The Year came and the year went

Well the year anniversary of my dad’s death came and went.  Like I mentioned before March just sucked.  I was in a terrible mood due to various things and I’m so glad it’s over.  March 27th marked a year since my dad passed away and I think there was a lot of anxiety there about how I’d feel.  Honestly?  I didn’t feel that bad at all.

My reasoning for that was because the entirety of my dad’s diagnosis sucked.  From December 20th-March 27th I was sad.  I was sad every day, I was crabby every day, I was tired every day, and I was scared every day.  So, honestly the day he died wasn’t any crappier than the day before when he was dying.  March 27th, 2016 was actually a day of relief.  He was finally at peace and we could finally breathe a bit.  That whole day we were surrounded by amazing friends who came to take care of us when we needed it most.  That whole night was spent drinking and sharing stories.  Really… that day was one of the better ones all things considered.

I’m still struggling though.  I struggle with the idea that it’s all over… it’s a whole year without my dad.  Next year it will be two, then three, then four, and one day (not anytime soon of course) I’ll have spent more years on this planet without my dad than with him.  I’ve done all the “firsts” that you expect but I have a whole batch of new firsts coming my way.  I’ll get married one day and he won’t be there.  I’ll have kids and he won’t meet them.  I’ll reach milestones that he can’t cheer me on for.  Those are the things I’ll still be living with even though I’ve gotten through “the hard part”.

I only really broke down once in March and it was at the most unexpected time.  I was out soliciting donations from local businesses for our PurpleStride kickoff party we held this past weekend.  I walked into Beefy’s restaurant which was a Papa Z favorite and he had five $10 giftcards waiting for me.  I thanked him of course and as I was turning away he said “anything for Steve.”  The owner of the restaurant new my dad’s weird orders by heart.  They talked every time my dad came to get food.  He didn’t know he had passed away until my mom came in to talk about the fundraiser.  The guy had tears in his eyes when he said that so naturally I ran out of there and burst into tears in my car.  That’s the kind of guy my dad was… he was the kind of guy that cared about people so much he made an impact on even the owner of his favorite Italian beef place.

I became inconsolable and had to call my best friend to calm me down.  I was so busy with the fundraiser and organizing the walk that I forgot why I was doing it.  There’s a reason I’m doing all of this and the reason is that my dad is dead.  The reason is because he got cancer and he died.  It’s easy to forget when you’re planning all these parties and you’re having such a good time at each one.  We’re doing all of it for him… we’re doing all of it because he can’t.

Our fundraiser was held on 4/1… this past Saturday.  It’s almost poetic that on 4/1/16 we were waking him and on 4/1/17 we were celebrating him.

Anyways… March is over and I already feel better.  I mean, a lot of my life isn’t perfect right now but I’m working through it.  At least I know I got through the first year relatively unscathed.  Just gotta keep moving up and to the right.


The Year came and the year went

March Sadness

Get it? March Madness? March Sadness? Sorry trying to lighten the mood before I talk about the hole I’ve found myself in.

March sucks. Well… after 3/5 March started to suck.  I was on vacation from 3/1-3/5 so obviously that was great but then I got home and things just started to really get me down.

My birthday is 3/7… I guess I could say “but I’m only 26 now” but that seems like a lot of effort to keep changing the title.  I was worried about my birthday this year because last year’s was pretty awful.  My dad was really agitated on my birthday so he was being kind of mean about celebrating it because we had just gotten back from vacation and “that was my present”.  Not to mention he really started to show his decline that week so enjoying a birthday is kind of hard when you’re watching your dad die.  Those feelings all kind of came back for this year’s birthday even though I tried really hard to plan things to distract myself.  The trip to Florida was an excellent distraction so that worked.  My birthday party was a good one too but it was held after my actual birthday so even that didn’t feel very celebratory.  My actual birthday Zack and my mom took me out for a steak dinner and the neighbors, as per tradition, came over for cake after. It was a really lovely night but it didn’t take me long to notice someone was missing.

Let’s pile on another thing.  I hate my new job.  I haven’t written about it because it’s not worth writing about but the stress of coming here every day and just not liking what I do is really piling on.  I’m actively searching for something else but it took me so long to find this job I’m worried about how long it will take me to find another.  I remember getting it and thinking that everyone would be so proud- even my dad.  Now I’m just embarrassed and frustrated and it’s not helping the situation here.

