Wednesday, December 31, 2008

One Year Memorial Service

My Dad died a year ago today.

People always talk about how tough the first year is. It is.

They talk about tough the first anniversary is. It is.

I wasn't sure if it would be or not. We've had such a wonderful Christmas and I'm so grateful. We've really been enjoying ourselves and having fun and feeling merry. The couple of days after Christmas have been good, too. And then, the other night, while Mark and I were trying out our new Guitar Hero game, images and thoughts came flashing into my mind uninvited--images of my Dad at the funeral home, images of my Dad's funeral procession, us riding in the limo following his coffin, us standing by his graveside, the flowers, back to him sick and dying in his bed. I shook them off and tried to distract myself. Where were they coming from, these unbidden thoughts?

And since then, I've dreamt about him more. I've not wanted to go to sleep nor have I wanted to get up in the morning. It's like the date on the calendar was creeping closer and I knew I'd have to face the fact that it's the one-year anniversary of my Dad's death.

Yesterday, as the clock kept ticking closer to the 31st, I kept thinking of how he died right around 2 in the morning. I didn't know whether to go to sleep or be awake and watch the time. For what, I don't know. I quietly cried here and there yesterday and just felt generally "out of it." Overall, I really am okay. But this is tough. I got to bed before 2 and thought I'd go to sleep. But I was restless. And I saw the time right before going to sleep--2:20. The time he died.

I'm haunted by his dying days--I was the main one administering his morphine. But he had no way to tell us if he was hurting--he wasn't able to speak or swallow anymore and his eyes very rarely opened at all. I followed the directions I was given, but at times he seemed uncomfortable and then I heard it was okay to give it to him more frequently. But before I knew that, there was a time when he raised his arms and flailed them about as if to tell us something. I thought he was just reaching out for us, so I held his hand and told him, "It's okay, Daddy. I'm here. We're here." But after that I recognized those motions as his only way of telling us that he was in pain or uncomfortable or something. Was he hungry? I don't know! If he was, I couldn't feed him since he couldn't swallow and he was actively dying. We swabbed his mouth to keep it moist. At first, he'd suck his lips around it, but after a while, he was too weak to do even that. And anytime he'd raise his arms, I took that as a signal of his discomfort or distress. I'd administer the morphine again. The doses were getting closer and closer together. And all I could think was that, though I didn't mean to, maybe I had inadvertently let him suffer by not giving him the medication more often at first. What if he'd been hurting and I didn't know? I thought he was reaching out to us for emotional comfort, but what if he was trying to tell us it hurt? And what if I took too long to give him the medicine that would take that pain away? It was horrible. I hope I didn't play any part in his hurting. I didn't understand what was happening--how could he not eat or drink? Did his senses naturally dull so the pain wasn't severe? Were his organs shutting down all at once or one at a time? How does that work? Did that hurt? The minutiae of the details of the process of his death were and are confusing to me, but I hope I didn't play any part in his hurting.

Being a part of helping him die was peaceful and beautiful and traumatic, all at the same time. It shook me. There were certain things I'd sort of banked on from the time I was about 18 years old and his death shook the very core of my faith in those things that I felt had been promised. I don't care to go into details of that, because that isn't the point of my post nor is it the most pressing thing on my mind at the moment. I think death is a really sucky part of life and I don't like it. It seems cruel and unfair. Couldn't there be a way that they could still visit or something? It's the missing them that's hard, them not being here, them not being with us. That's the hardest part. The part that seems so monumentally unfair. I miss him and everything I've known growing up seems so very different, especially my Mom being alone and simply his not being here with us in his own kind, low-key way.

We had a very nice memorial service this morning. After breakfast, we got a dish of water and put 4 floating candles in it. We each took a turn saying something we remember and love about Vavo and we each lit a candle on our turn. There were laughs and tears.

Mark went first and talked about how he remembers how generous my Dad has always been and how he'd always take time to really teach someone something. He would take his time and never hurry and spend a long time really teaching and imparting his wisdom. He talked about how he'll never forget my Dad helping him buy his first hammer and how it took 2 hours of carefully balancing and gently swinging and gripping each one to really make sure you got a good one. We cherish that hammer.

Maxim talked about how me liked sitting next to my Dad for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and he liked playing with him.

Kate said she remembers how he'd play checkers and tennis with her.

I couldn't speak without crying. I said how since Vavo is my Daddy, I really miss feeling looked out for by him and he'd always call me "Bibi" and how I miss that. I talked about how when I think of him, I think of someone who loves and was always so good to children. How he's kind and peace-loving and wouldn't argue and be harsh with others. He was gentle. We each lit our candles.

Then, we each took a turn saying what we'd like to say to Vavo. We sent him a message by uttering our thoughts and then blowing out the candles, the smoke rising up representing the messages being sent to him.

Mark started by saying that he would've liked to congratulate him on 50 years of marriage since my Mom and Dad's 50th wedding anniversary is coming up in May and they'll miss celebrating that the way they'd hoped. He said he'd like to congratulate him on all those years of marriage together, raising children together, and all the hard work they've done because that's really special.

Maxim said, "I like playing checkers with you."

Kate said, "I love you, Vavo" and started to cry.

I cried and said that I'd thank him for always being a good Daddy to me and tell him that I miss him and that I wish he could see our garden and our house and our business and that I'm sad he's not here to see all that and to watch our children grow up. And I'd tell him that I love him.

We blew out our candles and watched the messages rise up to him.

I miss you, Daddy.

