Two men. Gone from my life in just over two months. One gave me life, the other taught me how to live. One led me to Jesus, one I pray saw Jesus in me.
One was my Daddy.
one was my Sweet Daddy.
Both of them made me the person I am today. My heart aches so deeply.
Thanksgiving Day 2016
Sweet Daddy was supposed to come early that day to spend some time with Jake, Morgan and Eli. Our home was a buzz with company, cooking, and celebration. The smell of turkey was wafting through the house making everyone feel festive. Abigail, my oldest Little, was there making place cards for the table. Eli, my youngest Little, was zipping all around the house keeping everyone busy and cheerful. A great start to the day and so much to be thankful for.
Until, Daddy did not show up.
I called him at 1:00 p.m. to see where he was. He answered his phone and said he must have slept late. (Clue #1) He told me he was going to get his shower and head our way, not to wait on him. I asked if he wanted Chris to come get him to which he quickly replied (no surprise here) that he did NOT want anyone to come get him. He was going to get his bath and head our way. He sounded funny, (clue #2) but I could not pinpoint it. When I hung up the phone, I looked at the clock on the oven and it was 1:04 p.m. The last time anyone would hear his voice.
Fast forward to 2:30 p.m.
Still no Sweet Daddy. I had been watching the time on my phone ever since I hung up from him. Something didn’t seem right. I picked my phone up again to call him and when I looked down, somehow I had called Mom’s phone. I saw Janie Abernathy on the screen and I knew something was terribly wrong. He wasn’t answering his cell phone or his house phone. Panic was setting in at this point. Chris and I gathered our things to head that way, when Allyson suggested that we call the Sheriff’s Department. I am so thankful that she spoke up and that we followed her lead.
The Sheriff’s Department got to the house and soon after, Pat and Jerry Dorman arrived. Pat handed the deputy the phone and he delivered the news that I never wanted to hear. My Sweet Daddy was gone.
He left this world exactly the way he wanted. Quickly. No nursing home. No hospital. No one staring at him while he took his last breath. As hard as that was to accept, it was exactly the way he wanted to go. Chris and I have talked at length about this and both believe that he was called by God to come home quickly and not suffer because of the life he lived while he was here. I have to scriptural basis for that, it is just what I choose to believe about my Sweet Daddy.
Thanksgiving Night, my siblings all started returning to East Texas and we began planning a funeral. We all met at Hawthorn Funeral Home on Friday to discuss the arrangements that Daddy had made (we asked him to do this when we were making arrangements for our Mom) in 2015. That night, Megan and her family arrived home from New Hampshire. Saturday, we gathered at 35 Dixie Lake West in Wildwood Estates to begin the daunting task of closing down our childhood home. We worked from Saturday through Wednesday only breaking to attend visitation on Sunday and a funeral and burial on Monday. All six children, our spouses and children worked to clean out 41 years of living from our Family Home.
Recovery has been so slow. Daddy was the rock of our family. He was the glue that held us all together. We are all floundering without him. Daddy was the closest thing to Christ on Earth that I have witnessed.
He was loving (took in 3 kids and raised us as his own).
He was kind (took care of my Momma for years with her MS and never complained).
He was compassionate (he gave everything he had physically, spiritually, financially and mentally to ANYONE that needed anything).
He was thoughtful (never missed an opportunity to tell you what he thought, lol!)
He was forgiving (being the black sheep of the family, I can attest to this more than the others, but he never held a grudge for anything I ever did).
He loved the Lord with all his heart, mind, body and soul and raised six kids that do the same.
We are blessed to have had him as our Daddy.
Fast forward 9 weeks.
We all made it through Christmas (barely) and New Years. That had been my goal…just get through the end of the year and you will be ok. “New Year. New You.” I made it! January 3rd, I had been back at work for 5 hours when I got “the call”. My Dad was being taken to the ER by ambulance for an apparent stroke. Seriously? My first day back at work after the dreaded holidays? What happened to my new year? Ok, just breathe! Deep breath and I raced off to meet the ambulance at Good Shepherd Medical Center.
We were in the ER for quite a while, as usual. Dozens of people buzzing around us. Doctors. Nurses. Different technicians from various departments. Susan came. Chris came. Initial diagnosis was no stroke. All the sudden his fever spikes at 103.1. They begin giving him Tylenol suppositories immediately and decide he has an infection somewhere so they order blood work. Blood work comes back negative for infection. He still had a high fever and was somewhat confused so they decide to admit him anyways. As soon as we get up to a room, he begins vomiting. Fever spikes to 103.8. They put in a rectal probe to monitor his temperature and put a cooling blanket over him. Vomiting and fever continue until Thursday. They ran numerous tests and finally decide he has a virus. Thursday evening, after the vomiting has subsided, they do an MRI. Friday, they release him back to the nursing home and never mention the MRI again.
