On December 7, 2018, my family’s lives changed forever. I received a phone call late that morning from my sister, who relayed my father was being sent to the hospital, unresponsive. A few hours later, I learned he had a massive heart attack. The doctor relayed he had a “DNR” and they were reluctant to intubate him, per his wishes. I got off the phone with the doctor and my heart broke into a million pieces. My husband had walked through the door as I answered the doctor’s call and after seeing the look of fear flash across my face, he grabbed a change of clothing for us and got back into the car, ready to embark on what could be the longest car-ride of our lives.
Traveling from Long Island to Albany, NY on a Friday afternoon could take HOURS. In my mind, that ride was an eternity, but thanks to my husband’s desire to be by my father’s side and Waze, we made it there to hear of his fate. The doctor relayed what our options were, and once again, my heart broke. My father had suffered a major heart attack and they didn’t know how extensive the damage was. He had been suffering from dementia and lost quite a lot of weight and truly hadn’t been himself over the past few months. Myself, along with my younger sister and younger brother, decided to let him leave this world and do so with each of us by his side.
We were whisked to a private room where we held his hand, played his favorite Irish tunes, and told him how much we loved him. As we were reiterating our love of our father, my husband brought our mother, who is suffering from Multiple Sclerosis and was in rehabilitation following a seizure in late October, into the room to bid her true love adieu. When he took his last breath, he was surrounded by five of the most important people in his life. He had been there for each of his three kids’ first breaths and his three children were there for his last.
The past month and change truly has been the hardest time in my life. My father and I had a very special relationship, as do most fathers and their daughters. My dad was always the first person I called when I got a good report card in school, a promotion at work or accomplished some athletic feat. He never boasted how proud he was, but would just say that I set a bar for myself and I then had to strive for a little more….and that I always did. It was funny he never told me how great he thought I was, but everyone in my small hometown knew how proud he was of his kids and grandkids. I found that out through one-off messages family and friends would send after they saw my father.
Saying goodbye to my father has been difficult and I’ve been torn about the “right way” to grieve in front of my children. My mother grew up showcasing emotion. Perhaps her MS made it difficult to remain stoic during tough times or perhaps she’s just an emotional person. None-the-less, I have CRIED in front of my kids and I will continue to do so because it is natural. I’m the mom of two little boys, and while they’re both too young to understand why mommy is crying, my oldest, at two, comforts me when I’m in pain by saying, “Love you mommy.” We decided to bring the boys to the wake and funeral services and shared with the oldest that he needs to be quiet because his “Gobby” was sleeping. He respected our wishes by sleeping the entire time he was there himself, but somehow our two year old little boy knew something was different.
Today, nearly 36 days after saying goodbye to my dad forever, one of my greatest fears and something that brings me much sadness is the thought that neither of my children will remember my father. To those he met where I grew up, he was a legend. So many stories of how he helped many a friend get through a rough time were told at his wake and funeral, but to two of my VIPs, I fear they won’t grow up knowing how wonderful he is. I know it’s up to me to share the photos and videos I have of them together and continue to remind them both their Gobby is their angel, but the fact they’ll never get to play or laugh with him again is not lost on me.
As a mom going through the grieving process with two young ones, I’m lucky I don’t have to be strong for them to comfort them as they grieve but am lucky I am strong enough to tackle grieving as a mom. It has not been easy, it will never be easy, but as each day passes, I come to terms with my new life, one without my dad. Not a day goes by that I don’t cry but not a day goes by that I’m not thankful for having had my dad with me as long as I did. He left the earth way too early, but he left an impression on many that will keep him alive forever.
I suppose each life event is an opportunity to learn. When I got married, everyone had their opinion on when and where we should marry, when we had children, we heard unsolicited advice on how we should raise our children, and now, as I grieve, I don’t want to force my opinion on anyone, instead I want to share what has worked for me.
- If I start crying, or sobbing, I tell my boys why I’m sad and reiterate that it’s okay to be sad from time to time.
- To help myself grieve, I talk about my father and share was so special to me.
- I look at pictures with my boys and share when and where they were taken
- When my dad passed, there was a crescent moon; I have told my boys that each time they look in the sky and see that moon, their Gobby is smiling at them
- I talk to my dad and ask him to give me a sign that he’s still here; I see little things from time to time that comfort me in this time of pain
- I let my children know they can take comfort in knowing someone is always looking after them
- Many of my friends have not lost a parent and I’ve found myself closed off from talking with them. I find comfort in crying to myself and sharing my grief when I’m ready
I am not a medical professional, I’m just sharing my personal journey of grieving with boys and loved ones. It’s been difficult, but I am blessed to have loved someone as much as I loved my dad to feel this pain.