March Madness started yesterday and although that shouldn’t really bring a person down it’s kind of doing that to me.  My dad was a March Madness fanatic.  He would set up shop in our basement the day it started with a notebook in front of him filled with every game, every prediction, and every game/channel.  He was pretty sick when it started last year but he still laid in bed and watched as many games as he could.  I tried to stay on top of it too because I knew he was falling asleep during a lot of them so I tried to keep tabs on the score for him so I could tell him when he woke up.  The house feels empty right now.  I caught up on episodes of the Walking Dead last night instead of watching the games and I’m kicking myself.  I don’t even like basketball but I’m feeling this weird responsibility to watch it this year.

Finally, as some of you know, the first anniversary of my dad’s death is coming up on 3/27.  I don’t anticipate that I’ll struggle much with the day itself but I think I’ll struggle with the idea that on 3/28 it will be the start of a year with no new memories.  My mom and I will have been a duo for a year, now it will be “he passed a year ago” instead of “he just passed in March of this year”, I don’t have any new pictures of him, I won’t have had any conversations with him in the past year, I’ll have nothing recent.

I won’t get into that much more right now…I’m sure it’s going to be an ongoing problem for me.

I hope my March gets better seeing as we’re only about half way through.  Otherwise… April you better rock my world.


March Sadness


February has not been exceptionally kind to me so I’ve slacked on updating this.  It’s not necessarily bad things that have happened it’s just a collection of things that have put me in a bad mood.  I recently got a new job and that hasn’t been going the best.  I’ve been incredibly stressed over that so it seems that any additional stresses brought on seemed to be magnified.

The one that seems to get magnified the most is my stress with this year’s PurpleStride.  I’ve mentioned my involvement with this before but this year, I guess because I’ve really had the time and the energy for it, I’ve really stepped up my game in terms of being a team captain.  However, it seems to add a lot of stress to my life.  Naturally, it’s stress that I put on myself but knowing that hasn’t made the situation any easier.

Last year my team raised over $17,000 to help fight Pancreatic Cancer.  This year I set the goal for our team to be $18,000 and started the team page in October.  I knew that because it’s nearly a year later the outpouring of support would be much slower this time around.  Everything isn’t so new and so alarming so people don’t have the sense of urgency like they did last year.  However… I really wasn’t expecting it to be this slow.

Don’t get me wrong- I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve done so far.  We’re currently the #1 fundraising team with nearly $7,000.  We’ve had 4 incredibly successful fundraising events so far and have had a lot of people come to each one.  I guess I’m just a little upset because there’s a pretty big group of people that I thought would step in and help that just haven’t.  Sadly enough a lot of these people are family.

I just hate the feeling that none of it matters anymore.  I know it’s a small group of people that are making me feel this way but it doesn’t bother me any less.  This feeling makes me so anxious and nervous that I’m not doing enough that I don’t give myself enough credit for what I’ve already accomplished.  That’s a really crappy thing to do to myself but here I am doing it every day.  I just want to be successful… not only for myself but for my dad.  I don’t want him to be forgotten.  I know that it sounds crazy but I feel this every day when I see people ignore my pleas for help with the walk.  Why was it unacceptable that Pancreatic Cancer took my dad last year but it’s ok that it’s still taking people this year?

Like I’ve said… I know that a lot of this is overblown stress.  I know deep down I’m doing really well at raising money and that I have an amazing team of people supporting me.  March will bring better vibes I’m sure.

If anyone is interested in donating to my team please click here.



Man’s best friend

The other night I was going upstairs to bed when I realized that the dog was sleeping in what has now become the guest bedroom.  The room used to be my dads- yes, my parents slept apart but it was only because when my dad was working he had to get up stupid early and because my mom has a bad back and he’d always crush her.  Anyways, I walked into the room and found my dog curled up in the middle of the bed.  She isn’t the kind of dog that really sleeps with people.  She’ll come up and lay with me or my mom for a while but after a bit of time she leaves to have her own space.  Not to mention she’s not allowed on the furniture so it’s a rare day when you find her sleeping on something while you’re actually home and technically she’s knows she’s not supposed to be on it.  Anyway, I walked into the room to “confront” her but actually wound up laying down on the bed with her for a little while which was probably a mistake since I ended up sobbing for 15 minutes.

