I created this blog mainly for just blogging about my chronic illness but I occasionally will blog about the death of my dad. This past week on Wednesday, November 8 marked the anniversary of when Dad passed away. I still am trying to process how it has been 4 years. In some ways it seems like it all happened yesterday, but in other ways it seems like it has been so long since I have heard his voice, or laughed at his joke, or so much more. I had all these preconceived notions of what I would feel like and what the journey of grief would be like right after he died. I can tell you I was 100% wrong- no doubt about it. You often hear of people saying it gets easier with time, the truth is it doesn’t get any easier, you just learn how to keep going. You learn to live your new normal without them. Grief doesn’t just disappear and only come back on certain days. Many people compare grief to the ocean waves it’s constantly there but sometimes its waves are big. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about my Dad. That doesn’t mean I cry every single day. Sometimes it’s something like I still can’t believe he is gone, or Dad would have loved this game, or I could really use some of his advice, it’s little things like that. I remember the 1st year without Dad things were so hard, for instance, we would go out to eat and we would say there are four of us then we would have to correct ourselves and say only 3; or when we were setting the table we kept grabbing four plates instead of three because for so long we were a family of four, then without any warning you suddenly become a family of three. I honestly don’t know how people deal with grief without having a faith and a strong family support, church, and a great community. Those things don’t make grief go away but having support makes it a little bit easier to deal with.
*Just a warning I am going to share some details of that day. I remember the day Friday November 8, 2013 all too well. I often wish I could just forget the events of that day and that week leading up to that day. I will say God was definitely at work that week. I remember finals were coming up for college at the time I was a commuter student at IUSB. That week we had to schedule our classes for spring semester. I really didn’t want to sign up because I was really unsure if I wanted to go back but I went ahead and scheduled anyways. That whole week I was really struggling with if I wanted to go back to college or not but I kept praying and figured God would show me a sign or something and I would get my answer. That summer we went to Phoenix, AZ for the Mennonite youth church convention. We learned the song “Oceans” by Hillsong ( I attached the link to this song at the bottom) that week and sang it several times at worship. I remember that it quickly became a favorite song of mine. I remember being so bummed out because after convention I hardly heard that song as it was barely on the radio… until that week. I am not kidding- on my way to college and on the way back home -every day it came on. I remember thinking this is weird, maybe I am not supposed to go back for spring semester, maybe this is my sign. I didn’t really say anything to my mom and dad about the decision I needed to make because Dad wasn’t feeling good and I didn’t want to put any added stress on them. I didn’t have any classes on Friday (which was nice) so that Friday I was planning on going into school with Mom to volunteer in the classroom but Mom and Dad told me maybe not this week why don’t you just stay home and rest. That is where God was at work. I was supposed to be home on Friday but had no idea why. I remember I was a little frustrated that I couldn’t go to school with Mom. I remember waking up in the morning early and I had a really weird feeling and watched a little bit of TV then fell back asleep. I had no idea that when I woke up that morning my life was about to turn upside down and be forever changed. When I woke up it was a little after 10:30 (I was catching up on sleep) and the house was really dark which was really weird and unusual because Dad told me that evening that he would be home Friday morning. He would rake leaves and then we would go in to turn in his Holter monitor (he was wearing that because they were testing him to make sure his heart was ok) and grab lunch. So when the house was dark I knew something was off. I walked around a little bit and couldn’t find Dad but his vehicle was in the garage so I knew he was home. I looked out the window and noticed my dog was pacing and her tail was like straight up, my heart instantly sunk because I knew something was wrong. Then I saw him laying down. I thought at first maybe he was just resting because he wasn’t feeling good but then I saw which way he was laying down. I ran outside. When I got to him I knew there was nobody outside so I just started screaming HELP! I realized I needed to call 911. I was such a mess they couldn’t even understand me, thankfully one of our neighbors was getting fences installed that day and the workers heard me screaming and came over. I handed the phone to him because he was calm and the dispatcher got the information they needed. I remember begging God to bring him back because I knew he was gone so at that point I was hoping for a miracle of some sort. I remember more of my neighbors showing up which helped me to see familiar faces.Some of them started performing CPR right away on Dad. They all called different people and called my pastors. I remember I called Mom because I knew if someone else called she would know right away. I had her get someone else at work and told them Dad was unconscious because we didn’t get the official word yet and I just said it,s not good and told them to meet us at the hospital. I have no idea how I did that and had the thought process to do that. God was definitely with me. I remember my heart hurt so bad and I was so distraught I had to sit several times. The EMTs and officers arrived and started working on him. I was waiting with the county chaplain until my pastors arrived. When the EMTs started coming out of the ambulance I knew what I thought was true was indeed true and that my Dad was gone. I remember running out of the vehicle (no worries it was parked) to my neighbors and we all just cried and hugged. They told