Dad's Funeral & Visitation - My Eulogy

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photo board
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Lots of memories
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Easter lilies
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Dad & Caitlin 1979
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Caitlin helped with set-up
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artifacts
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I gave out bulbs after the service.
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wedding photos
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The original announcement
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Rob's basket with african violets
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The chapel
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daffodils & butterflies: metamorphosis
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We brought mom's urn.
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Visitation
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Eulogy for my father

The last year has been trying, and sometimes I have been very trying. I publicly apologize to my dear husband for circumstances beyond my control, for anticipating a change of location, but not the one for which we planned. I thank him for helping my brother find a far more than suitable location in which dad could reside in his last months, while I went out to work. For shopping, cooking, planning, cleaning and putting up with a long distance marriage while I tried to look after both mom and/or dad (and sometimes my brother) here in Bala.

Brian

Brian did things for dad that son-in-law really didnt have to do. He and dad got to know each other much better, despite the fact that dads personality changed in the past few months there were glimmers of dads sense of humour. As dad raged against the dying of the light, Brian bore his anger and grief with great love, empathy and compassion. He dreamed up ways to communicate with him: white board to write messages, high-tech super-duper telephone and fetched him his favourite candies. Brian figured out Bandys health issues, too. That is a chapter and a half, Ill tell you. Best not told here. Brian fed dad breakfast while I went out to work in September and then in October, when I was trying to get myself back together. Dad had trouble dealing with the many physical and emotional upheavals of the past year. After I quit work I found that feeding dad dinner every day helped give me something to do and helped out both staff and my dad. He seemed comforted when I was there, even though he was losing cognitive functioning.
I thank Brian, on behalf of my father, for being the best son-in-law ever. Brian took Dads (and my) worried phone calls at all hours of the day and night, and helped ease the unbearable loneliness that comes after changing jobs, cities, homes, while helping me deliver some semblance of palliative care for my family. He is my rock and my pillow.

Robin

Dads tumour, originally removed in 2003, had returned, which is typical of a brain tumour. He had four weeks of radiation, around the time mom was home in palliative care, with me at home in Bala. Robin was masterful in getting dad to Toronto into the Cancer Lodge, despite moms misgivings! She didnt think he could manage it this man who managed to make innumerable monthly flights to and from B.C. for his job in Northern Ontario. Dad had a great time in the Cancer Lodge in Toronto, despite the reason for his visit. They had meals together and he visited with residents and returned to a certain degree to the sociable man we remembered. I am glad Robin was there at the other end of the phone. He might have been far away but I knew he was here in spirit. He listened as I told my stories about dad and our latest adventures: dad pulling the fire alarm in Leisureworld, perking up when the cute young things entered his room-having moped for ten minutes with me. Dad refusing one day to wear his glasses, take his 8 breakfast pills, put on his pants and slippers. Its not mine. He said. Its nothing to do with me., as he sat on the bed in his jammies. I forget the name of the young lady who patiently talked him into those. It was one comical Personal Support Worker, Patti, who convinced him to let her give him a shower. He took a stand and stuck to it. He was a man of principles. I respected him for that.

Children

My adult children have managed to visit our dad some. I apologize for their absences now. My boys were here when we needed them: to bring their grandfather home from the hospital on the day of their grandmothers funeral service. That is duty above and beyond... Terry is just finishing his fourth year university. He is writing exams and working as a proctor- in connection with his T.A. work. Jesse is in the middle of rehearsals for St. Joan at Shaw Festival. He is Soldier #2! Dad would have been so proud.

Nov. 4th Caitlin and Jean-Luc came to visit for the weekend. Both have been incredibly supportive. I went in to feed dad most days between October and February. He had lost the ability to determine the function of any objects; the clock, the phone, TV clicker. He lost his appetite, except for chocolate we shared a fair number of chocolate bars when he wouldnt eat anything else. I broke up the chocolate bar into chewable chunks and, like communion wafers, wed share them in a quiet father-daughter moment. Thatd be nice!, hed say, gazing at our feast.
Caitlin and I went in to visit with him she sat with dad while I popped out to get his meal from the kitchen staff. He was unable to hold his milk alone, but drank two glasses of milk through the straw, and a large coffee from Olivers - thanks to Caitlins help. When I came back in to the room dad said, Theres your mother! to Caitlin. He knew us to the end and that is a relief. I went out later to visit Michelle- across the hall from dad, while Caitlin held down the fort in the Muskoka Room. Dad chose that time to confide in her. He leaned over to her, nodding in my direction, and said, You know your mother- shes keeping me here. Ah. The guilt!

The Manor

I would like to thank those who kept in touch and gave us support when we most needed it. I made many new friends this past year and have met some wonderful people. In May we helped dad move into Gravenhurst Manor. It was awkward moving his furniture out of his beloved home and into his new room. During our initial visit a lovely young lady, who knew him from Bala United Church, made a point of coming over and speaking to him. He found that heart-warming. Dolly, his neighbour in the Manor, made a point of looking after him. There were issues around being up past bedtime and his pants, again. The staff continually went out of their way for us. They coddled dad into eating, took him muffins and coffee well after the breakfast hour. Dad was up nights singing and trying to watch TV, at great volume!

As the tumour took a grip on his brain, Its all mixed up in my head., he would say. Gesturing with his hands. He knew that his brain cells were deteriorating and he was having difficulty making connections. We had talked about it and I was always honest with him.

