“He took a loud deep breath and he was gone”, she said at 8 am. It was March (during my vacation time) when the phone call woke me up. Without any type of warning or a goodbye, my dad passed away in his sleep. Talk about shock. I was lost. I am still lost. I was only 28 and he wasn’t even 60. It never even crossed my mind that this could happen. Death – the forever without someone that was so important in my life.
I have so many unanswered questions I wish I could ask him. So many untold stories I want to hear. His cause of death was deemed sepsis. Being Jewish, we do not autopsy so it really is just an educated guess. Truthfully, it bugs me that I will never know. I often wonder why and if his death could have been prevented. I wish I could at least have said goodbye.
Everything moves so fast when you’re Jewish when someone passes. Within 48 hours, there is a funeral and the burial. I couldn’t even think; let alone make important decisions. I would like to say the funeral home staff were good but they were all business – just another day at work while my world was crumbling around me. They handed me a pamphlet on what to expect. I read it inside and out, backward and forwards, trying to make sense of my new reality.
After the funeral, the immediate family sits Shiva. People come and visit and pay their respects and offer words of support. They tell stories and reminisce. In my family, that came with all sorts of drama – verbal arguments and a whole bunch of stupidity. Thankfully it is a huge blur now.
To the person (that I probably didn’t even know) at the funeral who whispered in my ear while I was falling apart; “g-d only gives you what he knows you can handle”….thank you. I am not religious and honestly, I’m not even sure there is a g-d but I carry that quote with me and have shared it when others need to hear it too. For whatever reason, it has given me the strength to carry on in trying times.
On top of everything, I got sick and had the worst stomach bug of my life on day 3 of Shiva. I was vomiting constantly and ended up in the hospital, severely dehydrated. After the intravenous and some anti-nausea medication, I started to feel a bit better (physically at least). I laid there in the hospital bed trying to figure out how I was going to cope and move forward. I still had my daughter to take care of so I had to get myself together and quick.
I was lost inside. I called my dad for everything. He had all the answers and when he didn’t, he Googled. Sure, I have other family members by blood but no one that is actually involved or cared about me and my daughter unconditionally. My dad always put us first. Dad was always there. He wanted to help any way he could. He called me every day, sometimes multiple times a day. He honestly annoyed the crap out of me but now, what I wouldn’t do for just one more call. If I was sick or we needed anything, he was there. He never missed a party or an event – not because he had to be there but because he wanted to be there.
He wasn’t close to the perfect dad – he didn’t always make good life decisions but he was a caring father. He made a lot of mistakes but he taught me a ton; a lot more than he ever knew. Even though he is gone, he still teaches me things about myself. Sometimes when I am really stuck, I think to myself what would Dad say? He always knew what to say. Often he said to trust my instincts. He sometimes didn’t say much at all but he would direct me to figure things out on my own and that I would find my way (which definitely helps me now).
I was a difficult teen to love but he never gave up on me. He never made me feel alone. He loved my daughter from the day he guessed I was pregnant. At just 17, he was not impressed with my choice but knowing I had nowhere to turn, he said the single phrase “it will all be ok” and it was. I am happy my eldest got to meet and spend a ton of time with him and develop a strong genuine relationship. She has fond memories to this day.
I really noticed his absence when my 3 other kiddos were born. I still can’t believe he never met them. He would have loved them to pieces. When my kids are sick and we need a hand, I have to beg people for help and he would have come without being asked. Birthday parties, my sons’ circumcisions, school events, everywhere – I feel his absence.
He never spoiled me with material gifts. He believed in giving life experiences (hence my recent blog post). He took me to street festivals, coffee shops, new restaurants, ball games, theaters, parks, road trips, and vacations. We would hop in the car, train, boat or whatever and go. Back then, I would have wished for a new Barbie or cassette tape but I am far luckier to have been taught to open my mind and enjoy the moment.
I have learned a lot about myself thanks to my dad. I have learned how to persevere on my own and trust my instincts more. I try my best as a mom. But I miss the realness and genuine love only a great parent can give to me as the child. The greatest lesson he gave to me is that no matter how much your child pushes away, never follow their lead. Never to give up on them. This has really helped direct me through my eldest daughter’s teenage years. I, unfortunately, also learned people don’t last forever but what they teach you or how they make you feel will last a lifetime.
Although I rarely said it, I love you. We miss you every day. Say hi to everyone for me. The kids are great and I know you love them, even if you never met face to face. They know you through me and the way I parent today. We understand the values of the lessons you taught. Until then…..