Life is not what we envision that it should be. Adjust.

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I’ve had this page from a daily calendar hanging on my bulletin board for more than 10 years. I first put it up at work, probably in response to the complaining of a coworker, or maybe as a reminder to myself to breathe deep and not let the little things get to me. At some point it migrated to my home and now lives in my kitchen with other odds and ends.

“Life is not what we envision that it should be. Adjust.”

The past several weeks I have had to heed this advice like never before. Fifteen days ago, my father passed away. Knowing that I am not the first person to go through this doesn’t diminish the feeling of being in a nightmare from which I desperately want to wake up.

The nightmarish quality is partly due to the swiftness with which our lives all changed. At 84, my Dad was one of the most vibrant and robust people I’ve ever known. He exercised religiously, enjoyed things like hiking and paddling his one-man canoe. In recent years, he had slowed down and had various aches and pains, but if asked, I would have guessed he’d live to 100.

Dad loved the outdoors and loved taking his little one-man canoe out for a spin.
Dad loved the outdoors and loved taking his little one-man canoe out for a spin.

Mom on the other hand has suffered from Polycystic Kidney Disease for decades and has been on dialysis for three days a week for eight years. She also suffers from dementia, and is easily confused. As her condition has progressed and she can’t be left alone, Dad has been her constant caregiver. Not to sound morbid, but no one would have been surprised if we were mourning Mom instead of Dad right now.

Dad though has always been the healthy one. Other than a bout of pneumonia in the 1980s and prostate cancer, which was caught early and treated successfully fifteen years ago, I can’t remember my Dad ever being sick.

A little more than eight weeks ago, Mom and Dad drove 2 ½ hours to my stepdaughter’s wedding. They won the prize during the Anniversary Dance for the couple married the longest. They had celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary just four days before the wedding. SIXTY FOUR YEARS! Can you imagine?!

Seven weeks ago, Dad held his firstborn great-grandson Isaac only a day after his birth.

Baby Isaac meets Great Grandma and Great Grandpa for the first time.
Baby Isaac meets Great Grandma and Great Grandpa for the first time.

Five weeks ago, he drove three hours to spend the weekend in Michigan where my brother is building a log home. He and Mom both climbed a ladder at the construction site to reach the main floor.

Three weeks ago today, his doctor admitted him to the hospital. He had been feeling tired and was anemic and they wanted to run tests. The next day, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It had already spread to his liver.

Five days later, my Mom, my siblings and our spouses, and several of his grandchildren surrounded him as he took his final breath on this earth.

We are all in shock. All of the platitudes that people tell us, and that we tell ourselves – “he lived a long, full life;” “he would have hated to suffer and wither away;” “he’s in a better place” may all be true, but are of little comfort.

As a detail oriented engineer by trade, my ever practical Dad was the ultimate planner. In 2000, he and Mom moved out of my childhood home to a retirement community. They were ready to downsize and although they were still healthy and active, they were looking ahead. Their condo, with its wide doorways and handicapped accessible bathrooms, was designed for if and when they would have a harder time getting around. It still had a garage and outdoor space where Dad could putter around. In addition to the condos the complex has an assisted living building, which my Mom (when she still had her wicked wit) used to call The Big House, where they could ultimately move if they ever needed to. Dad wanted to choose where he lived his last years, and not put us kids in the position of someday having to force them to move. As we got older and saw our friends struggling to convince their parents that they couldn’t handle their houses anymore, we were grateful.

We also teased Dad about being morbid three years ago when he and Mom chose and prepaid for their funerals. When the time came, he didn’t want us to argue or worry that we were doing what he would want. Instead it would all be spelled out. He assigned the task of choosing photos for the slideshow that would be shown at their visitations to me. He wanted me to start on it then – which I of course refused to do.

All that planning, and yet we have so little control when it comes down to it. I’m sure he planned to be around for many more years. I can guarantee he never envisioned leaving us before Mom did. My sister and brother and I never envisioned having to say goodbye to him this way. We never envisioned explaining to Mom again and again that the love of her life had died. I never envisioned that I would replay the scenes from the hospital, from the visitation, from the funeral, over and over in my head. I never envisioned that it would hurt so much.

