Dad, you will be missed
I recently returned from my father’s funeral, and while I can’t escape the sense of personal loss, I am comforted by the fact his death occurred just in the manner he wanted — without a prolonged illness or spending time in a nursing home.
During a week-long visit last month, I met with his doctors, the nurse monitoring his congestive heart failure and the social worker in the senior apartment complex where he had moved less than two years ago.
The recommendation was that he move into assisted living to get a bit of extra help. It was an idea the independent and strong-willed Montana rancher immediately rejected.
“I’ve experienced institutional care. I don’t want to be somewhere where they charge an exorbitant price, get you up at 7 a.m., parade you to breakfast and then make you follow their schedule the rest of the day,” he said.
“It would help you be a bit safer and might prevent an event that sends you to a nursing home, which you have always said you never wanted to happen,” I countered.
“You could put me in a padded cell, and I’d be safe, but that’s not the quality of life I want,” he responded, recalling his prolonged stay in rehab after a long bout with MRSA.
That was good enough for me. He had lived his life the way he wanted, and far be it from me to argue with his choices then.
He philosophically talked about his health, something he had paid careful attention to for years by following a strict exercise regimen and eating healthy food.
“I’m never in pain,” he said. “I just get short of breath. I think the end will come sort of like a wind-up clock that just quits ticking.”
Piecing together his final days, I believe that’s the way it went.
The funeral held at the old White Bird school house, which was on family land donated to the school district decades ago, was a huge one. I was surprised at the number of people who mentioned they had just spoken to my father in the last week or two. All said what a nice visit they had and how upbeat he sounded.
I’m now convinced he knew the end was near, though neither of us likely knew our conversation the night before his death would be our last. I will not only treasure our lifetime of memories, but the special week together last month.
My dad was a gifted story-teller, a brilliant, self-educated man and a person who never lost interest in the world around him, even as his health was fading.
We found a journal he had been keeping on and off since 1991. In it we found the very stories we had heard through the years, along with others that were brand new.
It is a rich history that we quoted from during his memorial service and one many asked to have copied as the stories told there involved families within the rural community.
All who knew him concluded he would certainly have loved to be in the midst of those gathered at the old school house Saturday. It would have been a chance to tell one last story, have yet another laugh, or perhaps even to share his wisdom on how a certain political or economic problem could be easily solved. To paraphrase humorist Garrison Keillor: He would have loved this — to have all his friends gathered around, dressed in their finest and telling stories about him. He only missed it by a couple of days.
Your memory will live on in our hearts and through your writings, Dad. We miss you already.