Posts Tagged ‘Father’

All I Want for Christmas Is You

Christmas TreeThis is the first Christmas without my dad. I wish he was still alive to celebrate this holiday. Not gonna lie – this season feels extremely empty for me. I hear the happy holiday tunes incessantly on the radio, and I see the people carrying shopping bags on the bus, but my heart doesn’t feel the same this year. Christmas means nothing if people you love aren’t around.

Ever since stores took down their Hallowe’en merchandise and put up Christmas goods, I felt a strong sense of loss and hurt. Why was I robbed of happiness during a season that prides itself on being the “happiest time of the year”? My dad was taken too soon, and it’s not fair. (Life isn’t fair, and the sooner we realize this, the better, but I’m still sucking on a raw lemon.)

I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer. I’m just trying to be real. And I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels like they’re hit the hardest in December. You look everywhere and you see parents and their kids together. Every time I see a father with his daughter since my dad passed away in March, I’ve felt an undeniable rise of jealousy. It makes my chest feel tight.

Yes, I still have my mom. And I do have a brother. But the closeness I shared with my father trumps all. It’s not like losing a best friend or a boyfriend – you’ve lost ties to your roots. You’ve lost the chance to sit down with the person and reminisce the good times. You’ve lost the chance to ask for advice. You’ve lost a person who you know loves you unconditionally.

Since my dad passed away, not a single day has gone by that I haven’t thought of him. And I pray for him often because he deserves to be in Heaven. I remember the great times we spent together, his funny antics, and the way he always managed to encourage me. I remember his strength, his devotion to Catholicism, his ability to talk for hours, and how much he loved movies.

One of my co-workers who also lost her dad (but years ago) said, “It doesn’t get better, but it does get easier.”

Whenever I’m hanging out with my friends, I’ll often bring up my dad – not in the ‘I feel sorry for myself’ way. But, for instance, if someone’s talking about building their DVD collection, it just makes me think of my dad and how he was such a movie buff. I’ll start talking about my dad’s DVD collection, and how much my dad appreciated the cinematic arts. I think that by constantly bringing my dad up in casual conversation, it’s helping me preserve my memories of him. It also helps others know what a kind-hearted, loving, and great person he was.

Another weird thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes when I go to places where my dad and I went, I’ll find myself looking for him as if he’s still alive and as if he’ll just appear and say, “Hi, Mary! I missed you! I’m back!” Then I’d cry, we’d hug, and I’d be so relieved it was all a bad dream. But, of course, I never see him. And I just see strangers bustling through the mall like insects in an ant farm.

Also, I’ve had lots of wonderful dreams of my dad – new situations and not just rehashing old memories of him. I’ve even woken up with a smile on my face after many. But I haven’t had any new ones for maybe a couple of months. And in my last dream with him in it, he was telling me how he can’t stay around forever and that he has to move on to the next stage in the journey. He wanted me to be okay. And I told him that I couldn’t expect him to stick around here for me, and that I wanted him to be happy (as he deserves to be).

I miss my dad so much.

This Christmas is going to be the hardest for me and my family. I just hope it doesn’t completely suck.

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Death Is a New Day

Just a few months ago, I thought that dealing with my dad’s stroke recovery was the hardest thing I ever had to deal with. I was wrong. The death of my father trumps everything. Hands down.

I was closer to him than anyone in my entire life, so being stripped of the relationship, knowing that I couldn’t just call him up to talk, and realizing that I’d never see him in person again was overwhelming and devastating to say the least.

Even though it’s been nearly a month since his passing, I still haven’t gotten over it. And I never will to be honest.

But I’m trying to stay strong despite the fact that I feel as though my life has completely fallen apart. The future is full of more uncertainty than I ever thought was possible.

But this isn’t a complete sob story.

Despite the obvious emotional burden and tight time constraints, my mother, brother, and I persevered through hardship. We managed to plan a respectful funeral service and visitation that I truly believe would make my father proud. And he would be happy to see how hard we worked together as a family like never before to do the right thing.

You see, my father didn’t prepare his will before he passed away. It was tragic because he had been planning on making one and he was going to tell my mom everything she needed to know ‘just in case’ after he fully recovered from his stroke. My mom had even planned to retire this summer so they could spend more time together. Nobody thought that my dad wouldn’t be around.

When you don’t have a will, it makes it much harder when it comes to dealing with single bank accounts and other assets. My mother had to prove her relationship, and there were a lot of technicalities that created headaches. And along the way, we dealt with a lot of insensitive, idiotic assholes.

