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Not Just Another New Year's Eve

The year 2009 draws to a close on a totally different note than I had anticipated. I received a call from my sister yesterday morning informing me that our Dad had died suddenly. He was 84 years old and lived in South Dakota, as she does. Apparently he was on his way home from running an errand in the small town where he lives and something unknown happened that caused his Jeep to swerve across the road into the other lane and slide into the ditch. It is bitter cold in South Dakota this week and the ditch was filled with snow. From the tire tracks in the ditch (and the reverse gear of his transmission destroyed) it was apparent that he had tried to free the Jeep with no success. He must have gotten out to check on it or try push it, because two young men who soon passed by found him laying on the ground beside the vehicle. They administered CPR, but he was already gone. The ambulance arrived almost immediately and transported him to the local hospital just a short distance down the street where he was pronounced dead.

Such a sad scenario, and so very much like my Dad. My sister found his cellphone at his apartment. Apparently he forgot to take it along so couldn't call for help, but being fiercely proud and independent, might not have anyway. We'd had several conversations with him in recent months about driving and how it was time to face the difficult decision to surrender his license. He wasn't having any of it and let us know so in no uncertain terms. We worried constantly that he would be involved in an accident and might possibly hurt someone else. It was to the point where we knew we would soon have to intervene. Just the previous weekend he had driven himself and his girlfriend 90 miles down snow packed highways to pay my sister and her family an after-Christmas visit. They asked him not to come due to the weather conditions, but no one suceeds in telling my Dad what to do, and he came anyway. He made it home safely that day by the grace of God. This time it was not to be.

I am very sad, as are my sisters, and the girlfriend who has been his companion since mom died 14 years ago. But we are also thankful that God chose this time and this way to take him home. His health has been declining rapidly in recent months and congestive heart failure was taking a toll on him. He lived with chronic pain in his back and legs, shortness of breath, and diminished ability to walk more than a few yards unsteadily. He was old and tired and so very ready for the end of it.

It could have happened in much worse ways... on the highway last weekend, in Arizona while on the trip they had planned for January, or after lingering in a hospital or nursing home with little dignity or self-determination left. It could have fallen to his girlfriend to be the one to find him gone, and thankfully it didn't. We have much to be grateful for. As it was, he likely suffered only moments if at all as he passed quickly from this life to the spirit world. We all knew the time was coming. We all sensed that our family gathering in San Antonio in October would be the last time my children, husband and I would see him, and that this Christmas would likely be his final one on earth. But when the time comes, you are never ready, never prepared for the emotions of losing a parent, much less your second parent - rendering me and my sisters orphans now.

I didn't sleep well last night. I find it hard to shake the image of my frail yet stubborn German father struggling with his Jeep stuck in the snow. We wonder if a black out caused him to swerve across the road. He's been falling asleep often lately, and his blood sugar could well have been high too. I know he had to leave this world some way, there is no train station to simply catch a ride. He could have been involved in a terrible accident that would haunt us all forever. So this is better, and mercifully quick. No lingering illness, no gut-wrenching goodbyes. But God, the pain inside is terrible.

John is a tremendous comfort and source of strength to me. He has buried his own mother and two wives before me, and knows well the pain and sorrow. Arrangements have been made and we'll be heading home tomorrow, flying thru Denver and on to Fargo and driving the remaining 130 miles to the small town in the northeast corner of South Dakota where I grew up. The funeral will be on Monday morning, followed by lunch at the church and then a 60 mile ride to the cemetary where he'll be buried next to my Mom. I'm praying for good road conditions.

We'll be staying at his apartment with my younger sister and her husband. My older sister and her daughter will also be driving in from Minneapolis. Our relationships with her have been strained in recent years, hopefully we can pull this off without a major conflict such as occurred following my mother's funeral. Temperatures in South Dakota are in single digits this week and next. I haven't experienced weather that cold for a long time now, and I'm not looking forward to it. Icy air and asthma don't mix well. Those heavy winter coats we've had packed away in storage will come in handy, and my beloved sandals will have to remain in Texas this trip. My mother's funeral was also on a cold, snowy day in January many years ago. It feels all too much like deja vu.

I'm not sure if I'll have an opportunity to blog, email, or update Facebook while I'm there, so I'd like to wish everyone who stops by here to visit a truly blessed new year. Dad will be spending New Year's Eve with Mom this year, and thinking of that makes me smile. Me, I'll be spending it quietly packing for the journey that will take me home to South Dakota on New Year's Day and wondering what the new year is going to bring.

21 comments:

  1. Oh I am so very sorry for your loss...words just aren't enough at a time like this, I know. But you are so very right...it could have been a lot worse...at least it didn't put anyone else in peril and you can be fairly certain that he didn't suffer. This is a much more dignified way to go...he would have hated any other way and I can tell you know that. Please bundle up good...your blood is used to mild Texas and will be in major shock with the cold...you or John sure don't need to be getting sick. I'm sending virtual hugs to you and you know we (your cyber family) are all here for you if you need to vent about anything. Travel safe and take with you the protecting embraces from all of us. Much love, Val xo

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  2. I am so sorry to hear this. (sorry but your blog is a little hard to read with the dark colors) I am praying for you.

