The palm tress that I claimed as my Christmas trees...
On Saturday morning, at 7:45, my phone rang. I missed it (in a sleep stupor), but immediately called back. It was the rehab facility and I was told that they found Dad not breathing, called paramedics and that he was being taken to the hospital. I asked how long it had been and if CPR was showing any results. They said they checked on him before shift change (sometime before 7) and he was sleeping & breathing, but when they took his breakfast tray in a bit later, he was not. I hung up, called Kyle (they had Kyle's number, but called me anyway) and then waited. I guess it was about an hour later (I don't really know though, I think we can call my state the absolute definition of shock) that Kyle called and said that Dad had died. He was gone before they even got him to the hospital, but they did everything they could and never recovered a heart beat. More shock and immediate ugly crying. To be clear, I'm not sure there's a definite cause of death. Yes, his heart stopped, but there is no reason to believe he had a heart attack. He had a heart cath this summer and everything looked great. My conclusion is that his encephalopathy was too bad for too long and his body just couldn't recover, despite the medications to clear his body of the excess toxins. His vital signs were good throughout the week and there was no obvious reason for concern, outside of his liver disease. It just took it's toll. I hate that my dad is gone. Hate it. I'm okay telling God that. I wasn't done and I wanted him to live to be an old man. That being said, I am thankful to God that he went in his sleep. I'm thankful he wasn't on machines and that we did not have to make the decision to stop them. I am thankful that he is no longer hurting and scared of what may be ahead.
Upon getting the news, Drew immediately went to the front desk to see about changing our flight. I think I was supposed to be packing (what little we had unpacked), but at some point I realized I was just sitting and staring at nothing. I'm grateful that we had purchased insurance for our trip, because we are being refunded all but the one night we stayed in the hotel and, of course, our flights. We did have to pay quite a bit to change the flight so suddenly, but we were just thankful that it was possible at all. We left the resort before noon and our flight left Cancun just after 3pm. When we got to Atlanta, I pulled out my phone to let a few people know we were back in the states. That's the first (of many, I'm sure) times that my first thought was to text my dad. Our flight was delayed in Atlanta, but we made it back home about midnight. We got up early this morning to head to Grandpa's, meet the boys (I'm assuming that you all know "the boys" means Kyle & Casey) and start making funeral plans.
My instinct was to do it as soon as possible, but the reality is that tomorrow can't happen, Wednesday is Christmas Eve & my Grandpa's 79th birthday and Thursday is Christmas. We settled on Friday, thinking that more people (especially those out of town) would be more likely to make that day. I'm the kind of girl who talks about these sort of uncomfortable things with people and I'm so thankful that Dad and I had talked this about these things a few months ago. I knew that he wanted to be cremated, just a small service and then wants his ashes scattered on the White River where we have all been trout fishing together in the past. He loved that place. So, he's being cremated. Out of respect for Grandpa (he doesn't really understand the cremation thing, but feels better knowing there is a place for Dad), we have opted to purchase the urn, let Grandpa keep the remains and then, someday when it's just me & the boys left, we will scatter the ashes. I think Dad would have liked that plan. In keeping with the small serivce, I anticipated just using the small chapel at the funeral home. Then we got to thinking about how many people might be there. We have no idea, but it could be a crowd, so I called Pastor Dixon and we will be using the sanctuary at our church.
Friday, December 26th, at 11am
Elm Springs United Methodist Church
118 Elm Street
Elm Springs, AR 72728
We intend for it to be a simple service, but I know that my Dad had Jesus in his heart and I'm thankful for our church and Pastor Dixon for being available and so very accommodating. I mean, let's face it, my family has had to ask for these things quite often in the last few years.
