In Appreciation

The last two weeks since my dad has passed has been a whirlwind of activity, of planning and discussing an assortment of details of which I knew nothing about and was completely unprepared for. My emotions have been on a roller coaster ride that everyone tells me is normal.

The tasks of planning my father’s funeral, reception, his burial, and cleaning out his apartment have kept me moving and focused. I’ve had lapses where I forgot where I was or just crumbled into tears, either triggered by a memory or by nothing at all. This is my first experience looking death straight in the face and feeling the loss of a loved one so close.

I now know what loss feels like. I have things I’d like to share; to remember my dad and my thoughts about death. Before, I had been in denial of it. I’m sure I’ll have some tough days ahead, but I’m not afraid of death anymore. I almost feel it’s something we all should discuss although I totally get it if you don’t want to. I feel I have some wisdom to pass on. For those who have experienced loss, perhaps you have words of advice for me.

You can’t avoid death. Hopefully, you can postpone it as long as possible and live a life full of shared memories with the people whom you care about. That’s what it’s all about.

We had a wonderful memorial service for my dad. Unlike other big life events, you have no idea who will come to a funeral. It makes planning a toss up. We planned anywhere from 20 – 100 people. We had about 80, so we were very pleased. The funeral home was packed and, later, my house packed with people. My dad would have loved it. Many people shared stories and memories, and I never heard so much laughing at a memorial service. People even clapped after each speaker. It truly felt like a celebration of his life. The funeral home provided a wonderful photo presentation set to some of my dad’s favorites, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and the Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus and Lucy.” It was perfect.

I wrote a poem for him, which I shared with tears and long pauses. My siblings shared their stories, my brother off the top of his head, all much calmer than me. I’ll share my poem later because it’s a bit long.

For now, I just want to thank you for all your thoughts, condolences, for your email messages and comments on Facebook. Your thoughts and prayers provided me with a lot of comfort. It means a lot to hear them. I don’t think I realized how powerful they could be. So, thank you for your kindness, for caring, for reaching out, for taking the time to say a few words. I read all your comments and apologize that I couldn’t respond. Truly, I was overwhelmed by feeling so much at once, for the events that unfolded without any warning, and wanting more than anything to rewind time.

But as my twelve-year-old told me last night as we watched a movie into the wee hours of the night, my dad will always be with me. How did he get to be so smart?

These are for you!
These are for you!

Remembering The Silver Fox

I found myself wandering around in the woods the day my father-in-law died. For 24 years I knew him, and it passed in a blink of an eye. What’s it all for? Life, death, it’s seamless. One day he is here with us, the next he’s gone.

Fred was “The Silver Fox,” quick on his feet, spry, charming, a gentleman with a huge heart, although that was his little secret.

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Once early on when I was sick, delirious with fever, and I wanted to have a glass of water by my bedside. Fred kept removing my glass. When I awoke, the glass of water would be nowhere in sight. “I need water. I’m parched,” I told my husband. He would bring it to me, and then zap, Fred would whisk it away. I didn’t know the extent of his OCD then. Later, I laughed.

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In my twenties, Fred told me, as he did everyone else, “You’re not all there.” The very first time I heard this, I wanted to cry.

Later I got it. He would say, “You’re not all there,” and point his finger to his head. I then laughed in agreement. You’re right, I’m not all there, Fred. Who is? The sooner you realize this in your life, the easier you’ll breathe.

For those who think “They’re all there,” they’re the most confused of us all. As time passes you by, you realize you know less, not more.

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He always brightened someone’s day with small gifts. Me, my husband, his kids, his grandchildren, gas attendants, wait staff at restaurants he frequented, staff at his son’s work….he gave us baked goods, sweet treats, trinkets, statues of dogs and cats, jewelry boxes painted with religious figures, glass sculptures, books, paperweights with butterflies, latch hook rugs with seagulls, condom holders….things that were, uh, puzzling. Okay, things we would never buy for ourselves.

In one of our last conversations, he still wanted to give my sons a present.

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He was a giver in abundance. He wasn’t trying to impress anyone. He just wanted you to smile, shrug off your worries if only for a few moments, and “lighten up” as he would say. It’s just who he was.

I think about my own life and who I touch, who is on the receiving end. How can I give the way he did? I find myself clutching onto fear and worry. Why? In the end, all we have in this life is each other.

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I will miss you, Fred.

In loving memory
Thomas Fredrick Reese
December 27, 1934 – March 23, 2013