Grief manifests itself in different ways, and dealing with the loss of a loved one is obviously a complicated topic. In reflection, this is a post of hope and renewal, not just sadness. I knew my father wouldn’t live forever, and understood what the Parkinson’s diagnosis meant. Yet, when his March 2018 visit to the hospital and nursing home didn’t afford enough of a return of strength to come home, there was a mix of surprise and realization. He didn’t want to ‘live’ in a nursing home, and his body responded accordingly, and his condition changed quickly. On May 24th 2018, the call came, and dad was admitted to the intensive care unit. The doctors didn’t think he’d make it through the day. I grabbed the next flight out of Charlotte, and continued to check in with my brothers regarding dad’s status. We weren’t sure my father would make it long enough for me to get there, yet he did. Our rabbi visited, with friends and family gathered, ‘last rights’ were done. The doctors said he wouldn’t make it through the night, yet he did. Then he wouldn’t make it through the weekend, yet he did. In fact, early that first Saturday morning, the nurse came looking for us with news that dad was alert and speaking. The situation was still dire, his kidneys were failing, his heart rate was low, but he ‘wasn’t going out like that’. My birthday came, celebrated with an awesome cheeseburger lunch with my brothers and nephews. And it was, well, dad wanted to make it to your birthday. Hanging on each day, next was the realization they couldn’t hold/keep a hospital bed for him. So a transfer with hospice care was arranged. He was ‘there’, and gradually he wasn’t. Less responsive, less interactive. Enough time had passed away from home that I needed to do to those little things…I needed groceries, a haircut, laundry needed to get done. And he hung on. For 2 weeks he was kicking and fighting, waiting to leave on his terms. I imagine he was making sure we were all ready before he left. Finally on June 7th 2018, my father passed away. For 2 weeks, we knew it was coming, yet it was still surreal. Funeral arrangements, notifying friends and family, eulogies it was all a blur. Logistically complicated was the funeral in my hometown in Indiana, and burial in Baltimore where my parents were married, and have plots next to my sister and grandparents.
Two weeks to replicate a normal life that wasn’t my normal life. Waking up each day realizing ‘the call’ hadn’t come, and we were being gifted another day with dad. I was there, but was I truly present? I was and will be eternally grateful to my wife, Deb and our children for their patience while I was away. I was grateful to have a job that allowed me to work virtually. So each day, from a table at the end of my fathers bed, I was connected via my laptop, taking calls and keeping an eye on him each day. I had to eat and I had to shop. Where in Michigan City does one get a haircut these days?
I found a great place to get a haircut – can you say Aveda salon in Michigan City, Indiana?! 😀 There were amazing restaurants that I had no idea existed. A clean place to get a cheeseburger, quick serve Tex-mex, great sushi and the best was an incredible farm to table place – organic and (drum roll) grass fed beef! It was awesome to see all of this in our ‘downtown’. Downtown with the caveat that it takes about 8 minutes to get anywhere, and from one end of town to the other where I grew up. And of course the beach and dunes I recall from my childhood. So let me say, MC is an amazing city on Lake Michigan. A gem if I may say, that I wouldn’t have noticed or appreciated – possibly ever – if not for these 2 weeks.
Then there was just the being there. Being able to sleep in my childhood home, and spend my days with him in hospice. I tried to keep some semblance of my routine. Wake up, meditation, gratitude, workout (1 time in the Y which has moved to my old high school – talk about weird trying to lift in the room where you had health class in 10th grade 😜), shower, off to work in the nursing home. It was odd, but became somewhat of a routine as I walked in and greeted my dad with a kiss, to then unpack my laptop, connect to WiFi and log in ready for the days calls/tasks. I appreciated the ability to be there and work virtually. I imagine I could have taken leave, but that wasn’t necessarily in my work DNA knowing I could log on and work from anywhere and having watched my father miss only 1 day as I recall in his 42 years with Bethlehem Steel. I think the kicker and shock was realizing a work life balance may be missing when I was greeted back Upon my return to work. My boss quickly/barely asked how I was, then boom, ‘ready for your next assignment. I had to wonder, was I getting a call to check on me as I arrived back after the burial, or was this a call really just to tell me, ‘now that you’re back, you’re being assigned to a new client’.
Of course there was time with my mom, brothers and nephews, which is immeasurable in value and I will always treasure. But I think it was deeper than this. My father taking his time, forced me to take my time, reassess my time, and know that I needed to try to make a change. And with some additional soul searching, amazing coaching and many discussions with Deb, I drew these 2 sharp teachings that my father was leaving me with –
- You grew up in a pretty amazing place. It’s amazing in new and different ways now, but in many ways still the same. When you were young, you loved and breathed fun, and went by Dave not David. Maybe it’s time to prioritize fun and find Dave again, David will always be there.
- I taught you some wonderful lessons. I am glad I was always there for you, and dependable like clock work. And I love that you carry many of these traits and your family and friends can count on you. But don’t be so sure about clocking in every day for someone else. Prioritize your time, and your family. And if you want to try something else, try it now. Don’t wait for tomorrow, live the present, now is all we have.
So, that brings me to today, and the honor to share this post with you. I left my full time corporate job on April 5th. I am prioritizing my time and my family, and so grateful to be able to work with Deb and our amazing team and partners. And with a year having past since my fathers death, I can breath and take my time getting to Baltimore and back as we lay the grave stone for my father’s unveiling. Let’s connect, I’d love to hear about your life journey, and share more of mine. Sending love, light and laughter! ❤️🙏
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