Monday, July 30, 2012

A Life Lived Well

I learned quite a lot during this past week of my father's passing. Having this to be the first one of our immediate family member passing away, it gave me a glimpse into how other people react, feel, think and handle everything. The one thing that sticks out in my mind is how strange death can be, in terms of finally seeing people you love from years ago to pay their last respects. Where did the time go? The biggest repetitive thing said was, "It is so great to see you! -- Of course, it would be better under different circumstances," as their smile fades into a solace look and perhaps, a prolonged holding of one's hand. Why does it take a death to finally get us all together?  But that's life. Life gets in the way. And death brings us all back to that common ground: reality. It was such a great turnout and so nice to see so many coming to share that day with us. There were also some who were taken aback by how the services were handled. It was a one day event - short & sweet - no viewing except for a box with Dad's remains.  This is how Dad requested it to be. For anyone to comment or make a remark about how it lacked respect or that it was "too short" should really investigate ALL of their loved ones' wishes of how they want it to be. We were lucky enough to find out what Dad really wanted. And to go against his wishes would have been disrespect ---period. It's not about you. It's not about me. Dad's strange request to have his ashes near the woodpile of his home was a bit baffling for all of us, but but but, we had to fulfill his wishes. He did most of his work there and would sit on a chair smoking a cigarette contemplating life. My friend Jo sent me an oak tree called, "The Tree of Life". My family and I all gathered around yesterday, put dad's ashes into the hole of where the tree was going to be planted. In time, when that tree grows, we're going to make it a nice memorial area with a plaque. Each family member walked up to the hole filled with Dad's remains before the tree was planted and said their last thought, memory and goodbyes. It was actually more beautiful than any formal funeral I have ever attended. Sometimes less is more.

Strangely, (or maybe not), the day of his passing, a moth landed right near my coffee as Madelene and I were preparing to go see Dad at hospice. Look at the markings. To us, it looked like a rising angel. I told Madelene that "today is the day". I knew. Not only because of this incredible moth sign, but it was the 21rst. All of our relatives seemed to have died on the 21rst or the 12th of the month. Mom and I just knew... The first couple of days of his passing, my mother and I both wondered where Dad was. Mom said, "I wonder where he is right now."  Then we both were reminiscing about Dad's old friend who we haven't seen in years. He lived in Florida and would always come up to visit my parents. He developed alzheimer's and never called Dad or Mom again. His phone was disconnected as well.  As we were wondering where the both of them were, the radio came on out of nowhere and the lyrics of a Brian Adams song came blasting out, "Finding it hard to believe, we're in heaven." We both looked at each other and had tears of joy, taking it as a sign of Dad's whereabouts. She got her answer. I no longer wonder where Dad is and happy he's not in some hospital screaming for pain medicine or home in agony where he just couldn't get relief.

Rest in peace, Dad. I love you.

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Jess said...

Sure have been thinking about you the tree and am a big fan of signs, as I believe, no matter what, if they mean something to you then it is legit...nothing more, nothing less.


Christne Berube said...

Your family's connection is so strong it doesn't surprise me at all that your dad was able to tell you so clearly that he was Home and at peace. I'm so happy for you and your mom that you know that he's ok.

Your tributes to him have been so beautiful..thank you for sharing them with us. I only wish I could have been there with you. Love you, Deb (((hugs)))

Deb said...

Thanks for taking the time to read it. It's strange, we all have faith that's he's okay, but out of love and of course his absence, you still just wonder. The confirmation made it very comforting.

The Elephant's Child said...

I am so sorry, for your loss. I found myself in conflict. My father's death was a huge relief from the pain and indignity he was suffering so I was happy for him, and equally sad for myself.
We were also fortunate that he had time to tell us what form he wanted his funeral to take. In fact he had a lot of fun arranging it. In a way it would never have occurred to us.
Sending so many good wishes your way.

A Plain Observer said...

I like the title of your post. A life well lived to me is one that is remembered with the same kindness in death. People remember the same good they remembered when the person was among the living. I've known you for a few years only and during that time I heard nothing but praise for your dad. He made good memories. That to me, is a life well lived.
I do believe as Christine above said that when there is a strong connection it transcends this dimension.

Deb said...

TEC --- that's EXACTLY our situation here. We are relieved, sad yes, but relieved that he's not in such agony and we're not in agony watching him suffer. It's a really strange feeling. But I'm gonna miss that big bachagaloop.

APO - You've met him before - he's hysterical and he always welcomed new people into his life. He was always wanted at events, parties and functions, etc., because he was the life of the party. I hated living in that condo years ago and having parties that didn't include him because he couldn't walk 4 flights of stairs. As a kid, he would come out into the living room and join my friends and I - and everyone loved him. As an adult, we still dragged him into our gatherings and every. single. time --- it was a blast. I'm going to miss his funny stories (even if he did repeat them a zillion times), his laugh, the way he used to call me "dat crazy kid" and how he had such a positive outlook on life, until cancer struck. I remember last month he said to me, "All I want is another ten years with all of you, that's all!" Breaks my heart, but ten years with that pain would have broken my heart even more. So hard..