We got Zero (named after Jack Skellington’s dog from The Nightmare Before Christmas) in August of 2013. I’d never had a dog in my house because both of my parents worked and they decided early on it wouldn’t have been fair to get a dog and then never spend time with it.  After both parents retired and I graduated the discussion was quickly brought up by my father and I and after some hesitancy my mom agreed that we could get one.  We walked into the shelter with two very specific rules from my mom- no shedding and no puppies.  We had already been to one shelter the week before and hadn’t found a dog we liked so we were pretty unsure if we’d find one we liked this trip either but then my mom saw Zero.  She was emaciated, she was scared, she shed like a bitch, but she was so loving.  We spent some time with her alone and decided as a family that she’d be ours.

Zero was my mom’s dog right off the bat and I think that upset my dad a little because he’s the one that wanted a dog the most.  Our poor girl had been severely beaten in her last home and was pretty afraid of men.  This was just another thing that made my dad distance himself from her.  He didn’t want to walk her or pet her and I could tell it was because he was afraid of scaring her.  Not long after we got her I got my first job so much to his displeasure he had to step up on dog duties.  He started with walks.  They wouldn’t go very far, maybe a block or two, but my mom and I always got a kick out of watching them because my dad would let Zero sniff everything she could find and pee on every tree, bush, and fire hydrant in the neighborhood.  This is where they finally got to bond.  She gained a trust in him and he gained a new understanding of her.  Before you knew it they were walking every day, sharing “quiet time” in the morning, and going for rides in the neighborhood.  Suddenly my dad had a new best friend


That’s actually the only picture I have of the two of them together.  It was taken in November of 2016 which was before we knew he was sick.  It’s hard to look at pictures from that time because now we know what we know.  At that time though, I think Zero knew.  I know it sounds crazy but I honestly think she knew something was wrong with him.  She’d never jump onto that chair with him but she started doing that more and more.  She didn’t really like being in the basement but she’d spend all her time down there if that’s where he was.  She would jump into his bed at night and watch TV with him.

When my dad started to get really sick she became inconsolable.  There was eventually a time where we had to stop her from getting into bed with him because she’d accidentally step on him and it would cause him pain.  It broke my heart to tell her no because she’d sit outside his door and try to look through the crack to see him.  Some nights she’d lay down in front of the door and cry because she wanted to be in there so badly.  When we’d let her in she’d nudge his hands to pet her and lick his fingers until he told her to go away.  When she wasn’t in front of the door she’d pace through the house.  She was very on edge as the end came nearer and more and more strange people were going into his room.  I didn’t know how to calm her down and it broke my heart.

When the hospice nurse came for the second time we somehow got onto the topic of dogs and we shared stories about our dog and how she was handling the situation.  The nurse told us a few stories about other patients she’d had who had dogs and how dogs grieve.  She suggested that when my dad passes we let Zero in to see him so she could take her own time to process what happened.  Never in a million years would we have thought to do that so I’m really glad she told us to.  The day he died we let her in and she basically scanned him from head to toe before she decided to lay down next to him for a while.  When she was done she got up and left the room. Just like that… she knew he wasn’t there anymore.  She’d come in every now and then and kiss his hands and when the hospice nurse came she laid across his feet as if she was protecting him from her. You could tell that she understood he had died though.  Her whole demeanor changed and for the first time in probably two weeks I watched her go to bed and pass out.

This brings me back to Saturday night when I caught her laying in his bed.  Originally I was going to just lay there for a bit but then I had this thought pop into my mind.  Was she laying there because she remembers him?  Does his room still smell like him to her?  Does she miss him?  Then the other side of my brain started to counter with the idea that she’s a dog and of course she doesn’t remember him.  That she’s probably just laying in his bed because it’s comfortable and she can look out of the window.  The back and forth just put me in a mood so I started to cry.  I hated the idea that she was coming into the room because she wanted to feel close to him and I hated the idea that she didn’t remember him even more.  Zero, being the angel she is, came over to console me and about 15 minutes later I calmed myself down and went to bed.

The truth is that I don’t know which theory is right and I’ll never know unless they come up with some technology to process the thoughts of a dog.  Either way though it makes me sad.  I’m so glad we have Zero in our lives especially now that my dad is gone because she brings us such great company.  Zero also brought my dad a lot of joy and I’ll forever be grateful for that.  Dogs really are amazing.



Man’s best friend

What it’s like to bury your dad- Part 3

The Funeral

I put this off for a long time.  I got through the first two and realized I still had to write this and I straight up didn’t want to.  Why? Because honestly through this whole process this day was the worst of them all.  Let’s just get into it then.  It’s long… sorry again.