We had to do so much at a time when you just want to crawl under the covers, get drunk, and bawl your eyes out. And funeral costs are damn expensive even when you go for just the basics. It made me wonder what those who are really poor do when someone dies. I can’t even imagine. Luckily, while at first we couldn’t gain access to my dad’s single bank account, we could use his savings to pay for the funeral costs. That helped. And what also helped was that my dad had pre-paid for his cremation and chose the location in the cemetery.

Now, I’m not trying to hijack this blog and turn it into a blog about dealing with death. It will remain a feminist blog. But that also means sharing my experiences. Perhaps that will help others facing a similar situation. Writing about my dad and telling everyone how much I love(d) him helps me cope – it also helps me keep his memories alive. I never want to forget what an amazing relationship I had with him.

I’m going to share something really intimate with you all. It’s the eulogy I wrote for my father. First of all, there’s nothing I could ever write that would do him justice. He deserves so much more. Factor in how I had to write this in an hour and literally the day before the funeral visitation (because we were really that busy with preparations and running around to get everything done in time).

Obviously I wasn’t in the mood to write at all. Every time I put pen to paper, I thought, “I can’t do this.” But I kept picking up the pen I repeatedly put down. And the whole time, I was upset with how I only had such a short amount of time to write the single most important thing in my life. It wasn’t fair.

I also choked up a lot while reading it aloud at the funeral visitation. There were several times throughout the reading when I didn’t think I could continue. However, I didn’t want to bail out or give up. There are many things in life that you can back away from and be weak, but this wasn’t one of them. You get a single chance to do this, and you’ve got to do it right.

I forced myself to write and read the eulogy because I think he would’ve wanted me to do it, and it would’ve made him so happy. Plus, everyone deserves to know about him and how wonderful he was and how much he did for me and my family.

So here it is:

Anyone who knew my father well knew that he loved to talk – the cat never got his tongue and he usually had the last word. Just when you thought he was done talking, he’d jump to a new topic that would last another hour. I’d often have to cut him off because, like the Energizer Bunny, he could go on and on and on and on! And if he got on the topic of God or religion, well, you’d better get comfy.

I loved hearing the stories he shared about his childhood and his early working years when he was a waiter at various restaurants. And it made me laugh when he proudly told me about his appetite as a bachelor – milk by the carton and huge steaks.

But it was his stories of struggle and hardship that really touched my heart. At a very young age, my father had to make his way in the world practically by himself. He was in a new city with hardly any money in his pocket and with little to no parental guidance. Despite the obstacles, he not only coped, but thrived. He befriended many colourful characters, and, of course, met the most important woman in his life – my wonderful mother.

Although my dad loved to talk, he was a good listener, too. No matter how many times I came to him to complain about school or work or relationship problems, he would always be there to lend an ear and give useful advice.

In some ways, my father was your typical guy – he loved hockey games, poker, action movies, electronics, loud music, and vehicles. He even told me that while he could sleep soundly after watching a scary movie, a romantic movie would keep him up all night tossing and turning!

But in many ways, Peter Shaw wasn’t your ordinary garden variety. He wasn’t afraid to wear pink, once he let me put nail polish on his toenails, and he even let me give him a mud mask (which he enjoyed!). Yes, my dad had an impeccable sense of humour – he was always cracking jokes and seeing the light side of any situation.

My father was also very bright. When he was in rehab recovering from his second stroke, the therapist asked him to name all the animals he could think of as part of an exercise. Of course he mentioned lion, bear, and cat. But he also mentioned ocelot. The therapist didn’t know what an ocelot was prior to looking it up in the dictionary. (Even I didn’t.)

My dad may not have gone to university, but he was a lifelong student who enjoyed learning new things every day. And he taught me everything he knew about love and forgiveness, faith and strength, courage and perseverance.

But of all the lessons my father taught me, there’s one that stands out and that I feel is appropriate during a time like this. He always told me that when you’re at your lowest, you should be at your strongest.

Even during the last months of his life, my dad remained a fighter. Let us all celebrate his vibrant life, see him as an inspiration, and try to be strong in the face of this great loss.

R.I.P. Peter Shaw (1939-2010)

I still can’t believe my father passed away on March 2nd. Every morning, I wake up thinking that maybe it was all a terrible dream – it can’t be real. But it is real. It was so sudden, and came with little warning.

He had been recovering from a moderate stroke, but in the end, it wasn’t the stroke that did him in – he had an abdominal aneurysm. A blood vessel’s lining was thinning and burst. My father was internally bleeding to death. Thinking about my father suffering so much is unbearable for me. But at the same time, it shows you how strong he was.