The next week, as I would come to his nursing home for coffee before work each morning, I noticed some very unusual behaviors. His bed has been moved 3 feet across the room at a 45 degree angle to the wall. (He ran into it with his electric chair and pushed it across the room with his shins. His brain was unable to tell his hand to let go of the joy stick on his chair. He literally burned holes in the linoleum with the wheels of his chair.) He was laying upside down in the bed with his head hanging off. He was sleeping 20 hours out of the day. All strange behavior for him. Finally, I requested a care plan meeting with the staff for Wednesday. So, 8 days after the trip to the ER, the head of the physical therapy department (not the physician) tells us in the care plan meeting that Dad did indeed have a stroke. A very bad one. He has a blood clot in the Thalamus area of his brain. When she explains this and we begin discussion, everything finally makes sense. The thalamus is the “mother board”/”control center” for your body. It regulates your sleep/wake cycle, your body temperature, your arousal for your senses, the awareness of your extremities, etc. The light came on and everything finally started to make sense to all of us.
We determined his new level of care and made a new plan for him. A plan we were only able to stick to for a few days before having to put him on hospice care. Hospice of East Texas came in on January 16th and were able to maintain a good comfort level for him for the next 16 days. I pretty much moved into the nursing home with him. If I was able to work, I would go to the facility first and end my day back there. Part of his new “normal” was to yell out “help me” on a regular basis. That would continue until his death. Even when others were there, it seemed that I was “his person” and the only one that could calm the panic he was experiencing. He was very child-like during this time and I could no longer tear myself away from him. I knew my time with him was limited, so I needed to do everything I could for him while I still could.
So many people did not understand the relationship I had with Dad and I guess they never will. I am not sure I even do. When I try to describe it, I truly feel like I was more of a parent to him than he ever was to me. Two days before he died, I was sitting by his bed. He had his hand wrapped around my arm. All the sudden my pulse felt like it was beating at the same rhythm as his. Then my heart started racing and I couldn’t catch my breath. I felt like my life was leaving my body through my arm and going into him. I moved away and sat on the other bed in his room. My heart was beating out of my chest. My chest hurt so badly with every single breath. I reached for my phone and texted Chris to come. I told him it wasn’t Dad it was ME. He came from work and found me sitting against the wall in a puddle of tears barely able to breathe. He forced me to leave the facility and go home with him to take a nap. After I woke, we had a pretty hard conversation and I explained to him what had happened earlier. It was symbolic of my relationship with Dad over the last 10 years…he was sucking the life right out of me. (Literally this time!) Meanwhile, the facility had called hospice and the nurse called me. We all kept thinking that Dad was “waiting for someone to come to him”. Debbie explained that sometimes, when someone has “a person” that they have a difficult time letting go of their person. She told me that my last act of true love for my Dad would be to help him break that connection. Really? Now I have to die for you, too?! This was going to be impossible for me to do. That was the day that BJ was coming. I met him there late that evening and he wanted to stay with Dad, so I was able to go home and sleep. The next day, I worked a full 8 hour day getting everything completed for the month. I went straight there after work to relieve BJ. He wanted to stay again, so I returned home for another night of sleep. (I can’t tell you what relief I felt with BJ here. We didn’t grow up together, but there is a connection there that I can’t explain…always has been.)
Wednesday, February 1st, with my littlest brother by his side, Dad took his last breath on earth.
I didn’t get to choose my parents, God chose them for me.
The Bible says we are to honor our Mother and our Father. (I have never found a contingency clause in there that says “honor them if they….”.) I knew that I had to show my Dad unconditional love. A Christ-like love. I may be the only example of God’s love he truly sees in his life and I couldn’t shirk that responsibility. At the end of the day, I knew that I would be the one that had to look myself in the mirror every day and live with the choices I made. I can lay my head on my pillow at night with no regrets for the care I gave my Dad for the last decade of his life. God doesn’t make mistakes and I believe He created ME this way to be able to care for my parents the way I have had to off and on for the past 15 years.
Now, once again I tell you that these two men are gone from my life in just over two months. My Dad gave me life, and my Sweet Daddy taught me how to live it the right way. My Sweet Daddy led me to Jesus, and I pray daily that my Dad saw Jesus in me. One was my Dad and one was my Sweet Daddy. Both of them made me the person I am today. My heart aches so deeply, but I know I will see them again one day. But for right now, it is too much. Too soon.