I know, dad! Its not your fault . Id commiserate. Its the tumour coming back. One day, in July, he was unable to think of it what he wanted to share with me.
Um, I was going to sayĶ and he paused for thought.
I interrupted him. I know, dad, you wanted to tell me you loved me!
He said, Well, yes, I do.
Me, too., I said.
And, quick as a flash, he said You love yourself too? Thats good!
Then paused with a twinkle in his eye. Well, I love you too, dear. I said that lots and even when he lost his hearing aids he almost always heard me say it and responded with an affectionate kiss.

Lessons its been more than a year since the tumour started to grow back. Of course, he had symptoms no one knew about. He was Windsor Fine. But he had had difficulty finding Windsor Drive since Winter of 2005, dementia already readed its ugly head. I have learned many lessons from my dad. Little did I know that I had many more to learn this past year. I learned animal husbandry, the love of singing, the grace that comes with belonging to a church, the love of nature, horticulture, when to stop and smell the roses.

Animal husbandry

I learned animal husbandry of a sort from dad. A pet owner all his life, many slides show him with his animals. He thoroughly spoiled all of them I remember one cat who shared his breakfast on the table. She thought dad didnt feed her Shreddies fast enough from his cereal bowl and would reach in to fetch some for herself. The dog at the time would get his share of toast with jam, if you please. Sabre would spit out the crusts that didnt have butter on them. What broke his heart was to not be able to walk his last canine companion, Bandy, due to arthritis in his knees. He could never walk bandy, whom he adopted just after his first tumour was removed in 2003. But Bandy has a new home, with one of his caring Red Cross workers and her husband, a retiree. We figured out her health issues. Snuggles is with mom. Snuggles had issues.

Nature Lover

Dad was a lover of nature in all forms. He raised violets, vegetables, gladiolas, and roses. My most favourite photo I took shows him in his flower garden, basket of tools in hand, trying to get the plants to grow. I found bits of paper with garden plots planned out. His gardens and plants thrived under his care. In fact, his granddaughter noticed that when Ray was ill, his African Violets would reflect his current state of health. I mentioned this to mom once. When I moved to Bala last April the plants looked fine. In an attempt to pretend that all was still well, Mom would water them. She was quite ill herself, at that time. They were both Just fine.

Patience

Once mom died last May and school finished I began to get to know dad again. We have cried, joked, laughed, sung and gotten angry together. He didnt remember the details of moms death and I spent time helping him to understand what happened. He dealt with a little bit at a time and we looked at all the cards you sent over a period of time, too. I kept them in a basket. He wasnt ready the first week, but I put them in his room at the Manor. He would go through them a little at a time. I have had fun with him, laughed, watched him flirt unmercifully with many a cute female caregiver, and seen his sense of humour come out again. It was a wonderful time to honour his spirit and cleaning up his things I found many mementos and reminders of who he used to be.

I decorated his room at Christmas, which is, at least, what mom would have wanted. I knew he understood what it meant. One day I went in and he la-lad an entire verse of Angels We Have Heard On High. It was clearly recognizable. The night shift staff, who I came to know one dark cold night: the evening of Feb. 15th, told me that they often had to close his door as they could hear him singing well around the hall, down the corridor in the nurses station in the wee hours. I would like to thank the night staff, especially Dean, who brought me tea at 2:00 a.m. the morning dad died it was a comfort to know that I was in good hands.

I remember having a car accident in Haliburton on my 40th birthday on the way to Bala kids in tow. He and Mavis drove all the way for hours in a blizzard to come and get us. Thank you Mavis, as well. Dad has some terrific friends. His BBQing (come rain or shine) was one of the best parts of visiting. He was handy with tools and built many things with great precision. There isnt a piece of the house or cottage that does not reflect his talents and skills. He was a handyman extraordinaire and his basement contained 7 saws, 4 planers and as yet uncounted screwdrivers, hand drills, a bucket of measuring devices, locksmith key tools, as well as jars and jars of nails, screws, bolts and a dearth of unnamed supplies he used around his house and cottage. As they say, He who dies with the most tools - wins. Dad wins.

As I roamed our property I realized how much love has gone into the care of his home, and cottage, after having built everything from shelves to sheds. I found slides showing moms visual record of the creation of the barn.

Mom and dad came to Ottawa when I bought my first house in 1995. I remember him helping me set up my house in Nepean we hung drapery track together while mom made dinner and had a grand time. I vividly recall dad helping me to drill holes to hang curtain rods. It is a memory I have had to take out and re-examine, holding it up to the light and shine during these trying times. The family slides show many scenes with dad posing for silly pictures- hand tools and my aunts and uncles as they worked around Muskoka- chopping, drilling, cutting, sawing. It is heart warming. My favourites include the baking dad did at Christmas time. Tons of Chelsea buns, rolls, bread, his Yorkshire pudding was the best, he always stuffed the turkey before church.

His Passing

I am most relieved that he has gone to be with his beloved wife, sundry pets, and his maker. I am sure mom is there organizing him. In conversations with professionals they counseled me to talk about the end and giving permission to loved ones to let go. To that end we were sitting in his room. And I looked over at a photo of he and mom together. Handing it to him I told him that mom was waiting for him. He said, Where?, as he looked around the room. We were back to: Its not mine, Nothing to do with me! Dad wasnt ready for his Easter. His anger arose from having too much left to do.

I know I did the best I could at the time. Despite the heartache it was rewarding and a deeply spiritual experience to be with him in his last months. It was painful and honourable at the same time. It was a life to be celebrated, with a joy that comes from a grateful daughter!