A Tribute and a Funeral

On Tuesday, I took a couple of hours to write a tribute for my dad:

November 30, 2018 is a date that I will never forget. I have spent the past few days trying to collect myself and find the right words to express my love for an amazing person.

That morning I received a phone call from my mom, which was odd since it was about 7:30am on a workday, I was working so could not answer the phone, and quite honestly I assumed it was a butt dial. Dad would butt dial me often, and when I would call him back he would sheepishly admit it was an accident. We would laugh then he would wish me a good day and we would exchange “I love you.”

This call was not a butt dial. A voicemail notification appeared on my phone – to this day that notification is still on my phone. I have not brought myself to listen to the message. Mom also sent me a text message. I did not open the text, but I saw a few words as it scrolled across the top part of the screen: “Dad” “accident” and “bad.”

I called my mom. She answered the phone; her voice cracked “Dad didn’t make it.” I was floored. Shock knocked me to my knees. I shouted “What?!?” into the phone. It took me a couple of minutes to realize what was really happening. When it hit me, I sobbed.

Once I started crying, I really didn’t stop.

Actually, I still cry.

I want to thank everyone that has messaged me and offered kind words. I want to thank the ones that have allowed me to cry with them and on their shoulder. I want to tell those that really do not know what to say or do, it is okay. We are still friends. Honestly, I don’t really know what to say or do either. So, if you have felt uncomfortable and avoided me, it is okay. I do not think any less of you and there are definitely no hard feelings.

It still seems surreal. I know right now I’m running on exhaustion and grief. I know tomorrow, his funeral, will be the hardest day of my life. I know it is going to be a gorgeous ceremony. I know he is going to be so pleased with everything – all the family and friends, music, decorations, and most of all the fact that there will be a bagpipe player there. One request my dad always made for his funeral was to have Amazing Grace played on the bagpipes.

For those that never got to meet my dad, he was an amazing person. He had a big smile that would brighten your day. He had bright eyes, and when he wore blue his eyes would shine even brighter. He was shy at first, but once you got to know him he was goofy and a tad of a chatterbox. He loved to laugh. He was easily embarrassed. During family gatherings, we would share stories – “Pepsi feet,” “the corn story,” “damn peanut,” and “steak” – (just to recall a few) where dad was the focus of the story, he would laugh and blush.

He was the hardest working person I’ve ever met. He had problems with his back, but he would still go to work and mow and weed eat around the school and would never once complain. He would brag about his fun toys at work. He loved being outside. He absolutely loved his job and his coworkers. He was a volunteer firefighter. My dad was the type that he would help anyway he could. He loved getting to help others.
He loved his family. He started his family young. He was 21 years old when I was born. When he became a Pappy he was so proud and excited. When I was pregnant, he was so worried he would not be able pronounce my daughter’s name – I remember him telling me he would just call her by her middle name. Once she was born, he was able to say her first name with ease. She loved Pappy.

She regrets deleting his text messages before his passing, which I do too. She regrets not making deviled eggs for Pappy for Thanksgiving this year, which we would only make them for Christmas, but Pappy loved her deviled eggs.

Pappy loved food and loved to cook. Growing up, I remember he would try new recipes – several times he would just throw whatever together, most of the time it turned out really good. However, there were times when he didn’t feel like cooking. One summer, he fixed corn dogs for us most of the summer. The “summer of corn dogs” was another story shared quite often.

My dad loved music. Even though his hearing was getting worse, he would just turn up the music. He would gladly listen to new songs and bands. He would close his eyes and tap his foot and really get lost in the song. Growing up we had a chicken house. We would have music blaring while we gathered eggs. Back then the bands were mainly rock bands. Dad would sing and dance. He told me once that if it didn’t make your eardrums bleed, then it wasn’t good music. Of course, over the years his taste in music did mellow out. I took his words to heart. I am still a fan of metal and rock music because of him. I still listen to the 80’s hair bands because of him, too.

Dad loved movies and TV. We might have traumatized my youngest brother once while watching a marathon of Tales from the Crypt. My brother started doing the Crypt keeper’s laugh. We would joke about that often. We would watch Jeopardy. My dad was so smart. He loved knowledge. He would provide random facts and information. He loved learning about myths and history.

