This article’s original title had the “F” word in it. That’s because I was trying to get everyone’s attention.
But this story speaks for itself … without the need for profanity to trivialize its message.
My father died two months, 7 days, 2 hours and 39 minutes ago.
Just writing those words is like navigating through the surreality that was thrust upon me quite unexpectedly two months, 7 days, 2 hours and 39 minutes ago.
Today my mom and I sold my dad’s car. And the floodgates of my soul opened one more time to accept the new reality without my dad.
He’s gone. He’s not coming back. But thanks to the paradox, he will never leave us.
They say it takes 10 days for the soul to realize it’s no longer attached to its body … 10 days to accept that its journey continues untethered and finally free.
I wish it were so easy for me.
Two months, 7 days, 2 hours and 39 minutes later, I’m still bound by the rope that insists on dragging me down into the quicksand of “this is what it feels like to lose a parent.”
But it’s not what you might think.
‘You will never get over this,” friends tell me.
This is the worst news someone who has lost a parent could ever receive. It’s news that implies you are destined to grieve and never be happy again.
But as time passes, I realize I don’t want to get over it, but at the same time I don’t want my father’s death to suck the joy of life out of me.
Because that means forgetting the purpose for which he lived … to share his happiness with others.
In the past two months, 7 days, 2 hours and 39 minutes, my dad has guided me … and has been there for me … through every decision that has had to be made about his estate.
Estate: A scary legal word for “the meaning of his life.”
So before every major decision, I ask him, “OK, Papi, tell me what to do.”
And he does.
Sometimes the decisions involve people covering their own asses. But more times than most, I show them my dad’s photo and tears of recognition reinforce the memories I have of him… a person who lived a simple life, wanting to care for his family, telling to them that risks are OK to take.
Not everyone took his advice.
But decades later, those for whom he risked it all so they could have a better life will do the same for him.
My friends, let me give you the back story as to the days preceding my dad’s journey into eternity. I’m a journalist. Back stories are what give meaning to what I do.
My dad was a healthy 85 years old when he died.
The morning he was admitted into the hospital for a “slight brain bleed,” he drove himself to the gym, worked out, went to Costco, went home, took a shower and … didn’t feel well.
Three weeks in intensive care later, he was gone.
Oh, and the “slight brain bleed” for which he was admitted, resolved itself 48 hours after he was left in the care of what we thought were capable hands.
I, his only child, was left wondering if the doctors did everything they could to save him. Or if he was just another old man who was destined to die anyway. “So let’s just follow procedure, cover our asses and move on.”
Don’t get me started. I’m not angry. I’m just sad that others may die if my dad’s story isn’t told.
My mom’s diary has all the details, including the day one of the doctors at Memorial Hospital West in Pembroke Pines, Florida announced that he could not perform a procedure on my dad because “he didn’t accept my dad’s insurance.”
The visual picture of that doctor standing in the doorway of my dad’s room, after he had been diagnosed with internal bleeding … a bleeding that doctor could have stopped, but refused to because insurance wouldn’t pay for it … will live with me until the day I die.
Fast forward a few days later to the day before my dad died. His vitals were the best the doctors had seen since he was admitted into their care.
Twenty-four hours later, I walked into his hospital room to find him on full life support, hanging on to this life by a thread.
What the fuck happened? (Oh, there’s that word I wanted to use in the title of this article. But if you’ve read this far, you’re kind of expecting it.)
According to the complaint I filed with AHCA, the American Health Care Association, the hospital followed all proper procedures. Translation: Asses covering asses.
As a journalist, however, I doubt that. Weeks after my dad lost his life, two other people close to me lost their parents while the hospital followed “proper procedure.”
Coincidence? Maybe not.
I was there when my dad took his last breath.
I had been there a few hours earlier, when I knew that human error was about to take him from me.
I’m not a medical professional. I am a spiritual seeker who believes in God and knows that She knows best. And I accept it was my dad’s time to go.
In fact, I told him it was OK to let go. That I would take care of my mom. That he had nothing to worry about, but that I would depend on him to guide me from now on.
This article is just a small example of his guidance.
But I’ll be damned if I let another person lose a parent … or a loved one … unnecessarily.
