Losing a parent is so difficult

I haven’t blogged in a while. I’ve been in a slump that’s been hard to crawl out of. My dad passed away unexpectedly the day before Christmas Eve, and saying that it was the worst Christmas of my life is an understatement. Christmas? What Christmas? When I wasn’t moving around in a fog, I was frantically busy helping my mom with everything in her life that needed to be attended to. And although things have started to settle down a bit, her life and mine will never be the same.

When my healthy dad was told in early 2015 that he had amyloidosis—a very rare condition where an abnormal protein is produced in your body that is not a form of cancer but is equated to it, the conundrum being that nobody in the medical profession can determine what causes it to develop in a healthy person with no family history of anything that remotely resembles it—he was told that six months of chemo and some related meds could extend his life for possibly a few more years.

He endured the horrible treatment throughout the months, finishing his last dose on the Tuesday before Christmas. His diagnosis had improved and he was feeling good…was so looking forward to spending Christmas with his family. Chemo does terrible things to your taste buds, so he was excited about eating Christmas dinner and having his first glass of wine in a long time. The next morning, after happily rising to enjoy his first cup of coffee, his heart simply stopped beating. And that was that.

I wrote a eulogy to read at his funeral, and I thought I’d share it here on my blog. My father inspired me in many ways, and my eulogy was my final thank you to him.

Dad relaxing in his garden.

Eulogy for my Father

My dad always saw the good in people and in life.

He could be a pessimistic old buzzard at times. But he was also an optimist in so many ways.

I remember him telling me, when I was little, that we are all very much alike, just people with flaws and strengths, all doing the best we can with what we have. When I would be judgmental, or be negative about life, or just behave the way we human beings sometimes behave, he would sit me down and share his heartfelt beliefs with me, the sort of beliefs that can only come from a soul that’s rich with integrity. He was my teacher, and I learned so very much from him.

As I watched him struggle to beat the terrible disease that took his life, I found myself asking all those questions that we ask ourselves when we believe that life’s not fair.

It wasn’t long before I realized that much of the wisdom he had used to guide me as a child was still there to provide the answers I needed, and it was clear that no matter how bad things can get, making a conscious choice to look at life with anything other than the most optimistic eyes would be to dishonor everything he ever taught me.

Mom, dad, and baby me.

My dad was an inspiration, and I’d like to share with you some of the wisdom that he taught me throughout the years:

Hold my hand and let’s take one step forward today.
If you are sad,
if you are angry,
if you are sick,
if you are lost,
if you are alone,
if you are confused,
if you are frustrated,
no matter your complaint,
stop for a moment.
Step away from yourself.
Then take one step forward.

Lift your chin
and appreciate the quiet expanse
of the sky above you.
Focus on the wonder
of something so simple,
something that will always be there
even on all the days that you don’t see it.

Give thanks for the miracle of your eyes.
Because they allow you to see a sky
that many can only try to imagine.

Breathe deeply of the air that gives you life.
Basic. Base. There.
Such a blessing
to enjoy the simple act of breathing
without a thought, without a struggle.

Dad and mom in recent years.

Kneel to the ground
and smell the rich aroma of the earth
that is your foundation.
Draw up and fill your lungs
with flora, with fresh laundry,
with all the scents of life
that ride on the breezes.
This gift. This blessing…

Move those limbs that you can move.
Do you have legs?
Can you walk, run, jump, twirl?
Do you have arms, hands, fingers?
Can you clap them, flex them, write your name in the air?
Can you reach for the sky?
Rejoice in these simple freedoms
that so many must live without.

Who are you (you may be thinking)
to sermonize to me
about counting my blessings?
Well
I, too, am sometimes guilty
of the human disease
called unmindful existence.

So today is the day
I will step away from myself,
take one step forward,
and acknowledge how very blessed I am.

That’s dad in the middle, with two of his buddies.

I have eyes that allow me to see
all that is right in front of me,
and awareness to clear my vision.

I can see.
I can feel.
I can breathe.
I can walk.
I can speak.
I can hear.
I can taste.
I can eat.
I can drink.
I can forgive.
I can love.
I can choose.
I can imagine.
I can make a difference.
I can hope.
For hope is always there,
waiting for you to believe.

I can walk outside
and I can look up at the infinite sky
and I can marvel at the magical synthesis
that produces such an astonishing shade of blue.

me and dad at the lake

Me and my dad, once upon a time on a lovely summer day.

I can stand on land
that spreads in every direction
and know that it is possible
to go anywhere I want to go.

I can peel an orange
and eat the flesh
and when the juice runs over my chin
I can splash cool water on my face
and feel grateful that the simplest things in life
are also some of the most magnificent.

The sadness, the anger, the frustration…
it will come, it will go, it will still be there.
But so will all of our simple blessings.

Thank you, Dad. And rest in peace.

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