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  3. I was so happy to see a post from you, I'm just sorry for what it contained. Thank you for sharing your heart with us, because that's what you've done. You're a wonder with putting words to emotions, and you've told this story so well. Your dad is home now, and the thought of him and your mother being together is a happy one. My thoughts are with you. Please stay in touch.
    Fondly,
    Cheryl

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  4. I am also glad to see a post from you but I just wish it wasn't to convey such sad news. I can't even pretend to understand the sorrow you must feel as I still have both my parents, but I am glad you didn't have to see your dad suffer any more than he already has and linger without dignity for a long time.


    You and your family are in my thoughts and I am truly sorry for your loss and for what you will need to endure in the coming days, weeks and months.


    Like Val said, wrap up nice and warm and stay safe on those roads. Much love and big hugs
    xxx

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  5. I am sad to hear of the loss of your Dad. It was a blessing that he didn't have to suffer for a long time but it doesn't make his passing any easier.

    Thinking of you at this very difficult time.

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  6. I'm so sorry for your loss. No matter how old or frail your father was, or how quickly and painlessly he went, the manner of his passing was sudden and unexpected and didn't give any of you time to prepare.

    I'm grateful that you will have John by your side to love and support you as you grieve, and I hope that your family can all come together in this difficult time to do the same for each other.

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  7. I´m so sorry, but I´m glad I know you have people who care about you around you. Best wishes from over here! Take care!

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  8. Sophie, I'm so very sorry. It's a comfort, certainly, that it was quick and comparatively easy for all of you who loved him. I will remember you and him in my prayers. All my very good vibes your way.

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  9. G'Day Sophie, I am sad to hear about your news. But yes you are right, it could have happened in a much worse way than it has. It felt like that when my Dad went, but also even though you are expecting it, it is still such a shock. It is sad also that your sister behaves unpleasantly and I hoe you can heal that rift i the future, I know how that one feels too.I know from working in a nursing home for many years that some people can't handle their emotions at times like this and their worst comes out.
    Hugs from me.

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  10. Oh Sophie, very sorry to hear about your New Year's news. I have you in my thoughts and prayers today...take care.

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  11. I am very sorry to hear of your dad's passing. My father is 83 and he could very well be a brother to your dad - very independent and stubborn also. He gave up driving a few years ago, a decision he finally came to. And like your father, my dad is also ready for life on earth to be over. You have my deepest sympathies. I know all to well the challenges adult children have with aging parents. Some times when I think about how difficult it can be looking after dad, I remind myself that this must be pay backs for what he endured raising me. That makes me laugh and our time remaining becomes more special. I will keep you in my prayers.

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  12. I can't believe I missed this post, I am so sorry. I did read about your father on fb, thought, so at least I knew what you were going through. I am so, so sorry...believe me, I know what you are going through. It saddens me the way your dad died, and yet - like you say, it was quick and overwith, and that really is the best way, for everyone. Going back home under these circumstances is so hard, it seems just another layer of trouble on top of the others. Hang in dear friend. If you need to talk - you know where to find me. I am a good listener. Big, big hugs. :)

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  13. Hello Sophie,

    Just came across you while blog surfing. I really do like the way you write and your optimism about such an event. I haven't had to lose a parent yet, but I don't know what I'll do when I do. I think I've taken mine for granted for way too long.

    Thank you for sharing this with us. I hope you are well. It has been 3 weeks since this post and I hope you are okay now.

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  14. I came here with full spirits and I am sad :(
    I feel very sorry :(

    But then you have to smile :)
    and get through this, after all every night leads to a new morning :)

    God bless :)

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  15. Hey! Your comment meant the world to me and I wanted to say how sorry I am for your loss. I've been reading your blog for nearly three years and in so manys, I felt as I knew your Father, if that makes sense. The news of his sudden death took my breath away. Having lost my Mother suddenly, I understand the added shock that follows such such news. You are not alone. xoxox.

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  16. Thinking of you and hoping you're well. Sending prayers to give you strength and also big hugs and warm thoughts. xo

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  17. I am missing you, Miss Sophie. Your blog and your comments. I have been worrying about your daughter, but praying, too. Let me/us know how things are, okay? Big hugs. :) J.

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  18. wow soph. :(( honestly, i don't quite know what to say. first off, i reckon i need to apologize for being away so damn long. i hadn't even realized that it's been THIS long. i really am sorry for that.
    and obviously for your feelings about your dad too.
    you know -- i do -- surprisingly -- remember our many 'talks' that included your father. along with so many other things. i understand the feelings that go along with such a deep level of loss.
    i hope by now that the pain has eased and you have reconciled with the demons of grief.
    i miss you. i miss us , - and i am sorry that i screwed things up.

    hugs to you , my soul sistah !
    [ the original- the one and the only - just so ya know :))]

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  19. Hey Soph - I missed all this so may I extend my belated condolences. I lost my Mum recently so feel your pain. And thanks for re-visiting me :)

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  20. ha - i thought this was you :))
    thanks for the hello- still thinkin of ya.
    and i miss ya-
    time for an update? how's things?
    b

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Your comments are always appreciated... they make me smile! :-)