The surgeon said that most people who have aneurysms like my dad don’t even make it to the hospital alive even if they call the ambulance immediately! But, of course, my dad was a fighter ’til the very end – he lasted about 8 hours. He’s so incredible, and even though he’s ‘gone’, he’s still teaching me new things.

New Things My Father Taught Me

Souls Really Do Exist

He was a really religious man who took great pride in being a Catholic. On many occasions he’d talk to me about faith and God. And I remember him telling me that the body is just on loan from God – it’s like a shell we borrow and we have to take good care of it because it’s not really ours.

I believed what my father said, but it was only when I saw my father’s body in the emergency-room operating table and then again at the funeral-home visitation that it really hit me. It’s hard to describe, but even though I was looking at my father, it wasn’t my father. Something was off.

I realized that my father was right when he said that the soul leaves the body when you pass away.

The body is nothing more than a shell. The soul is what gives a person that spark and personality. And then it made me think about how when we look at each other, it’s not actually the physical appearance we see. I mean, yeah, we notice a person’s build and hair colour, but when they’re gone, even those don’t look quite the same anymore.

When we look at one another, I now believe we see the soul. We just don’t realize it until the soul leaves.

Scientists and religious scholars may have struggled for centuries to prove that a soul exists. Naysayers can argue otherwise, but because of my experience, I will always know in my heart that souls really do exist. And it’s a comforting thought.

When Someone Dies, You Don’t Actually Lose Them

It’s become pretty common to say, “Sorry for your loss” to express your sincere condolences to the devastated family. I never gave it more thought until recently.

I realized that I didn’t actually lose my father. I found him. Where? I found him at the place where he’s always been – my heart. And there he will always be.

In an upcoming blog post, I’m going to share the eulogy I wrote (and read at the funeral-home visitation). It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write because nothing I said could ever do him justice. But I did it because he would’ve wanted me to. I’ll be sharing it because I’m proud to be Peter Shaw’s daughter and because everyone deserves to get a glimpse into this wonderful man I was blessed to call my father.

Later, I also want to share my experience when I saw my father’s urn placed in the niche at the cemetery and also all the headache regarding the myriad of legal matters you confront when a person passes away.

Please continue to say prayers for my father and my family. We need help to be strong.

I Love You, Daddy.

My father passed away on Tuesday March 2, 2010 at 12:16 am.

(He was recovering from his stroke, as you’ll remember me telling you in this post and in the bottom part of this post.)

I’ve been worn really thin planning the funeral and visitation with my mom and brother. I was extremely close to my dad, so although I’m trying to remain strong, it’s a huge cross for me to bear.

Since Tuesday, we’ve had to go through a lot and are really busy. I had some blog posts time-stamped to go live in the next few days, but decided to put them on standby for now. Just want you all to know that I’ll resume blogging again as soon as I can because after this sudden tragedy, I have lots to share.

I ask that you please say a prayer for my father and my family (whether or not you’re religious). It would mean so much to us. Thank you.

Reality’s Bark Is Just as Bad as Its Bite! There Are No Earplugs

After being dull,  ugly, and dormant for almost a year after its final blossom bit the dust, my orchid has sprouted about 8 new buds on the stem. Funny how just a few months ago I considered throwing it out because it was becoming an eyesore in my apartment. But I didn’t…and I kept watering it regularly and making sure it got enough sun.

My dad had a stroke on Tuesday December 8th.

He’s 70 – he’ll be 71 in January. He doesn’t walk with a cane, he loves to drive, he’s a hockey fan, and he always ‘gets carded’ at Shopper’s Drug Mart because he doesn’t look like a senior. Even nurses at the hospital said he was ‘very good-looking’ and that ‘he doesn’t look older than 59’. One nurse asked me if he was a doctor because ‘he looked like one’.

My dad’s not your regular garden variety. And nobody in my family has the same spunk or sense of humour that he does. I admire him for his ability to persevere through hardship – he had a hard life growing up yet somehow made it on the right side of the tracks.

And there I was in the emergency room looking over at the man who always loved talking a mile a minute and cracking jokes like they were going to become illegal. I’ll never forget it. He looked dead. His eyes were fixated in one place, glazed over and looking to the top far right. He couldn’t move his left arm or hand at all, and his speech was slurred so much that you could barely understand him.