I woke up on Saturday morning feeling pretty good.  I was coming off the wake and as I explained before that really hadn’t gone as horribly as I had expected.  If anything being surrounded by so many people who had fond memories of my dad made the experience much easier.  I think I woke up feeling optimistic that maybe, by some grace of God, the funeral wouldn’t be too horrible either.

My dad was buried in the Catholic church so before we even got there we had a quick prayer service in the chapel of the funeral home.  I sat in the front with my mom and Zack and watched as friends, family, neighbors, whoever came and passed the coffin one by one.  This broke me… no this killed me.  It was so unbelievably sad to watch people say goodbye one last time.  I honestly don’t know who thought of this as being standard operating procedure because really it’s just cruel.  Sure let’s sit the grieving family right up front to watch people one by one sob their way up to the coffin to give their respects.  I guess you don’t know how awful that moment will be until you’re in it so consider that your warning.

We left the funeral home and went into the procession to make our final trip past the house with my dad.  It was a miserably grey day which only added to the somberness.  However, because I live in an amazing world where amazing people exist, I was allowed one bright moment on an otherwise terrible day.  My dad’s favorite movie was the Wizard of Oz.  He had all the quotes down and would perform them regularly (his favorite being the Cowardly Lion’s “Courage” speech).  My neighbors are an unusual bunch meaning we’re so close that a lot of us keep better in touch with them than our own blood relatives.  My dad’s death really shook the block to it’s core so they came together quickly with this idea.  As we approached the block I was the first to notice some brightly colored ribbons tied to the stop sign on the corner.  Then the house next to it has some tied to the trees and the house across the street did as well.  It didn’t take us long to realize that the neighbors had made a rainbow on our block.  It was the most touched I’ve been in my entire life.

Coming off two incredibly emotional moments we finally made it to the church.  I was already too emotionally drained at this point so I knew this was going to be a bumpy ride.  3 of my friends were paul bearers for my dad.  They were his sons.  I remember watching them take the casket out of the car and seeing them have to lift him up.  It was surreal… how was I even living this right now?

Not to be too obvious but the sentimental feelings you’ve been harboring for days all seem to come to light on the day of the funeral.  Walking into the church I kept thinking about how it was the church that I was baptized in, made my communion in, and graduated in and they were all major events that he’d be there for.  It’s the church I’ll more than likely get married in.  It will be the wedding that my dad won’t be there for… and there I was walking down the aisle with him.

A huge group of my friends sat only a few rows behind us so when we got to the front I caught all of their eyes.  They had the saddest most defeated eyes I’ve ever seen and I’m sure I wasn’t looking much better to them.  I remember looking at my friend Mara and for some reason just seeing her made me lose it even more.  Honestly I’m sure looking at any of them directly would have had the same affect but she was the lucky one.  I just remember thinking that this seriously couldn’t be real.  My friends and I get together to drink on the Mississippi and sing karaoke.  We didn’t get together to bury someone’s dad.  How was that someone me?  How did I get so lucky that all these people drove and flew in from all over the place to be there for me?  How was this even my life?

The funeral seemed to take forever and no time at all.  I honestly don’t remember a lot besides the priest reading my mom’s letter to him as the homily and my dad’s best friends eulogy.  He did an amazing job considering only a day or so before he said he wasn’t going to do it.

Now… this is the only funny part of this story and I’m thankful every day that we at least got this one little break.  As I mentioned before, my dad’s favorite movie was The Wizard of Oz.  He had one wish (that he had expressed to us on more than one occasion) that at his funeral he would like to exit the church to the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”   My friend from gradeschool was kind enough to play the music for the mass and since we knew him he was able to sneak the song in after one verse of some secular music.  We thought this would be a beautiful tribute to my dad… until it actually started playing.  I was walking in front of my mom with Zack and as soon as those notes started to play I began to hyperventilate.  I just couldn’t wait to get out of the church and away from that song- it was too much for me.  However I failed to notice that as I was trying to get out of the church I had lost my mother somewhere along the way.  When the music started to play she froze.  She grabbed onto the closest thing to her and melted down.  Zack and I walked back to get her and move her out of the church when she started.. “THIS WAS A MISTAKE… THIS WAS A STUPID IDEA. I’M A STUPID BITCH. I’M A STUPID STUPID BITCH. YEAH NICE JOB JULIE PLAY THE STUPID SONG!” Yes, picture it. I’m dragging my mother out of the church as she’s yelling and cursing herself silly.  Talk about an exit.

