Never Goodbye

Navigating the Journey through Dementia

Last Picture of My Dad

I don’t know how many of you believe in mental telepathy, communications from the “other side,” dreams of the future, dreams of present events occurring in other locations, and the sort of unexplainable perceptions and insights people sometimes have. There are numerous documented experiences, television shows and movies based on a sixth sense that give credibility to these types of intuitions. These intuitions have on and off touched my life, never when I try to have them, but most often coming to me when I don’t expect them.

The first experience of this kind that stuck in my memory was during summer vacation after I graduated from college. My roommate Judy had fallen in love and was engaged to be married. We had made plans to room together, but our plans were changing as her upcoming marriage took precedence. She was exuberant about her future with the man of her dreams. One night I had a shocking nightmare that she and her fiancé fought and broke off their engagement. She was heart-broken and crying. I too cried  in the dream. The next morning I couldn’t shake the heavy emotions. A little while later, Judy called to let me know about a huge argument the night before. The wedding was off, and their relationship had ended.

I remember another day when I was feeling extremely extroverted and happy. My ex-husband and I were in McDonald’s, and I was standing at the counter, thinking about my order. The person taking the order was looking down and began reading my order back to me. I smiled and acknowledged that it was correct, realizing that I had never spoken a word.

I’m sure you have had unusual perceptions too. Have you ever talked with a friend and you both voice the same idea at the same time? Or the phone rings and you instantly know who is calling before you answer?

On the 12th of April, three days before my dad’s hospitalization, I woke up in the middle of the night and for two hours could not go back to sleep. I kept thinking of my dad and getting the idea that he would not live much longer. I had no particular reason to think this. No calls from the nursing home about a worsening condition warranted the idea. Many thoughts raced through my head and for the first time, I had the notion that Dad was at peace with the idea of passing on. He had made his decision to go. I also felt his calm and for the first time did not experience grief at the idea of his passing. As events moved forward, many confirming my thoughts of that night, I realized my dad was having  lucid moments. He was not confused and was analytically arriving at conclusions and perhaps making his peace with God. I believe he was tying up loose ends and preparing to move on, and that I was somehow on his wavelength.

My dad always approached life in a very practical manner, basing decisions on facts, setting goals, and then accomplishing them. I got the idea there were two things he really wanted to know from me. One was the cost of keeping him in the nursing home. In this mental parlay I told him it was costing $50,000 a year. He also wanted to know if I would live in his house. During my previous trip to the Alabama, I toyed with the idea of moving there. That night as I batted ideas back and forth, I felt my dad experience relief just knowing I would move to his house in Alabama. Through my thoughts and prayers I told Dad I would respect his wishes. A few days later, on April 14th he was admitted to the hospital due to his high fever. When I later talked with one of the nurses at the nursing home, she told me Dad had said he was ready to go. When she clarified what he meant, he explained that he felt his life was finished. He was at peace with the idea. The next day he entered the hospital, for the last time.

In Loving Memory

A long struggle has ended for my dad and me. We were fortunate in many ways. Had I not been given this opportunity to be with him over the past five years, I never would have come to know my dad as well as I did. You always love your parents, but the closeness between us grew stronger than ever before. I loved him so, in a way that never would have been possible had we not spent so much time with each other. This growing period also gave me the chance to be in his house, appreciate all that he and Mom had created, and enjoy the beauty of the woods and lake.

Somehow, I never envisioned that I would move to my parents’ house. In 1979 when I established roots in California, I loved the city, the bustle of the people, all the commotion of the cars and things to do. I was young then, and city life held an excitement for me, full of possibilities and adventure. Now that I am older and through the time I spent with Dad in Alabama, I came to appreciate the peaceful country-side; the clean, fresh air; and the soothing life on the lake, close to nature.

I realized by leaving me this house, my father provided for my future in a way I was not able to appreciate until just before his passing. This house, this land, was my father’s legacy, and an expression of the love and care he took in creating a life for my mother,  himself, and me. When I mentioned to one of Dad’s neighbors that Ken and I were thinking of moving, that I was tired of all the traffic, the high cost of living and dense population of California, she laughed. She was happy and excited about the prospects of having Ken and me for neighbors. She said my parents had always wanted me to be here, but they thought I would never leave California. She told me it would have made them so happy to know I was moving.

We had services for my dad in a little funeral chapel. My cousin flew down from Ohio, stayed with us, and also went to the memorial. Our neighbor Brenda played quiet music in the background. Jim and Brenda’s pastor gave the memorial service for us. I had given the pastor parts of my blog so he could come to know who my dad was and some of his history. It was a wonderful remembrance. The pastor tailored his talk around my dad’s experiences and attributes. He spoke of the goodness regarding my dad’s stubborn character, how he took advantages of opportunities and used his steadfast nature to accomplish many things in his life that others could enjoy. He said that God gave us all opportunities in life, and it was up to us to take advantage of them.

My son Brad, daughter Ericka, and I chose pictures from my dad’s childhood and other photos throughout his life to use at the service. Brad and Ericka arranged them on two poster boards which we displayed on a stand that the funeral home provided. Framed pictures and larger photos were positioned on the table with the urn. The service was simple, and shared with family, friends, and neighbors who came to express their condolences. My dad would have liked it.

A few days later we spread my dad’s ashes on the lake. Those had been his final wishes, and he had spread my mother’s ashes on the lake years ago. In tribute to my father who walked the road looping  the lake every day, Brad, Ericka, my almost two-year old grandson Shawn, Ken, and I drove in Brad’s truck winding our way through the woodsdown the road my dad had trodden so many times.

While the chapter of life with Dad has closed, the loving memories will live on, and I will treasure them for the rest of my life. I love you, Dad. I can’t thank you enough for being there when I needed you, for the wisdom and guidance you and Mom provided for me while I was growing up. You will always have a place in my heart and memories. Truly, in that sense, it is “never goodbye.”