I found out he had a stroke when I was at work. My mom called. (She always told me that she wouldn’t disturb  me at work unless it was an emergency, but strangely enough, when she called, I didn’t think it was weird. I thought she was going to ask me about something trivial like my holiday office hours or a forgotten password.)

When she told me, I think part of my mind went blank. I felt as though I was in some sort of sick ‘dream’ and that I would wake up and say, “Oh, thank God it was only a dream!”. But it was real.

My hands and body were literally shaking as I told HR that I had to leave work and go to the hospital. The last time I shook uncontrollably like this was when I was in elementary school and this douche bag tried to break into my home when I was home alone. (I scared the fucking bastard off by yelling, “What do you think you’re doing?” out the window, by the way. Sometimes even criminals have a conscience…or fear of getting caught.)

I’ve never seen my dad like I did on December the 8th. And I’ve seen him through a lot. In 1993, he had a successful quadriple bypass surgery. Years later, he had a very minor stroke that we didn’t even know was a stroke until we saw 2 neurologists. (One was an asshole, but the other was really helpful…and interestingly enough, this good neurologist was at the hospital when my dad had his 2nd stroke and he remembered my dad!)

Maybe I’m clairvoyant because I booked off my vacation from work from the 10th to the 16th in advance. It’s almost like I knew that something would happen. Weird how things work sometimes, right?

During that time, I met with tons of doctors – pharmacists, general physicians, psychiatrists, physical therapists, etc. They all said the same thing – he may never regain all the functionality he lost.

Load.

Of.

Fucking.

Crap.

I was at the hospital every single damn day. I was there for practically all the time that visitors were allowed to stay. And I was fucking exhausted. Every day, I’d wake up, open my eyes and think, “How’s my dad?” and “What time can I get to the hospital?”. My every waking moment was about hospital-related events. And I even had some ‘dreams’ about visiting my dad at the hospital. No wonder I was so fucking tired.

But each day, there was a ray of hope. My dad is a trooper like no other. And thank fucking God! (I really need him! I’m closer to him than anyone else in my family.) Each day he had some significant improvement. One day I noticed that his eyes were moving more and finally he was able to look around normally. Another day, he regained his use of his fingers and left hand.

His speech didn’t improve.

Oh yeah, and did I mention that when he had the stroke, he was at TD Bank? I will forever sing their praises because they called 911 fast. My dad was at the mall and decided to line up at TD Bank. He almost went to get coffee at McDonald’s. Can you imagine how slow their employees would be to call for an ambulance? Also,  my dad told me that he had left his cell phone in the SUV. He normally would go back to get it, but that day, he didn’t. I’ve thanked God that he didn’t because if he had the stroke in the parking lot, chances are that nobody would’ve noticed and called 911.

Sometimes banks aren’t all evil.

When I arrived at the hospital, guess what? Lots of my dad’s stuff was missing – wallet, down jacket, car keys, and shoes! We thought someone stole them because the idiot hospital workers couldn’t find it. I felt dizzy just thinking about it. My brother said that we should get a locksmith to change the locks at my parents’ place. And we had to find the spare car key so we could drive it back home so it wouldn’t be towed at the mall’s parking lot. As if we didn’t have enough things to fucking working about!

After a lot of stress, the hospital workers finally found the missing belongings. And thank God! When you’re going through something as awful as this, the last thing you need to worry about is your security!

Since then my dad’s been transferred to another hospital. Then on Friday, he was moved to a rehab centre where he has to live for 2-3 weeks. We’ve asked the doctors and he can have a pass so he’ll be able to come home for Christmas. But then he’ll have to go back to the rehab centre. That sucks, but at least he’ll be out for a little while.

As selfish as it sounds, I feel like I’ve been robbed of my Christmas. It’s about spending time with family and having happy memories. I hate hospitals.

But some good has come from it all. I’ve learned the strength of my brother and mother. I’ve also seen a new side of my boss that I haven’t seen in 4 fucking years  – he actually HUGGED me and acted genuinely concerned! I’ve also witnessed the power of the human spirit and how even a person suffering from a stroke can bounce back and make the best of it.

Through all the positive, though, I can’t help but cry and wish it weren’t so. I miss my dad the way he was before. I miss not having to worry so much. I’ve forgotten what it’s like not to cry and have swollen eyelids. Life sometimes sucks. But we get through it. Supposedly we become stronger people because of hardships, but I think I’m still a softie.

Please keep my dad in your prayers. And please pray for me, too, because I’m not as strong as I would like to be and need to be. There are some tough times still to come, and I could use every ounce of help. I ain’t too proud to beg!

I want to be like my orchid.

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