He hated confrontation. However, if you needed him, he had your back. He was so accepting. He would not judge. He never had a mean thing to say about anyone. He wanted what was best for his family. He wanted us to be happy.

At my wedding, he was completely supportive. He stood there holding onto my arm waiting to give me away. He being there kept me from running away. Even though my marriage ended in divorce, I got my daughter because of it. So, for that I am glad my dad kept me there.

My dad had a black belt in Taekwondo. I made it to green belt, but quit because I got stuck with the nickname “powder puff” from the instructor. My dad was awesome with the martial arts. Because of him, I would do Taekwondo routines for talent competitions at pageants. We spent so much time coming up with a routine to “Saint Elmo’s Fire.” I remember preforming the routine at the pageant and spacing out. I went through the entire routine and the ending included a flying side kick with a yell. That yell brought me back into the moment. I told dad and he said that was how it was supposed to be.

He always was supportive. He helped haul my horses to shows. Even the time I accidentally rolled a horse onto the front of his truck, he still supported me. He would ride with us. My last horse, Dandy, my dad hated that horse, but he would still help me catch him. I remember dad getting on the tractor one time just to help me corner that crazy yellow horse in a corner of the pen. Dad even made half the backyard into a smaller pen just for Dandy so I would not spend hours chasing that rotten palomino through the pen for each show, playdate, and rodeo. Dad loved animals. Growing up, we always had a house cat. Dad would make those cats so mean. They would hid and attack you as you walked through the house. He would always pet our dogs and cats.

I got an open memorial tattoo for my dad several years ago – I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be completing that tattoo this soon. I showed him my tattoo and he was so happy. He loved it. He had to touch it, and he commented on how well done it was – smooth and no blow outs. Now, I am so glad I got that tattoo when I did. Even though it is going to be so hard finishing it, I am so happy Dad got to see his tattoo. And I will always have him right there on my arm, and by my side.

My dad was a rock. He was so strong and supportive. I only remember seeing him show a moment of weakness twice. Once, when his mother lost her battle to cancer, and the second was when the chicken house burned down. Other than those two moments, my dad always loved life. He would want all of us to do the same. I know tomorrow there are going to be tears when we all say our final goodbyes, but I know he understands.

I am heartbroken that I do not have a single picture of my dad from 2018. This year has been weird. We always take a family photo on Mother’s Day. This year, I ended up being at the ER on Mother’s Day so when I got to their house I did not want to do anything but sit there – I regret it, I know. I know he would have been to every event, game, and activity that my daughter had if we did not live so far away, but his back prevented him from making the trip and sitting on the bleachers. I understood. Thanksgiving this year was rough. The visit wasn’t the visit it should have been. Once again, no family pictures were taken. Honestly, no hugs, “I love you”’s, or goodbyes were exchanged because of situations from that day. My daughter and I regret that so much. I never imagined that would be the last time I would see my dad, or she would see her Pappy. For that, I really hope can forgive us both. Which, I know he does. My dad was so understanding, forgiving, and compassionate. He probably would make some joke or sheepish comment to make us laugh and to show he forgives us. My daughter also cried because she was so sad that she never gave him a hug goodbye. I had to tell her the story about my grandmother – my dad’s mom – who passed when I was seven. I couldn’t bring myself to give her a hug the last time I seen her. I did not want her to see me cry, and so she passed without me getting to tell her “I love you” and giving her a hug. So, I told my daughter that is how this family rolls. We don’t want sappy goodbyes. We want to celebrate life and joke around with each other.

Because of my dad’s character, I know he would not want us to be angry about the accident. It is hard not to have hate for the man that hit dad’s car. It is hard not to have hate that we lost the most amazing man there ever was. But, I know dad would not want that. He would want us to enjoy life and to remember the good. One thing I have learned from my divorce is, hate doesn’t change anything. You can be angry, but it isn’t going to change anything. Hate isn’t going to make me less divorced, and hate isn’t going to bring my dad back. Hate will just consume you. Hate will hide the sorrow and grief, but will not get rid of it. Hate will make you lash out. Hate will make you become someone you do not recognize. My dad would never want any of us to be like that.