The rest of the funeral day will leave you numb. None of it really matters after that.  I just couldn’t be bothered with being overly observant. We had a nice luncheon and my dad’s club was kind enough to host an after the luncheon party (because we’re the kind of people that throw a funeral after party).  They had food and beer and I got pretty decently drunk.  We gambled and shared stories and they set up my dad’s seat as a somewhat memorial to him.


It was a great send off but I would be lying if I said I really remembered much else about it.  I was in a haze.  I was just tired.  It was as if the last 3 months had finally caught up to me and all I wanted in that moment was to go to sleep and to wake up feeling somewhat normal again.  The truth is I’d never feel normal again.

I still struggle a lot. I still don’t feel comfortable talking about it with people.  I still feel like everyone is just waiting for me to move on.  I still can’t delete his contact in my phone.  I still get that moment of “I have to tell my dad this” only to remember that I can’t.  I still have dreams where he just comes back to life and we all just go one like nothing happened.  I still cry when I write in this blog.

The funeral really never ends unfortunately.


What it’s like to bury your dad- Part 3

What it’s like to bury your dad- part 2

The Wake

In my last post I stopped just short of really getting into what the wake is like.  This post won’t be horribly long… which is comical considering how long that day actually was.  Like I mentioned previously, my dad’s wake was scheduled from 2p-9p on the Friday after he died.  After my mom and I were done being alone with my dad the rest of the family came in.  Some had a lot of trouble… especially the out of state cousins who hadn’t seen him in a while.  I had made a video with pictures a quick clips of my dad over the years that everyone seemed to enjoy.  We all sat for about 30 minutes watching the video and gabbing until everything started.  It was the calm before the storm.

People started coming in right at 2:00 p.m. and it got progressively more steady as the day went on. By 6:00 p.m. you could barely move in that room.  My friends kept coming up and asking if I needed any food or drinks but honestly I had no appetite.  If you’re lucky enough to have friends like mine (I mean my God my friend Katie flew in from Seattle to be there) you won’t have to worry about much while you’re standing up there.  Even though wakes can get pretty busy there are moments where you become extremely self aware.  It didn’t take me long to realize that for the most part it was just my mom and I standing there.  In those moments I felt the most alone.  Even when I was talking to people I couldn’t shake the idea that the number of my family dropped from an already small three to an even smaller two and that one day I’d be the saddest little number one standing up there.

One thing that really surprised me is that I didn’t cry.  Not once while I was standing up there did I shed a tear.  Yes- my eyes from time to time found themselves welling up but I didn’t allow any to fall.  There were already too many people grieving and like I said before I needed to be strong for them.  In my opinion a wake is a total role reversal for the family.  It was our responsibility to comfort everyone else now.  There was a few people I prepared myself for though… just in case.  My mom warned me that when her mom passed there were certain people she saw that made her lose it.  For me, I thought it might be my “Auntie” Karen… my dad’s long time secretary.  As you can tell we became so close that she got the title of “Aunt”.  When my dad was diagnosed she was totally devastated and every time she would call to check in I could hear her holding back tears on the other side of the phone. So, I prepared myself to see her and it worked.  I made it through without totally losing it. Do your best to prepare yourself for those people.

I say “do your best” because there are a few randoms in there that will throw you off your guard.  A girl I went to grade school with and hadn’t hung out with since probably high school came and totally lost it when my mom reminded her of the nick name my dad gave her.  My cousin’s wife who, for the most part, keeps to herself was swimming in tears when she made it up to my mom and I.  Friends I hadn’t seen in years came and their thoughtfulness touched me so much that I nearly broke down with each new person.  Those are the worst moments because they are the ones you don’t expect.

I can’t say this enough- these experiences will be different from person to person.  What worked for me might not work for you but if I can give any advice it’s this… save your strength for the wake.  Be the most powerful and strong person you can be on that day. Try to not spend the day crying… it’s exhausting and it will leave you and others emotionally drained.  Be strong for everyone else because the wake is really their time to say goodbye.  The funeral is yours and dammit… the funeral is rough. 