You always think you have more time. He was the strongest and smartest man I’ve even known. I can’t believe I will never have the chance to ask him another question, to tell him of another accomplishment, or to have another laugh.

I marvel at all of the people I know who have already lost a parent. How on earth do they get back to some sense of “normal?”

Life is no longer how I envisioned it. I must adjust.

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20 thoughts on “Life is not what we envision that it should be. Adjust.

  1. Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry. This brought me to tears. I lost my dad, too. There is something so special about a father-daunter relationship. He looks like a wonderful vibrant man, and very handsome, too! Sending love and heartfelt sympathy. ❤ ❤ ❤

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  2. It’s so hard to lose someone you love dearly isn’t it? The best we can do is remember them in happy times, talk about them often and be happy that they will live on in us – all those little sayings, mannerisms and crazy things that we do are because we are just like our parents. My mother-in-law is in the final stages of pancreatic cancer and my lovely husband is trying his best to deal with her disappearing before our eyes. Her sisters visited her today… we all know it’s the last time they will be together. It’s so sad. I am truly sorry that you lost your lovely Dad. Sending you a big hug from the UK x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautifully written and poignant. I wish I had the magic words to ease your pain, but as someone who also stands in a gray world of grief, I have found none to share. All I can offer, from a heart that also knows loss, is my deep and sincere condolences to you and your family. Peace and warm hugs of comfort.

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  4. I am so sorry to hear about your loss. But I am glad you decided to write about it, this is such a heartfelt rendition of your relationship with your dad. He seemed to be a really nice husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather.
    My sincere condolences to you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What an amazing man! I love seeing him in a canoe.
    I’m so glad you wrote about him. He’s inspiring and a great role model. I started my personal blog (lifetimeofforgiveness.wordpress.com) with a tribute to my dad. It is so hard to lose a parent. I was “daddy’s” little girl, so it was especially hard on me. It’s good to talk about him, write about him and keep the good thoughts flowing. It only seems like yesterday since he departed this earth, but it’s been 15 years.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your father strikes me as a real role model in many senses. He was so handsome and wise. I feel it is really a great loss for you and your family but this writing and others to come will help you heal a bit. This is a beautiful article and shows how much he meant to you and how wonderful and wise he was for all of you!

    Thanks for writing this.. May he rest in peace and you all find solace and healing 🙂

    Love and light ❤

    Anand 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am so very sorry to hear about your loss. What a wonderful picture of your Dad in his canoe! I didn’t know him but it made my heart smile to see him on the water in his boat for one. Life is about the love we give and the love we leave behind. It seems that your Dad left a beautiful legacy of love for all of you. xo Whitney

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  8. I am at a loss for words, this is a very heartfelt post…I can’t imagine losing a parent, much more my mom, I always thought of being the first to go than see her gone…condolence to you and your family. All I can say is you are very blessed to have such a wonderful father, I wish my father was like him…your mom and dad are a very good example of those who truly showed kindness and love, they are very inspiring. Love and hug to you my dear friend, if only I can be there…

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  9. […] Then Dad died. Seemingly out of the blue, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died just one week later. The following weeks were a blur. We barely had a chance to process the loss of our Dad as we worried about Mom. My brother and sister and I took turns staying with her and taking her to dialysis. She was very confused and would get out of bed at night looking for the man who had slept beside her every night for the past six and a half decades. […]

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  10. You have demonstrated in this beautiful article, the love and bond that existed in your family. And the special relationship between Father and daughter. I can feel your pain having lost my Dad some years ago. The demise of a loved one especially parents leave a big hollow and vacuum in our lives. Only time can heal the pains but can never erase the fond memories. Your parents are in a better place now. May God truly console you and your family and grant you all the strength to carry on. Sending you hugs and warm wishes. Xoxo. 🙂

    Like

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