Thursday, December 28, 2006

28 December 2002

It was a cold sunny morning, the morning that my life would change forever. Except I had been up long before the sun rose. Never in the depths of my imagination would I know that kneeling beside my dad, sitting in the chair in his room would be the last time that I saw him alive and conscious. A fear had swept over me minutes before because of the abruptness with which my sister had shaken me awake. Most know better than to wake me in such a manner! With tears in her eyes, she had said that mom had called an ambulance for dad. I threw on some clothes and went to his room, where he sat, gray and slumped in his chair. I tried to make a joke, but he just relayed the symptoms in a methodical manner. The ambulance arrived moments later, no sirens at the request of my dad, and the paramedics carried him down the stairs. I remember seeing him in a helpless light that I had never seen before. My superhero was vulnerable? My mom and he drove off into the dark and we all sat in the living room quiet. Brian and Carrie were deciding if they should still catch their early flight or take a later one. What was wrong? Bad touch of the flu? Colon issues? Ulcer? Surely they'd call in a few hours with an update...

But Snuff and I changed our minds in that moment and drove to the hospital. By the time I had found my mom, stoic and emotionless, she said to call all the kids to come down to the hospital. 7 children, 2 grandchildren and mom sat in the ER in the wee hours of the morning waiting.

But we wouldn't have to wait too much longer, as the doctor came out and said to say goodbye if we wanted before he went into surgery. He lay on the table and I whispered in his ear, "You fight, you hear me, fight." My mom told my sister and I to call Father Charles. Watching my sister tell the operator that she needed him to come give my father his Last Rites, was another one of the hardest moments in my life.

We sat and waited and my sister had on a bracelet that doubled as rosary beads. So I prayed them. Round and Round and Round. Then my mom came out and said he was gone. My little brother Sean got up in a rage and I followed him down the hall where he punched the cement bricks as hard as he could. And I knew that rage would live in him for a long time to come. I don't remember crying there, even as future visions flashed before my eyes. Lauren's graduation, walking down the aisle at my wedding, him holding my children, his laugh that I'd never hear out loud again... We got in the car and went to Price Chopper and shopped for all the people that would be over that day. On the way out, we bought a lotto ticket and played my dad's numbers. Strange I know, but it cracks me up now.

The next few days are a blur of arrangements, phone calls and holding back the tears. Hearing his name read at Mass that Sunday, as we'd heard other's departed read so many time before was surreal. The lector said and Let us pray for those who have gone before us, someone, someone and Bob Stockwell, husband to Jodie and father to Brian, Blair, Lindsay, Kevin Kyle, Sean and Lauren. As he read our names, everyone in the church looked at our pew where they had sat for the last seven years. And I still numb.

I was still numb throughout the Funeral Mass three days later as seven priests, all close friends of my dad, con-celebrated mass for him. I was numb as my brothers, Bill and I carried his casket up the aisle and put him in the hearse. The procession was three miles long. And I was numb throughout the time at gravesite. And then after the 21 gun salute and presentation of the flag, I walked up to his grave and laid a rose I had been carrying. And then I wasn't numb.

I cried and grieved for the next week at my mom's house and then decided to go back to Ireland with Snuff. And I cried and grieved for the next six weeks at our friend eddie's house, surrounded my friends and a country who were fatherless as well. And I slowly healed. And I stopped crying, for the most part. But every now and then, it sucker punches you when you least expect it. And you're reminded that life has changed.

I sat alone in my apartment about a year later and had a smoke and as I drifted off to a peaceful haven I saw my dad walking in the Fall leaves with our old dog Snowball. She had a pep in her step like she was a pup again and so did my dad. It's the most beautiful picture I could have in my mind. So today, with a quieted tear in my eye and a peaceful vision of where's he's gone, I remember my pops.



Blogger Margeaux Kramer said...

Crying like a baby over here. Thinking of you and hoping you are ok.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Scarlett said...

Glad that you shared your story with us. It's cathartic for you, but theraputic for anyone who has lost.

Your dad sounds like a man who lived right by the world to be so memorialized by his daughter who misses him. I shared that same special bond with my dad so I know how acutely that loss is felt.

Chin up little camper!

4:57 AM  

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