Saturday, June 19, 2010

Father's Day Guest Post: For Dad

This post was submitted by Kristina, a military officer and colleague of mine, in honor of her dad.  He recently passed away.  She penned these words on September 24th, 2009 and shared them at his funeral.  It seems appropriate to post her words, unedited, for Fathers Day.  Read on as she honors her dad:

I just wanted to start off by saying that Dad asked me to do this a couple of weeks ago. I knew it would be hard, but how could I say no? Dad also asked me to talk about what he meant as a naval officer. Unfortunately, I didn’t really know him when he was a naval officer, so I’d like to defer to (my Dad’s friend), who’ll be following me.
I don’t think Dad would have asked me to do this ten years ago. When I was about 16/17, we weren’t exactly on speaking terms. Before and after that rough patch, however, is a different story. I remember he was an assistant softball coach on Melissa’s and my team; he was an enthusiastic homework tutor, a motivator, and a supreme public embarrasser; in fact, when we went food shopping, he loved to dance in the middle of the supermarket just to see me turn multiple shades of red and hear me squeal, “Da-ad! You’re embarrassing me!”
Melissa, my sister, was a Daddy’s girl. Once, when Melissa was three years old, Dad was shoveling snow outside. Melissa put on Dad’s Navy uniform jacket and cover (aka his hat), walked outside to the front stoop, and exclaimed, “Daddy! I’m just like you! I’m in the Navy, too!” Laughing, Dad swooped Melissa up, and Mom took pictures.
I know Melissa will agree that we enjoyed being world travelers together. We lived in and traveled all over Europe and the US. Dad loved to show us great sites and teach us the way things worked – the cable cars in the Swiss Alps, for example.
Dad and I would have long conversations. I could always count on Dad for deep conversations on religion, science, and the meaning of life, among other topics. We concluded that there must indeed be life on other planets, and that Moses really did part the Red Sea. In fact, our last real conversation was on death as a journey, which I’ll get into later.
Last month, I wrote a prayer for my family in my journal, and read it to Dad when he was in the hospital. He loved it. I thought I would share it:
Written Aug 20, 2009:
"My dad has Stage 4 cancer. He hasn’t had a job in over two years…
[I also spelled out a few details about my other family members]
Please, God, help my family. Don’t worry about me – I’m fine – I’m doing great actually. Please cure my dad’s cancer. I know he’s been a smoker for 34 years, and he shouldn’t have done that – but could you spare him anyway? [More about other family members]
God, I know this is an extremely tall order, and I know I’ve said this before, but if you grant me these things, I’ll never ask for anything again – I mean it this time…
I’ve never written down a prayer before."
Dad was crying after I read him this prayer on the phone. And it’s kind of funny, in the weeks after that prayer, I found myself sometimes slipping and asking God for something, and immediately afterwards I would say, “Just kidding, God! I take it back! I’m not asking for anything else like I promised I wouldn’t!”
I read parts of the Bible several times during his last weeks with us. His favorites were Psalm 23 and Corinthians. My favorite is Corinthians. I also prayed with him. He really liked that.
I also thought I would talk about my last real conversation with Dad; it was on the 15th of Sep. Dad was in good spirits, eating some of the dark Swiss chocolate I had gotten him. Dad started saying he wasn’t sure what death was going to be like. I asked him, “Are you afraid?” 
“No, I’m not afraid” he said. “I just don’t know what to expect…I’m curious.” He said that he felt like he would get to heaven and then ask, “Now what?” He said that all of his faiths led him to believe in an afterlife. I told him a story where a friend of mine had seen his grandfather attend his own funeral. “Oh yeah?” Dad asked – I think he liked hearing that.
I finally gave him the book on death that the hospice nurse had given me a few days before. (I had been hiding it from him.) The name of the booklet was “Gone From My Sight.”
“What a bad title for a book!” Dad joked, “Although, I guess there aren’t too many other names you could give it anyway.” We looked up the names of other similar books in the back of “Gone From My Sight” and we laughed about those too.
I also pointed out something else I had noticed about the booklet, “Well, the book says that your pulse will raise to [so many] beats per minute…or it says, it might lower…well, which one is it? Will it raise or lower?? That’s some CYA if you ask me!!” For those of you that don’t know what CYA means, it stands for Cover Your Ass. Dad heartily agreed with me and we laughed pretty loud about it.
I also showed him the part where the booklet says that a lot of sleeping takes place weeks beforehand, but actually, “very important work” is being done by that individual who is sleeping. I got real serious, furrowed my eyebrows, and sternly asked, “Dad, are you doing important work while you’re sleeping?” 
“No” he replied, and we burst into laughter again.
I also pointed out in the booklet where it said that individuals sometimes see loved ones who have already passed on. I asked Dad if he had seen any loved ones. He said no. We sort of shrugged together.
This “Gone From My Sight” booklet was only a flimsy 14 pages stapled together. Dad was looking in the back, where it had a price listing. He was telling me about the prices. I think the cost was $2.00 per copy, unless you wanted to buy more than 2000 copies or something like that. Then Dad joked that “you could get a deal at $1.40 a copy” or something like that. “Oh yeah, that’s real savings” Dad chuckled. “And who’s making these books anyway??” he asked. “So when you order some, it’s like they tell Grandma in the basement…’Yo Grandma! We need more copies!!’” And we were back into hysteria again. Theresa (Dad's wife) even walked into the room because we had been laughing so much.
The book also said that sometimes individuals have a last energy surge before they pass on. Dad and Theresa both said that they thought that that would be the case with Dad, that he would have a really great day… As they were talking, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was Dad’s last surge, but I dared not say anything.
Dad told us he felt as though there was so much left he wanted to do. I asked him if he could write it all in a list (and maybe I could finish them for him), but he said he didn’t think he could write out a list. Theresa told me he had said he wanted to go to Guardian Angel training. I think that’s where he might be now.

The very last conversation I had with Dad – the day before he died, his words weren’t very clear, but I could tell what he was saying most of the time. I told him I loved him, and he told me he loved me. I asked him if he was in pain. He said no. I asked him if he was okay. He said “Yeah....really…truth.” I also prayed with him. I said an Our Father and a Hail Mary, and read Psalm 23 to him, as I had done a few times before – he liked that too. Mom had told me that Dad needed permission from Melissa and me to move on. I told him it was okay for him to sleep forever, and that if he saw a bright light to go after it. Dad also responded to me later that day – as I was leaving for the night, I kissed him on the cheek and told him I loved him. His eyes opened immediately. I told him I loved him again. He said “I love you.” Even though it wasn’t very clear, again, I knew exactly what he was saying.
He also responded with smiles when his pastor came and prayed with him, and when his siblings called him and we held the phone up to his ear.
The night Dad died, I was writing in my journal. I was jotting down as much of our last conversations as I could remember, and I had written another prayer for him. I thought I would share it:
Written Sep 21 2009:
Lord, I pray Dad has a painless and speedy transition into heaven, and that he becomes a Guardian Angel like he said he wants to become. Of course, my first choice is that Dad be cured and wake up just fine. My second choice is to put my Dad’s soul at rest and to end his suffering.
Now, Dad liked big parties, fancy dinners, and flying first class. He asked me to toast him. Dad would want us to make a big deal out of this, in a good way. So let’s make a big deal out of it. I think a lot of “I remember when’s” followed by laughter are in order. God be with you all.

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