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  • Writer's pictureDiana Fletcher

My Dad Died on Thanksgiving

My Dad died and I am practicing saying it out loud. I have to, so that I can make phone calls. I have been able to say it in emails which of course, makes sense. I am a writer. But, when I write it, I only get a little choked up. When I say it, I cry.

We knew it was coming. These last few weeks, we have been preparing. My sister held the phone to his ear and we each spoke to him. We told him that we were happy and that we were ok. We told him we loved him and that we would take care of my Mom.

My sister said he slept a lot because he was given morphine. He had trouble swallowing because of the Parkinson's and that would scare him and possibly hurt him. We didn't want him to have pain. We did not want him to suffer any more indignities.

As he failed over the last 10 years, there was so much that he had to endure. The beginning, when he knew he wasn't remembering and when his hands would not go where he wanted them to go. And as the years went by, he lost control of his physical movements, his sight, his balance and his choices. With the dementia, he would remember events and happy times from years ago and liked to talk about them. My husband would have conversations with him and fill in the blanks so that my father felt that he was having a conversation. My husband has known him a long time and was able to do this quite well.

I have missed my Dad for awhile. So many times, I wanted to talk to him about books and movies. Just about the time "24" started, he was really struggling with making connections in movies and shows. He would have loved Jack Bauer. He  loved reading and he was very aware when he wasn't understanding the words anymore. My heart started breaking for him right around then.

We will continue to read for him. I will continue to love stories and mysteries and think about being a detective or spy...for him. He loved that kind of thing. I love Westerns because of my Dad. I love stories because of my Dad. I probably love talking about my dreams and thinking about them because of my Dad. Many mornings or during dinners, he would regale us with long stories of vivid dreams he had. I miss that.

My Dad was so proud of us. There were so many things we did that would not have made him proud, yet he was. Always. He always loved us and that will stay with me forever. I feel it now, but I miss him so much.

This is what he left the world:

  • Wonderful memories of dancing, laughing, and talking

  • A love of reading

  • People who were happy to have known him

  • Smiles when we think of him

  • Admiration from people who knew him

  • Students who were lucky to have learned from him

  • Wife, children,grandchildren and family who love him

  • Silliness and a sense of humor that live on in my sisters and me

  • Joy in the simple things

  • Rebellious streaks in his offspring. :)

  • A better world because he was here.

My Dad died. I am not sure this will get any easier to say.

Shannon Miskelley said "Diana, Cindy, Debbi & Cheryl,

Thank you for sharing your dad with me. I am grateful having known him. He made me laugh, shared stories, and gave great hugs! He will be missed.

Love, Shannon (AKA “#3, with the cop”)"

Diana responded with "My Dad loved you guys! Thank you for your kindness."

Nanci Wazienski said "What a beautiful tribute to your father, and a sweet re-calling of the life he created with your mom and your sisters. Please accept my deepest sympathy on the loss of your dear, sweet dad. It is so hard to lose one’s daddy. My daddy was a good one, too. Although it feels like your heart is being ripped out at the time, for me, it did get easier. Over time, I realized that this was the way it was supposed to be, and I gained a better appreciation of the impermanence of life. I wish you some peace during this hard, hard grieving. Love, Nanci"

Diana responded to Nanci Wazienski; "Thank you so much for your thoughts!"

Courtney said "Wow…… Reading this makes me think about my dad. I can’t believe he has been been gone for 25 years. He suffered from Alzheimer’s, but I always knew that he knew who I was. He couldn’t always verbalized things, but there was a spark in his eye when I walked in to the room. I didn’t need to hear him say my name to know that I was special to him. There’s no comparison to a father-daughter relationship. There’s never an awkward moment. Daughters can always hug and kiss their dads. They can always sit on his lap, no matter how old they are. And dancing……..well, that’s a given…….forever. When mom said “no”, I could always try Dad. He never contradicted mom, but somehow his “no” didn’t sting as much. Best memory: I’d always ask him for money for the movies, and he never asked for the change…….. Cherish those memories, Diana. Sending hugs your way. xo"

Diana responded with "Courtney, thanks so much for writing. I thought of you often this past week, knowing you knew what my sisters and I were going through. I am positive that your Dad knew what an amazing daughter he had! Thank you for the hugs."

Christine said "I know the searing pain of losing a beloved parent. I lost two within two years. My wonderful father went first in 2004. He, too, had Parkinson’s. And sadly, life will never be the same without him. Their deaths left huge holes in my heart but I chose to honor their memory with the memories of their laughter, and our holidays and vacations together, and the blessed feeling to know that I was one of the fortunate ones to have such amazing parents."

