Fair warning…this note is less about words and readability than I’m used to writing. It’s more about what’s in my heart than what’s in my head. So if you’re not sure you want to try and sort through the jungle of “stuff” in my heart, then get out now while you can…because I make no promises that what comes next will make any sense.

New Years Day 2013…I was almost two hours into day two of a triple (72 hour shift). I’d only slept for one hour the night before…crazy end to the year at the firehouse. It was a holiday…I was looking forward to getting the work done for the day and getting some rest. I kept saying to myself, “yesterday was nuts…can’t get much worse than that.”

I was wrong.

When I picked my phone up off the table, I had a voicemail from dad. Figuring it to be an early morning Happy New Year call, I checked the voicemail to hear otherwise. “I’m at the hospital with your mom. She’s in cardiac arrest.” I called him back…got a quick update and helped him make another phone call. Aunt Jean, that was the hardest phone call I’ve ever made. I hope I handled it well, because I honestly don’t remember much of what I said. Five minutes later, the second call came…mom was gone.

That was 6 days ago…

It’s been a weird week. When you hear someone say they’re “making arrangements” for someone’s funeral, unless you’ve done that before, you can’t really know what it means. I’ve never taken part in preparing a memorial service…I’ve never helped make decisions in that…or stood beside a husband while he makes those decisions for his wife’s memorial service. I’ve never taken part in “making arrangements”. Until this week, I could only imagine what that really meant. Now that I know, I don’t want to know…ya’ know?

Yesterday, I spent a couple hours going through mom’s emails and online footprint. That’s weird in itself…a part of me felt like I was invading a personal part of her life, spying on her conversations not meant for anyone but the person with whom she was having them. And a part of me felt like she was reaching out from beyond death to comfort me…to tell me “it’s okay, I’m good“. Like the email to a friend where she recounted her recent trip to our house last summer…it was our annual float trip, the first one we camped out the night before the float. She was recounting the story of our overnight visitor…one which I think should now be recorded for posterity sake…so I’ll let her words tell it:

“Delicious pie and cake. We saved the cake for our float trip. We left it sitting covered on a picnic table. In the middle of the night a raccoon enjoyed the last of it. Jay told the young kids that he wrestled with the raccoon and almost skinned it before running off and that he slept in front of the tent entrance to protect everyone. Haven’t laughed so much in years. I wasn’t able to float, but I had a peaceful campsite, a good book, and was able to get just a little sun. It was a good day. After they came off the river we went to Jay’s for a couple days. A good time.”

I had a good time too mom…and I’m thrilled beyond words that you were able to share that with us. However, I should set the record straight…that raccoon was more like a mountain lion. I saved everyone in the campsite from being mauled that night. 😉

We spent the day sorting through thousands of pictures today. Several observations:

  1. For all the years we gave you so much grief for all the pictures you insisted on taking over the years, I can say now that I’m thankful for them. It was a fun, emotional afternoon strolling down memory lane.
  2. I get why you took so many. You told me once that you took all those pictures so you could remember…and I remember we used to give you a hard time about it…teasing you to put the camera down and live the moment so you’d remember it. As I push 40 this year, I’m constantly reminded that my memory is not what it used to be…and after looking back through all these pictures, I can honestly say I am in hundreds of pictures at events that I don’t remember. I guess I inherited my memory from you…because there are just whole periods of time I don’t remember…so I get it now.
  3. For all the thousands of pictures you took over the decades, you sure didn’t let the camera be turned on you very often. We have thousands of pictures of your family…and very few of you. Just sayin’, we should have done a better job of turning the table on you. 🙂
  4. If the old adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words” holds any truth, then we filled a dictionary today…and didn’t even scratch the surface. Boxes upon boxes upon boxes of pictures…with more pictures hidden behind the boxes…and we haven’t even found your stash of digital pictures yet…dozens of memory cards and external storage drives tucked away somewhere in this house, still waiting to be found. (Mom, if you could send down a little help from above with where those might be, we’d sure appreciate it.)

I miss you mom. I’m racking my brain these past couple days to remember you…to remember your face…to recall your words of wisdom…to recollect our times together. I expect (and hope) that as time passes, the memories I’m searching so hard for now will come to me naturally…in times I least expect them. It’s like that song you just can’t remember the name of…it’s on the tip of your tongue, but the more you think of it…the further its name slips away from you. I pray that in the weeks and months following your memorial service this week, those memories will come back.

For now, I just miss you. I miss your smile. I miss your laugh. I miss you touching my shoulder as you walk past me. I miss your hug. I miss you doting on your grandchildren. I miss you. You taught me so much about life…so so much. You taught me how to treat those less fortunate than us. You taught me respect for my elders. How to enjoy life. You taught me how to cook a meal…and clean a house…and do laundry. You prepared me for life outside of our childhood home and raised a young man whose wife would one day thank you for.

You taught me how to be a self thinker…to know what I believe and believe what I know. To fight for what’s right, even if it means I’m standing alone. To stand up for the weak and defenseless…to nurture those who need love. To love the ones who do nothing to deserve our love. You showed me that it’s okay to walk across the street and ask the neighbor for a couple eggs when you come up short for the recipe you’re making…and to return the egg with a generous portion of the cake it helped make. You taught me how to play soccer, when all I wanted was to stop running. You hugged me tight when I was sad…dried my tears with your shoulder and showed me compassion in so many ways. You rushed home when I chopped my toe off…and cautioned dad as he walked to his room in search of the belt with which to spank me, that he should probably extinguish the fire I’d started in my bedroom first…I appreciate that he had a chance to cool off before applying the belt of knowledge. 😛

Your grandchildren are so much like you in so many ways. I see you in them. I will miss seeing your face light up as you were reunited with them after a long time away…and I will miss so very much how my dear SD would scream “granny! I miss you!” and come running for her hug. To be honest, I haven’t cried while writing this…until that thought came to mind. She loved you so stinkin’ much mom. She’s gonna miss you more than I’ll ever understand. I will keep you alive in her heart…and in her memories. Like your mother was, you also were a rock…not just to me, but to so many people. I miss you.

It’s Sunday night…4 days until mom’s visitation and memorial service. I’ll have more to share soon, but for now I’m tired. Mentally and emotionally, I am completely spent. I can think of no more fitting way to end this note than with my mom, your granny, in her own words. We found this buried in the boxes of pictures today, written in August, 1970…long before I was even born, my mother understood that time is a precious commodity.

Love,

Dad

Time, funeral, death, memorial services

Time – Karen Meinershagen

P.S. I never meant this to be my tribute to your granny.  In the days that followed me posting this, I just couldn’t muster the strength to put into words what I want that to be.  Even now, eight days after her memorial service and burial, I still can’t must the words that I would consider to be a tribute to the wife, mother, granny and woman she was.  I hope to be able to do that soon.

Love,

Dad

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