I miss my dad. I find myself thinking about everything he is going to miss – my daughter turning 13 this month, if and when I get married again, every game and band concert, everything. I know holidays are never going to be the same. This year is going to be so hard. We already have our tree up and gifts under it. We bought my parents a gift several months ago. It is already wrapped and under the tree. I find myself looking at it and not knowing if we should rewrap it or leave it. I also find myself realizing it is an amazing gift, even though when I bought it I did not realize it, but it is going to bring comfort.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my dad.

To my dad, I want to say: I love you. I have always had so much love and respect for you; even though there were times that I seemed distant. You made a big impact on me and my daughter. I will always treasure our chats and stories. I will miss you and I know a piece of my heart is shattered and missing without you here, but I am strong.
Love you forever, Sis.

****

I went back and forth about inviting ex to the funeral. I did invite him. He came.

Yesterday was my dad’s funeral. I did really well at the beginning of the day. I made the drive still feeling okay.

I walked into the funeral home and I seen the slideshow playing and I lost it. I had to be alone and cry. I gathered myself and emerged back where the family was sitting before the service. As soon as I seen people I started crying again.

Walking into the funeral was so hard. I did not go to the visitation. For the family, the visitation was open casket. I did not want to see my father like that. I did not want that to be the last image I had of him. So, seeing his casket at the front of the room and his favorite hat laying on top with this big display of red roses, I sobbed again. All of us cried. There was a big turn out. My dad was so well liked. There was about 150 people there. Granted when we had to walk out, I didn’t look at any of them. I kept my eyes down.

When we went to the cemetery, there was a bagpipe player. I took pictures. I did really good at the cemetery until the bagpipe player played Amazing Grace. Then I collected myself again. Then the firefighters did a “final call” for my dad. – If you are not familiar with this, what happens is: They radio for the person. Then silence. They radio again. Then silence. The third time they radio they call the person by name. – At the moment of silence I half expected to hear my dad’s voice. I expected this to be a sick joke. I expected to wake up from this nightmare. No, just silence. – Then they did a “10-7,” which is a “out of service at” code.

People walked by and hugged us. My ex came to the funeral. He walked up to me and gave me a hug. I bear hugged him and I could not stop crying. I buried my face into ex’s coat and cried. It felt like forever. I know it really was only a minute or two. I felt him try to pull away. It did make me giggle.

After most of the crowd was gone, ex and his mom came up to me and my daughter. Ex took a picture of my daughter and myself next to my dad’s casket. Then his mom started asking me questions: how bad was your dad cut up? did your mom get to talk to him.

I had to give ex the look: “you better get her away from me.” He took the hint. He gave me another hug and they left.

I tried finding a support group locally. Haven’t found a group. All of them stopped meeting for December and the holidays. So, I found a group online. I think I found an awesome group. I was greeted with open arms. I posted my story and introduction and I read through each of their comments. I felt better.

My daughter asked if talking about dad was the best thing to do. She asked if talking about him would not make me more sad. No, talking about him makes me so happy. He was a wonderful man, I want to tell everyone about him. Yes, I cry thinking about him. But I want to talk about him.

I have two people that I plan on contacting when I start to feel like talking on the phone. Both of them have known me forever – we all went to school together – but we haven’t talked in many years. But both of them have lost both of their parents. So, I want to talk to someone that understands.

There is a third person that I plan on contacting. Anyone that has read all of my posts will remember this guy. I have a major crush on him. I have had a crush on him since high school. He wants to do friends with benefits but we live five hours apart. But, he was in the military. I have talked to him on the phone and he was cried. So, I know I can let myself cry and talk to him without making him feel awkward.

Lots of people don’t know what to say or do around me. They say “I’m sorry” and walk away. I completely get that. But, I need someone I can cry around. I need someone that will listen to me.

***

I finally listened to the voicemail from my mom. That notification has been on my phone since Friday morning. I finally brought myself to listen to it. She was telling me that my dad was gone.

I am glad I did not listen to that voicemail on Friday. I could not imagine finding out that I lost my dad from a voicemail.

It took so long from me to bring myself to listen to that message because I knew what the message was going to be, but I did not know how much information it would provide.