Let me elaborate on that a little bit. Drew and I have attended ESUMC since 2003. Our girls were baptized there, our family joined the congregation and we consider the church as part of our family. They have been with us through many good years and many hard times. They hosted a lunch for us after my Grandma's funeral in 2009, we had Emma's funeral & following reception there in 2012 and then the same for Alex in January of this year. Drew and I have struggled to be active in the church since the girls died. We went a few times this summer, trying to get back into the life of the church, but we really struggled emotionally with the tradition and memories. I expressed this to a dear friend not long ago... that I don't want, for a moment, for our church family to ever think that we are only there when we need something. I've been assured that nobody thinks that, but I just want to say it for the record... The people that make up this beautiful church are amazing and we are honored to have had you all in our lives for the last 12 years.. through it all. Thank you for being patient with us as we continue to grieve for our girls and find our way in this new life. I have seldom known God's love more than through the love that our church family has shown to us.
Many people have sent messages or called to check on our family. The most common questions are...
How are you? Well, it sucks. Don't know another way to say it. I didn't see this coming (obviously) and I regret that I didn't get to say a final goodbye to my Dad. Even right now, I want to call him and talk about the Razorback basketball game that is on. I do not have the peace with this that I had with my girls. My heart wasn't prepared and that is something I am dealing with.
How are the boys? About the same as me, I'm guessing. This whole thing sucks. We all had a close relationship with Dad. The boys are awesome and I can't express enough how much I appreciate the relationship that we have with each other.
How is Grandpa? That's hard to say. The boys said that he was doing okay yesterday, but I'm guessing he was experiencing some of the shock that we all were. Today was harder. He's overwhelmed and there are a lot of changes coming. We will have to make some decisions with Grandpa about where he will live and that is stressful even without such a situation. My Uncle Matt is here right now, so he's not alone at home. The neighbor across the street has always been so sweet to Dad & Grandpa and when she heard of Dad's passing, she brought a huge load of food. We are all doing what we can. I'm feeling the need for some alone time with Grandpa and I can't even say if that is for him or for me or for both of us. We spend a lot of time together and have for the last 10 or 12 years. Since I can't see my dad, I just really want to be alone with my Grandpa right now. We have lightly discussed what Grandpa wants to do now. Where will he live and what will the arrangements be? His answer was that he needs to pray about it. I can't think of a better answer. We will all pray about it and I think that being able to talk with Grandpa about it in private will help us begin to figure things out.
In closing, let me say this. Many of us are quick to ask God for help when things are bad. I have struggled with this in the last few weeks. I didn't realize that I felt a bit resigned to whatever God was going to do, so I didn't feel that my prayers meant much. That's a big thing for me to admit to myself and to you. I've been talking to God about this and I can't say that it's completely resolved, but we are working on it. I'm working on reconciling the difference between surrendering to God (the goal) and resigning completely (where I don't want to be). I think there is a big difference. On another note, many of us are also willing to give God the glory when things go our way. Things are good, we got what we prayed for... we praise God. It is much harder to praise Him when things feel so awful, but I believe that is so very important. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us, "In every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." See what is says there? It doesn't say to give thanks for the things you like. It says to give thanks in ALL things. I'm not happy that my Dad is gone from this Earth, but I am thankful for the peace that he must know right now. I am thankful for the 34 years that I called him Dad. I'm thankful that all of this happened when I had the ability to be there for him. How can I give thanks for something that, pardon my word choice, sucks? God didn't say, "You have to like it." I don't like it. I've told God and He can handle it. He's a big boy. Why do I continue to believe in a God that lets bad things happen? Because life is messy. The good comes with the bad. We can't ever appreciate a full belly unless we have felt the pangs of hunger. We don't understand the value of breathing through our nose until we get a stuffy nosed cold. (Those are incredibly simplified examples, but I think they serve the point.) I believe in God because He sent Alex & Emma into our lives. We wouldn't know the pain of missing them if He hadn't enlived our lives with their presence. It is unfair to God to praise Him for the good times and shun him in the bad. The deep ache that I feel for my Dad's presence is just proof of how much he filled my life. I'm grateful for that. I absolutely can't believe that this world exsists by chance. I can't believe that my girls or my dad (or any number of other people) lived this life for no higher reason beyond this world. I fully, 100%, believe that my girls are sitting in Poppy's lap right now and laughing as he sings. I have to believe that. I will give thanks for this.