Mark told me that after I left the room and after our little service, Kate pulled out her "Vavo Box" -- a little box she keeps full of momentos about Vavo. She was tearful and Mark was consoling her with a hug. Maxim walked in and asked why Kate was sad. Mark told him that she misses Vavo. Maxim, trying to comfort her, joined in the hug and said, "Kate, you know he'll be resurrected." And then Mark said, "That's true, but it kind of stinks that he's not here right now." And then Maxim asked, "Daddy, when is he going to be resurrected?" Mark responded, "I don't know exactly, buddy. When everyone else is. I wish I knew." Then Maxim said, "Oh, I wish he could be resurrected on my birthday so he could come to my party."

It's been a nice, reflective morning. I'm glad we've done a little memorial service together to commemorate. After our little service, I told the kids that it's nice to do a little something to remember and commemorate and I know that it's kind of strange since it's New Year's Eve, but also . . . if there's one thing Vavo has always enjoyed it's seeing people eating and happy, so we are going to have a nice holiday and celebrate and enjoy, just like he'd like us to. So, happy New Year's Eve, everyone. And thanks for listening. :) We've received so many thoughtful emails and prayers from people and we are very grateful. Thanks.


emily said...

It's a hard day. I'm so sorry for that. You have some sweet memories. I was with my grandma (alone) when she passed away when I was 16. My parents were in Utah, and I was administering her morphine as well. I was so worried about her feeling pain. Your description brought back so many feelings of that day. Swabbing her mouth to keep it moist, all of those things. It's one of my most sweet memories. Speaking from experience, I can say that you will one day look back at those memories with fondness, glad that you were there for him when he most needed you.

Mom said...

Tender post. Thanks for sharing. Like you, I have so many questions about my father's last moments: did he feel pain, did he know he was dying, did he think of his family? On the first year anniversary of my father's death, I went on my first date with Gary. I was in a dark place and really didn't want to go, but I thought my father wouldn't want me moping around. So glad I went...Gary and I both knew on that first date that we would be getting married one day:) Anyway, I'm glad you have such happy memories to carry you through. Way back last February or March your mother told me she would not answer the phone today. I'm going to put her to the test right now.

Swawaeve said...

I'm so sorry that your Dad died. I've been praying for you and hope that you and the family are doing okay during this time. I love you guys.

Jill O said...

Stacy, we love you guys and wish you nothing but happiness and peace today. Your friendship has been such a blessing for me and I thank you for it. You dad sounds like a great man. He has a great daughter who loves him and will always keep his memory and spirit alive. I would guess that he would be so greatful and proud of how you helped him in his last days, how you nursed him and loved him and stood by him during a dark time. I don't think that anyone of us could ask for anything more.
Here's to your dad!
Happy new year.

Lena said...

So when are they going to fix this internet-thing so I can reach through and give you a great big hug like I want to?

kristenhcubed said...

I'm sorry for your loss. The one year anniversary is indeed a tender one and I'm glad it is now behind you. Thanks for sharing your very personal thoughts and feelings. *HUG*

Anonymous said...

You are right, it is hard losing someone that we love. It is especially hard when a girl loses her Father. There is something so special about a Father/Daughter relationship. Your post made me cry but it also made me smile. I cried because I could feel the pain so deeply as I know what it is like to watch a Dad burdened with PD, deteriorating everyday. I smiled because Mark is an amazing husband and loves you so much. Your kids are amazing, smart and funny. In all this sadness and pain you have an amazing family who stand by you through all the tough times. You are truly an inspiration to me. I hope to be as strong as you. My love goes to your mother as well. Love, Kelly

Chelle said...

What sweet memories and messages, as well as a great way to honor your dad. What a blessing to have such a wonderful dad to miss. Thanks for sharing. I'll be thinking about you.

kara said...

Very sweet. Thanks for sharing it.

Super Nova said...

i'm sending you an email now, my friend. i love you.

J Fo said...

(I erased the last one because I found a blaring typo! Grrr...)
Well, on the note of sharing memories about your dad, I'll join in if I may. I actually only met him the weekend that we were in AZ for Maxim's blessing, but he reminded me a bit of my own dad; quiet, strong, observant, tender sincere. I do have to say that I think that the only thing that he actually ever said to me is asking if I would like some of his "Pork Rines." sp? I had never had them and he told me I was missing out. Every time I see a bag of them I think of him. ;)
p.s. I'm pretty sure that Vavo will be at Maxim's birthday party.

Em said...

I know how hard it is, but I can tell you looking back at 10 1/2 years without my Mom that it isn't fair, but it is OK. I am grateful everyday that my Dad is still with us and just like Elder Anderson said in his conference talk, "Faith is not just a feeling it is a decision" I choose faith! Because where would I be without it?

bythelbs said...

I'm right there with you. Today is the 12th anniversary of my mother's death. The happy memories always help.

Boquinha said...

Thank you so much, everyone. I am so grateful for every single one of you and count myself very blessed to have you all as friends. I know that many of you can relate and that is very tender to me. Thank you for sharing with me and thank you for taking the time to read, comment, and express your love -- I appreciate it very, very much. Bless you all.

terahreu said...

Beautiful. It is great that you provide a memorial like that for your father. They do the same type of thing here and I think it gives a great tribute to the one who has died--never to be forgotten.

How horrible and special that your father died during the holiday season.

Thanks for sharing that with us!

Dr. Mark said...

I'd been meaning to comment here for a while, but better late than never, I suppose.

It really was a nice memorial. Kudos to Stacy for her brilliant ideas. And thank you to everyone for your kind words, thoughts, and prayers. We definitely felt strengthened throughout this holiday season.

April (Thorup) Oaks said...

Stacy, I've been thinking of you all night since I read your most recent post. I'm so sorry for you and I've been praying you'll be able to have the power of peace.