Want to die. Go Heaven.
On June 29, 2016, with the breathing tube removed but still an excessively grim prognosis, my dad conveyed those thoughts to my mom and I. Her and I had one immediate goal for him - get him to a state of health where he can express what he wanted to happen. We got it.
The man who was born and raised a farmer. Who learned to fly in high school and became a pilot along with my om. The man who spent 20+ years with Honeywell. Who was a Captain of the Rural Fire Dept. Who sat on multiple boards and committees for a variety of things. Who would sit and talk with friends for hours, who no one could ever remember ever being angry. The man who was so proud of all the things I had accomplished was never coming home.
At roughly 7pm, we agreed to the removal of the dialysis and IVs. We agreed to the start of a morphine drip. Then we sat. And cried. We held his hand and talked to him, reminded him of funny stories and cried some more. As the hours passed I watched the clock between his breaths. I watched the clock tick, 10...11...12..13 seconds and inhale. His eyes were half closed and he sounded like he was snoring. Like when he would sit in his chair in the living room and nap. That man could snore. Once I recorded it because he didn't believe me when I said he snored too loud. My mom put up with it for 41 years. 14....15...16...inhale.
My mom laid her head down on a pillow while holding his hand. I rested my hand above hers and laid my head on a pillow near his head. She had closed her eyes a few minutes earlier. I would close mine and then open one to watch the clock. Counting the seconds. Waiting for the next inhale. At roughly 2:20am, I was jolted awake and I watched him and the clock. 20 seconds turned to 30, then 40 and when we passed the minute mark I shook my mom awake. His fight was over. The first man in my life was gone. At 63. It seemed impossibly unfair.
Mom and I had discussed prior what we would do if we reached this point. When to hold the funeral, all the little things. We waited until after the county fair, after all, they were both involved - how could we ask people to choose between their jobs/duties and my dad?
On July 13 we held his visitation. I was overwhelmed by the people who came out to express their condolences. I barely remained composed when the local fire depts and EMTs came through to salute my dad for the final time. Their hearts hung heavy - the day before (Tues) the man who had been chosen to precede my dad as Captain at their meeting on Monday experienced a medical emergency and passed away at a dept training drill. 3 wonderful men from the station, all under the age 65, lost far too soon.
July 14 would be the day we said goodbye for the final time. Realization really set in that this was not a dream. I began to doubt that I could retain my composure while reading the farmers poem I had picked for the service. I had to though. My dad raised a strong woman who faced challenges and met them head on. Maybe it was a bit of a guided question, but I asked him in the hospital if I had made him proud and he nodded yes. I asked if I should stop crying for me and he said yes. So I tried to make him proud of me one last time. And I survived.
I feel like I'm doing loss all wrong. I refuse to be wavered in public. Breaches of tears are met with a glance away and a deep breath. I'm stronger than that and he doesn't want me to cry. So I put on a smile and I laugh and do my best to behave like nothing is wrong. Except its all wrong. I feel like I'm in a million pieces and I don't know how to talk about it. I listened to story after story of what a wonderful man my dad was. Of how much people enjoyed talking to him. How he was quick to offer help and assistance and not need recognition in return. See my dad was one of those men that I fear we as a society are losing. He would listen to what you said, he was quick with a laugh and even quicker with a hand when you needed help. He was a giver, he truly cared about people. He encouraged my mom and I to be self-sufficient but was ok being the breadwinner. He knew the way to happiness was a path of hard-work, it wasn't handed to you, you earned it. His diet consisted of dirt, sunshine and manual labor. Even with a corporate day job, he was happiest in the middle of a corn field, breathing in sunshine and the fresh smell of farmland.
His gravesite is next to a cornfield, just under a shade tree. He's across the road from one of his favorite stores (Menard's) and just down the road from the county fairgrounds. He's a short drive from the fire station. Even in death, he's surrounded by the things that made him the man he was. A thoughtful, selfless, hard-working, caring, compassionate giver who taught me to drive, to use power tools, to change spark plugs on the tractor, how to mow the grass, how to drive the snowmobile, to manage my money, to do woodworking, to be quick with a smile, but to a compassionate listener. To chase my dreams...he taught me to be me.
RIP Dad - I love you.
April 13, 1953 - June 30, 2016