...and I don't really know how to get it all out. I will first start where I left off.
(again, talking about Dad, so skip if you want or need to)
So after we knew that we were going to lose Dad that night, we all gathered around in the bedroom to be with him. I don't remember who all was there, but there were a lot of people. Too many, in my opinion. There were old family friends and folks who were trying to make polite conversation. Even writing that I felt anger in my heart--they might have been trying to break the tension, but in that situation--the tension is all you have! You know, life is so short and fleeting and if you go around always trying to avoid feeling and avoid the gravity of whatever situation you are in, what kind of a life is that? I wanted to experience every second of my father's last minutes, not chit chat about hats or music or any of that bullshit, so I think we said something and got it down to family, the nurse, and a pastor in the room. Christopher and I were lucky, cause both Katie and Fuzzy were there. There is a thing called the "death rattle," which is the sound of lungs filling with fluid towards the end of a life. It was horrifying. We were playing music and we had Dad's oxygen machine going so it was very noisy, but yet that rattle was still so loud. We all held hands and held dad's hands and sang to him and talked to him. I did our nighttime ritual (the one we did every night while I was growing up and whenever we were visiting each other, and the one we did when he gave me away at my wedding) and I promised him that I would "keep doing wackadoo comedy." Ha.
I don't know how much time went by, but the nurse told us that it looked like he was fighting it and didn't want to go. Mom told him yet again that it was ok for him to go, and Dad made some sort of noise that sounded like "uh uh." Fearing that he was scared, Mom leapt up and embraced him, and the most beautiful thing I have ever seen happened next. Mom laid her head next to his ear and started rocking him and talking to him and telling him it was ok. She told him that she had never led him astray and he could trust her and it was ok for him to go and "if you think I love you, Jesus loves you even more and imagine how beautiful He is going to be when you see Him and I am not going to let you go until you see His face" and so on. Christopher and I were each holding on to Mom and to Dad and we were all standing over him. Mom kept rocking him and singing to him and telling him how much she loved him-and then Dad's eyes looked up, then one side of his mouth made a crooked little smile and he took his last breath. I saw my father see Heaven. And my mother helped get him there. That is love.
Once we knew he had gone, there was such a jubilant air--it was lovely and so strange. It felt like we had accomplished something. Something great. We all hugged and smiled--it was such a beautiful thing. Isn't that bizzare? We called loved ones and told them that he had left and we were calm while they cried. Only later did things start to really sink in--as they took him away, as the nightmares started, as the reality set in.
The next few days were a total blur--family, funeral homes, planning, cemeteries, shopping for clothes to wear since none of us had brought anything nice, people people people. And people who said stupid things. My advice to anyone who doesn't know what to say when someone suffers a tragedy or a loss--acknowledge that you know what is going on, but if you don't have anything to say, don't say anything. Yikes, the amount of insulting and inappropriate things that were said at our house that week. God bless everyone that was there, but still.
The funeral was beautiful--I really great service by a great pastor who had talked with dad a few weeks before he died. It was truly a celebration of his life--friends sang a beautiful version of I Can See Clearly Now and there was much laughter. At one point Christopher asked everyone to raise their hand if they had ever been to a concert with Dad and so many hands went up. It was standing room only. Friends traveled from all over. It was so sweet.
A family friend used his own personal beard trimmers to trim Daddy's beard and later even drove the funeral car.
My sweet little Daddy was only 53. The cancer didn't win--the cancer died when Dad's earthly vessel did, but Dad still lives on.
Ok, so random thought time--I think it has really taken me a year to process everything that happened and how it affected us and how it affects me every day.
For me, I am a totally different person than I was before. Some changes are for the better---some are for the worst. I am dealing with this new person that I am on a daily basis. The good news now is that now I don't deal with any of the bullshit. If it isn't worth my time, I won't do it. I don't get caught up in petty garbage anymore. I know better what I like, don't like, and can and can't handle. I am honest with people, even if it is difficult. It is hard to shock me. I am more confident in some ways and know more what I can handle.
The almost 4 years we fought that shitty cancer was miserable. It was such a roller coaster of emotions constantly, and I was a basket case for the majority of the time. I quit numerous jobs because I knew that going home to help and take care of Mom and Dad was the most important thing.
Just because you know it is coming doesn't make death any easier. However, each day we had with Dad was a blessing and we got to have the conversations we needed to have. Though there was nothing that needed to be resolved or things that needed to be said to each other because we were always so open and loving with each other. I am blessed to come from such an incredible family.
I have never seen anyone so strong as my mother when she was taking care of Dad. It was her mission to keep him alive and she did a damn good job. She was Dad's strength and hope.
A few days before he died, I crawled up in Dad's bed and laid with him for awhile. Christopher took a picture of us without my knowing it. A few months ago, he sent it to me, and it is beautiful--the last picture of the two of us together.
Daddy's nurse cat Allie, a tiny little white cat who took care of Dad all through his treatment, slept on his hospital bed by his side the whole time he was in it, and even for about 17 straight hours before he died. She normally didn't like to be around people, but she slept curled up next to him unbothered by all the people around her. She hardly woke up. She even let me pet her and pick fleas off of her while she was sleeping, something that never ever happens. About an hour before he died, she woke up, jumped off the bed and went to look out the front door. She knew what was going to happen. Fuzzy thanked her for doing such a good job.
I am blessed to have the most loving supportive husband in the whole world. Dad's cancer was diagnosed a month after we started dating, and Fuzzy was there every step of the way. Dad loved Fuzzy and I think was relieved knowing that he was leaving me in such good hands.
I am blessed to have the most loving supportive friends in the whole world. The cards, the gifts, the flowers, the meals, the trashy magazines, the movies, the shoulders to cry on, the ones who got me out of my house once I was back in Chicago and refusing to go anywhere, the ones who listened to each story, the ones who never judged, the ones who always loved, the ones that are still listening and still loving even when I think I must be the most annoying person on the planet. I love you all.
It doesn't feel like it has been a year. It is really mind blowing. A year sounds like so much time--so long. I am not ready for it to be a year. People think a year is so far away. But it isn't enough time. I am not healed. Sure, healING, but as I said before, I still have a-ways to go. I am afraid of forgetting. I afraid of the day when there will be more time without Dad than we had with him. I hate that there is so much that I want to tell him and so much I wish I could talk to him about. I am afraid of forgetting his voice. I am ashamed of the days that I don't look at his pictures on the wall in my house. I think of him constantly.
I am happy when I realize that I have a quirk that is like his. I am happy when I hear a song that reminds me of him or a friend makes a reference to The Prisoner in a show directly after I was thinking of him.
I am happy knowing that he is with his daddy and mama's daddy and his old dogs and Honey and Bumble and all our old cats. I know he is up in Heaven giggling and turning red talking with legendary musicians and old friends.
I talk to him a lot in my head and I see him on occasion in my dreams.
Much love to my wonderful family and everyone who loved Papa Reid on this difficult day.