood under the little tent to reflect and bury Dad's ashes and had a piper there. Another detail that Dad would have loved. Pastor Andreas cried with us and preached a marvelous short message about grace.
Tim placed the ashes in the ground; it was very emotional for him.
After the cemetery, we went back to the house with our extended family and had some lunch before the memorial service. And then it was time. The piper was outside the church, piping.
Inside, my three boys were playing piano, guitar, and bass, while photos of Dad were shown on the screen. It was perfect.
Everyone in the sanctuary stood as the family walked down the aisle to the front row. It was so emotional; I couldn't hold back the tears as I walked past the crowd. 422 people had come to honour my humble, unassuming dad!
The music was wonderful. Big Bear played piano and sounded great, as usual. One old friend hadn't noticed the musicians and suddenly recognized the distinctive sound of his playing from years gone by.
The four grandchildren read a wonderful biography that Andrew had written for school back in December, after interviewing Dad about his life. How timely that he was able to do that! They all spoke so well and I was very proud of them.
Tim and I both gave a tribute to Dad. I thought I'd be able to hold myself together, but it didn't turn out that way. However, I thought we both did pretty well. I was so honoured to be able to speak about my wonderful father and my heart was full. It's such a sweet sadness that comes from all the goodness.
The Ironmen's choir that Dad was part of sang Amazing Grace, then the piper led us up the aisle.
After the service, we had a reception and talked with so many people. Mum had a huge lineup of people waiting to speak to her. We finally left the church at 5:20, over four hours after the service began. It was such a good day.
We all had dinner at the local Greek restaurant and toasted Dad.
Today, I have been quiet and stayed at home. I received a lovely flower delivery from you, Southern Ange; what a beautiful treat! Thank you so much for your love, sent all the way from Down Under.
And now we begin the business of living our lives without Dad. I'm not too sure what that will look like, especially for my mum. She told a friend that it will be like going about her life with one hand tied behind her back. They loved each other so deeply.
As for me, I've said before that Dad was my greatest cheerleader. It will be so hard to live with a hole in my heart, but I like to remember that great cloud of witnesses spoken of in Hebrews 12. I think that he's still cheering for me, along with those who have gone before him. It will just be harder to hear his voice.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

He lives on in the hearts of all he touched

VLUU L100  / Samsung L100

Ange of the North, thank you for sharing with us, your dad’s journey over these past few weeks. He was truly a fighter to the end, and a precious, wonderful man!

Although we cannot be there physically with you at this time, our hearts, and thoughts, and prayers go with you and every member of your family.

We ache for you all, having to say ‘goodbye for now’ to someone you dearly love. Cherish those precious memories of your dad – nothing can ever take those away from you. Together we stand with you, looking forward to the day when there will be no more sorrow, no more tears, and only joy that will last forever.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Notable Day

Yesterday was a very eventful day. We left Surrey Hospital with Dad for the last time - yay! No more noisy nurses station, no more smelly corridor, no more walking past patients's beds in the hall, no more pushy ladies walking in and demanding meal trays, no more slow elevators, no more paying for parking. And no more monitor - that may be a bit difficult to get used to...

As wonderful as it was to contemplate having Dad at home, it was a process fraught with paperwork, endless arrangements, and possible disasters, so I think we were all sitting on the edge of our figurative seats the whole time.
Before the epic journey began, we needed to be trained. I am pleased to announce that Lea and I can now begin our new nursing careers! We know how to give subcutaneous meds, irrigate catheters, and all sorts of useful things. I gave Dad a dose of morphine before he left the hospital, under the watchful eye of our lovely nurse, Teresita, and passed the test.
I raced back to the house ahead of the ambulance to get the bed ready. And barely made it!
We had two nice paramedics who were very good to Mum on the trip home. And then Dad was settled. It was quiet, peaceful, and quite lovely in the sunroom, where Mum put his new bed. It's too bad that he's not able to enjoy his new digs.
We were well supplied with all kinds of goodies, kindly sent by the nurses at the hospital. Linens, equipment, and meds are all ready and waiting in the living room.
I spent the night here with Mum and after a quiet night, the sun is shining into Dad's room. He's sleeping peacefully after I did my nursey stuff and cleaned him. Thankfully, we'll be getting some visits from a real nurse starting tomorrow.
So, our journey continues. Every day I wake up and wonder what today will bring. I pray for God's grace and perfect timing and for the right people to cross our paths. Most of all, I pray that God will continue to hold Dad and our whole family in his hand.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Friends Bearing Gifts

I went to school this morning feeling exhausted and discouraged. How long can we live on the edge of our seats like this, always hovering on the verge of a crisis? It's difficult to concentrate on school when I'm always so aware of Dad lying in the hospital, quietly laboring to breathe.

Our hospital room is kind of bleak and filled with icky medical things (that's the technical term). Not the sort of place where you'd really want to hang out day and night. Today, though, we had some welcome visitors who came bearing gifts and brightening things up.

One of Dad's buddies brought vegetables! Imagine that! We've been eating (...bad word...) from the hospital cafeteria for the past couple of weeks; I have no idea when I last ate real vegetables. Along with the veggies came a whole bunch of bottled water, just what we need for hydration. So smart!

And this sweet treasure... Dad's municipal emergency measures volunteer ID card, freshly issued. He has always loved being part of the ham radio club and taking part in emergency preparedness exercises. I know that he would be pleased to get this card.
The best gift, though, was the news that the radio club just voted unanimously to make Dad a lifetime member. I'm so proud of him!
It was a poignant visit. As we sat chatting and chuckling over corny jokes, I looked over at Dad lying there and thought about how he would have enjoyed this time with his friends and the gifts they brought.

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