me they would take care of calling some friends and family and then my pastors came and we went off to the hospital to be with mom and the rest of our family. Mom had called again during that time they were working on Dad and I knew he was gone, but I couldn’t tell her. That was so hard because I didn’t want her to keep hoping but I also couldn’t tell her something like that over the phone. So we quickly drove over to the hospital. I remember I was so numb and didn’t even know what to think – I was in complete shock. When we got to the hospital we had just walked in after one of the workers told Mom what happened my heart broke. I felt horrible I didn’t want to tell anyone that Dad died because I didn’t want to put that sadness on anyone. Then our family met us there and we just grieved. We came back home in the afternoon and just processed with friends and family. It was the worst day of my life and will always be the worst day of my life. That whole first year everything was just a complete blur and fog. You felt like your world stopped yet the world kept going on. I remember leaning on friends, family, and God heavily. I am forever grateful for the 18 years I had with Dad. We were so close and I am so thankful for that. We watched so many Iowa football and basketball games. We golfed and showed cows, we joked around, we did so much together. I remember people telling us shortly after he died to just wait for signs. I have heard of people getting signs from loved ones after they died but I wasn’t too sure we would get any. The first time we went to his grave we found our first sign. We saw this leaf almost like tucked in. We picked it up and it was a perfectly heart shaped leaf with no stems or anything. The one picture below is the leaf I am talking about right now. We ended up getting it framed because we didn’t know we would be getting more. We have now found several heart shape leaves just when we need it. The funny thing is there are no other trees around or any leaves that color or shape around so that’s when we started knowing those were the signs we would get from Dad. We find them in different cities and states too. We went out to Brattleboro, VT when we took our big trip out East and went to The Holstein Association. Somewhere Dad always wanted to take Ellie and I. When we left in the parking lot we found another heart shape leaf.
This anniversary date was difficult for me. The past 3 years I was a mess and normally cried a lot. This year I was numb. I missed him like crazy it was just like I couldn’t cry. I think that’s ok and normal. Everyone grieves differently. I have thought about him a lot this year. I know he would have been so helpful to have him here taking me to all these appointments and helping me get around. He would have also been a good support for Mom too while I go through all these health struggles. After Dad died my health just didn’t quite ever bounce back. One of the triggers for Fibromyalgia can be Traumatic events. His death weighed a lot on me -at first I felt guilty like if I would have woken up earlier I could have gone out and stopped him; but because he was wearing the Holter monitor they had a lot of information. They told us that nothing abnormal had showed except for the last 5 minutes when the “event” happened. So he would have turned it in and the doctors would have thought his heart was okay but it wasn’t. So because we had that information it helped me to not feel guilty because there wasn’t anything that could have stopped it or saved him. Just a little background for those that don’t know, the autopsy revealed that he had a rare cardiomyopathy; ARVC (Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy). So I have worked through not feeling guilty but the grief and missing my Dad will always be present. It is so hard to fully be happy because you can’t celebrate it with Dad. I wish I could get rid of the images in my head I have of that day and I wish I could forget the events of that day but I can remember everything so clearly that at times it kind of freaks me out. I ended up not going back to college and I am so thankful for God’s nudging 🙂 because with all of my health issues now there is no way that I could have finished college and kept a full time job. It is amazing to me how everything works out. I helped out in Mom’s classroom for a little bit and then I got a job at a daycare and I worked with infants all day. That was honestly the best kind of job for me during that time. I got to work with kids and hold babies all day that was just the kind of medicine I needed. Then a couple years later I got a job at an elementary school and was so happy because I was ready to work with a little bit older kids. It is the perfect job for me. I remember I was so happy when I got hired both times but I was also a little bit sad because I couldn’t celebrate it with Dad.
Another thing that happens with death is sometimes you can become really angry with God. I wasn’t angry with God but I was confused. I remember at Dad’s funeral our pastor had said something along the lines of I don’t believe God woke up that morning and was thinking okay I am going to bring Randy home today; instead God knew the events that were going to take place that day and welcomed him when he got to heaven and God was with us also as we were grieving. That helped so much. I never really became angry at God, instead just the opposite happened my faith grew stronger. I don’t get angry with God about all of my illness either because I don’t believe that he would just give me all these illnesses but instead he is there to support, guide, and listen. In fact one of my favorite bible verses God says he doesn’t want to hurt us. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and NOT TO HARM YOU, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11. That verse has been so helpful during these difficult times. So today be thankful for your loved ones because in one minute everything could change.
This verse has been another one of my favorites and why my blog web address has 4110 (Isaiah 41:10). During the events of that horrible day I kept repeating this verse in my head that day and has since had so much more meaning to me and gets me through many tough things for me.
” So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10