And this is my dad’s legacy. This is the purpose of his life.
During the past few weeks, as I sat at my computer looking at my parent’s bills as they came in, I realized my dad had already taken care of them because that’s the way he was. He had embraced online autopay. I smile just thinking about it.
As I looked at the lottery tickets he left in his drawer, wondering if there were any winning numbers, I was so close to tears I couldn’t breathe.
Because it was a normal part of his everyday life.
It was the glimpses into the tiny things that were part of his routine.
Had he won the lottery, everybody he ever loved would have won with him.
My dad gave what he didn’t have so everyone he loved could be blessed.
And dying from a medical malpractice … because that’s what it was … is the greatest blessing … the greatest gift he left behind.
I am here to carry on his message, hoping that this article will encourage you to go with your gut next time the “experts” tell you what’s best.
A few weeks ago, I stared at my dad’s cell phone, knowing I should cancel his account. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Because doing so would be to accept he’s not coming back. And I wasn’t quite ready to accept that.
And then my dad reminded me that he wasn’t his phone. He wasn’t his AAA account, which I cried when I closed out. He wasn’t his car, which sold in less than 24 hours after it was listed because he kept it in mint condition.
The hardest part for me was not just dealing with my own grief, but having to balance the tightrope between grieving and being strong for my mom while she coped with her own grief.
The person I have most depended on to be strong for me my entire life suddenly had no strength to give me.
The only child became the parent her parents always taught her to be … the parent I always wanted to become even though I have no children of my own.
This is the moment for which my parents created me. This is the moment for which my dad died.
Dear God: Please don’t let me fuck this up.
4 thoughts on “Dear Daddy … This is for You …”
Those are some mighty raw feelings, my dear friend, and I totally understand.
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I am moved beyond tears and words Barb. Thank you for pouring your heart out in sadness, devotion, and courage as honest and eloquently as you always do. I am so sorry for your loss Barb. You’ve more than done your Daddy proud.
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God bless you, Barb. al f
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“You’ll never get over this.” That single line has been haunting me. Maybe because like most hauntings, it just sounds scary. We talk about the stages of grief like it’s a recipe for meatloaf. I don’t think it’s fair to break something so personal into stages and steps. I’m not even sure I like calling it a journey. It just… is. Some days a memory will make you smile. Others, the anger you thought you’d left behind will swoop in out of nowhere and punch you in the throat. This year, we got punched on Memorial Day. This year it occurred to us that nobody built statues or marched in parades to honor the men like Ian’s dad who died in “clandestine” services to our country. And it pissed me off. Yeah, we knew it was stupid. Those guys don’t want kudos or accolades. It’s what makes them so well-suited for the job! Unsure of what we should do with ourselves, we decided to go for a walk through the pine rockland preserve near our home. About five minutes into our walk, we turned a corner and came face to face with a lone grey fox. We gave him a wide berth – and he returned the favor. But we had obviously piqued his interest as much as he had piqued ours. We walked every trail, and while he kept his distance, he was always within our sight. We finally decided to just drink it in, and sat down on a fallen pine log. And I kid you not – the damn fox plonked his ass down and just watched us. It felt as though he were playing with us. And I could have sworn I saw him smile. Later that day, I damn near broke the internet googling everything and everything about foxes. I stumbled across a page dealing with mythology and folklore, and as I was about to keep scrolling a throwaway line caught my eye. Apparently, according to ancient Chinese folklore, the fox appears as a messenger from one who has entered the afterlife before us. His message is one of reassurance that our departed loved one is still looking out for us, and the messenger fox is choosy about whom he reveals himself to. “You’ll never get over this.” Maybe not. But it will change you. You’ll be more aware, but definitely more raw. And you may always have days that bitch slap you when you’re least expecting it. But on other days, you’ll turn a corner, or drink in a moment, or see a lone grey fox smiling back at you. And just like that damn meatloaf recipe, you’ll fold it into the mix. It becomes a part of that much vaunted “process” that ultimately becomes a part of who you are. I don’t know when any of us will get there, but I do know you’re not alone in your journey. You’ll know when you’ve turned a corner. There may not be a smiling fox to greet you, but the people who love you will be with you every step of the way. Be blessed.