Diana responded to Christine; "Thank you for sharing. He also was an amazing man and you are right–the good memories are what I will focus on. There are really, really good ones."

Joan said "Diana, We are so sorry for your loss. Iknow how important your father was to you and how difficult the last few years have been. Your tribute to him was beautiful and you are indeed a writer!

Love, Joan"

Diana responded "Joan, I have been wanting to call you all week and I didn’t know you knew about my Dad. I knew I would get emotional when we spoke. Thank you so much for your thoughts and love."

Nancy B. said "So sorry to hear of your father’s passing. This post is a lovely way to remember him. You are in my thoughts."

Diana responded to Nancy B. with "Nancy, Thank you for thinking of me. I needed to share my thoughts."

Karyn said "Just beautiful Diana, my heart and my love are with you! K"

Diana responded "Thank you so much for writing, Karyn. I feel the love."

nancy said "Diana,

That was a beautiful tribute to your dad. What wonderful memories you have that will be with you forever. He was a wonderful man. He always reminded me of Johnny Carson for some reason and everytime I see something about Johnny Carson I think of him. I’m so sorry for all your family’s loss. You are a great writer. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family."

Diana responded to nancy "Nancy, Thank you so much for writing and I love that you have memories of my Dad, too. Thanks so much for your thoughts and prayers."

Kyra Downing-Krepela said "Diana,

I am in a panic. My Dad died today. It is thanksgiving 2012, my moms 48th birthday, my first Thanksgiving away from home, and now the day my 49 year old father died. I’m 23 and have 3 younger siblings. My dad is remarried so 2 of them are with my step mom. We don’t know what to do. It was completely unexpected as he was out riding his mountain bike on a trail e rides every day. I need advice. I feel I need to represent some sort of strength but I need help from people who have been through things like this.

Thank you, Kyra"

Diana responded to Kyra Downing-Krepela with "Kyra, I am so sorry. I am sending you a private email in response to your message. Please watch your email. Diana"

and "Dear Kyra, I am concerned that you will not get my email so I am also answering your call for help in this post. First of all, I am so sorry that you have lost your father. I am sending you love and warm thoughts. I want to help you if I can. I am not a counselor but I know how hard it is to lose someone you love. My heart goes out to you and your entire family. Of course you want to be strong for the rest of your family but I think sometimes when we try to do the “strength thing’ when we are in pain, we push down our own grieving thoughts that need to come out. I think one thing that is important is to not deny feelings that you may be having and I am sure they will be varied and changing from day to day. It is a terrible shock and all of you need to pull together with love and encouragement for each other. Your Mom will be dealing with her pain as your step mother will be. The children, including you, need to be able to talk about their thoughts and feelings with someone. If you cannot with the Moms, you need to find someone else to talk to and say how you feel. You can encourage your siblings to talk about it with each other and with you. You cannot “fix” anything or change the reality, so just listening may be what you need to do. Remember it is okay to cry and talk about your dad. You need to make sure that you get sleep and that everyone eats. Basic self care is so important. It will make things worse if you don’t sleep and forget to eat, or eat unhealthy foods out of sorrow. The adage “one day at a time” is a really helpful one to use. Remind yourself that you can get through anything for one day, and that’s all you have to think about–taking it one day at a time. Sometimes it may come down to: one hour at a time. You can get through anything for one hour. I would like to teach you a stress-reducing technique that can help you with anxiety and panic and of course, stress. Do not underestimate the power of this–it sounds simple, yet it is the most powerful stress-reducing technique that I have in my toolbox. Take one hand on your stomach below your rib cage. When you breathe in, you want your tummy to rise slightly so that you know you are getting the oxygen all the way to your diaphragm. When you breathe out, you want your hand to go back down to make sure you empty out all the stale air. So…breathe in slowly and fully through your nose, and slowly and fully breathe out through your mouth. If you can, close your eyes and do again, slowly and fully. Do this 3 times. This will calm you and help you to focus on something else for a few seconds. You are getting oxygen to every cell in your body, including your brain which will help your thinking. All your muscles will get oxygen and this is good for your health and wellness. Anytime you feel anxiety, try to remember to do this. Nothing will ever be the same after this, but if you treat yourself with love, you will get stronger and you will get through this. There will be decisions coming up that you may have to help your mother with, and things may get tense and emotional. Remember to use the breathing and to show love and caring toward each other. Your Dad is with you in your heart. He will never leave there. I am so sorry that this happened during a holiday and on your Mom’s birthday. We just had the anniversary of my Dad’s death and we pulled together as a family. We knew he would like that. I hope some of my words help and again, I send you and your family love, Please write again and let me know how you are doing. Love, Diana"

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