What it’s like to bury your dad- part 2

What it’s like to bury your dad- Part 1

I went back and forth on writing this.  Meaning, this sat in my drafts on and off for about two months.  On one had it’s pretty grim but on the other had there’s probably a lot of people that wonder what happens when someone in your immediate family dies.  I think we all kind of imagine the scenario and wonder how we’d act.  We wonder if we’d be strong or if we’d simply fall apart.  No matter how much wondering you do it can obviously never prepare you for when that moment comes.  Luckily (but not really for me), I’m one of the few in my group of friends that have had to go through this.  I started writing this blog to help me and to maybe help others understand what it’s like.  So, if I never write about the uncomfortable stuff what’s the point?  The sad fact is that I know one day another person I’m close to will have this happen, then a few more will join the club, and then one day this will happen more often than not.  So, if I write about the worst days of my life and someone reads it and feels like they have a better understanding of the situation isn’t that a good thing?

So let’s start.  Firstly I should point out that obviously no two situations are alike.  They can be similar but everyone deals with their own things in their own way.  This is just how it happened for me and my family.  We knew basically from his diagnosis that my dad didn’t have more than a year left so we had a lot of family discussions about what we were going to do when my dad passed.  To be honest though my dad was overly prepared from the start.  Even before he was sick he had given my mom an envelope of “last wishes.”  Now he gave her that note over 10 years ago so things were a little outdated but at least we had an idea of what to do.  As things progressed and the end got closer my dad was adamant about us burying him over a weekend because “people shouldn’t have to take off work to come to my funeral.”  They day he died we cracked the joke that OF COURSE he just HAD to die on a Sunday and make things difficult for us.  This is the second thing I should note.  Waiting nearly a week to bury someone really isn’t the gold standard.  I can’t imagine doing what we did in 3-4 days in the span of 1-2 days and I commend anyone that’s had to.

As I mentioned previously, my dad died in our house.  Immediately after he passed we had to call the hospice team so they could officially declare a time of death.  In the mean time we gave a lot of people time to come over for goodbyes (even though our house already had plenty of people in it) before we called the funeral director to come and take him.  Up until John (our amazing funeral director) came I was doing relatively well.  As mentioned before I was the one to find my dad.  I took my time after I knew he was gone to tell everyone else and I took a few minutes after some people had gone through to lay in bed with him and hold his hand.  Besides that… I didn’t cry too much.  There was too many other people crying that I had to worry about.  Once John got to the house I went into the basement because I just couldn’t watch him be carried out.  My heart still hurts for my friends Matt and Ryan and my boyfriend who had to help do that.  I couldn’t even watch it so I can’t imagine what that had to be like doing it.  The rest of the night was spent with friends until the early hours of the morning.  The next few days would be long and busy so it felt good to be surrounded by love.

Like I said, my dad wanted to be buried on a Saturday so we had to wait 4 days until the wake and funeral would take place.  Honestly the week is a bit of a blur.  My mom, Zack, and me all went out to dinner on Monday night.  I remember that because there was a special on Miller Lite and we joked that he was already looking out for us.  I know at some point I went to my Aunt’s to get pictures of my dad from his childhood.  I remembered that because I’m pretty sure that’s the first time Zack met her.  I remember John coming over and helping us pick out mass cards, asking for a picture of my dad for the back of them, and picking out the prayer.  I remember that because they literally give you a giant catalog to search through.  It’s like flipping through a Kohl’s catalog except everything is funeral related and it’s really bizarre. Eventually I had to pick out (from another giant book of course) an urn.  I remember doing that that because I picked one out that was biodegradable but we couldn’t use it since Catholic cemeteries only allow 2 types of urns. I know one day our church sent  over a volunteer to help us plan the mass out.  I remember because she was actually our neighbor and she asked the church specifically to come help us out.  It was nice to have someone who actually knew my dad.   Like I said… all of these events were a mish-mash from Monday-Thursday.  I can’t really tell you when they happened but they did and all of them were awkward and uncomfortable but they pale in comparison to creating the picture boards.

One thing that was specifically in my dad’s old “last wishes” note was that he absolutely 100% did not want picture boards at his wake.  Now, I’m an incredibly sentimental person so that was just not going to fly with me.  So I sent Zack out to get some poster board and started sifting through the pictures.  I had this idea that we’d have 5 of them: one with pictures of me, my mom, and my dad, one with pictures of his side of the family, one with pictures of my mom’s side of the family, one with his friends, and one with his adoptive children (aka my friends).  At first going through the pictures was a lot of fun.  Zack was with me so he got a pretty long trip down Allison’s memory lane.  However one hour turned to two, then three, then four, and so on.  After we’d sorted through the pictures I was emotionally exhausted and I hadn’t even cut them down to the pictures that would eventually make the boards let alone glue anything on.  This was my first real break down since my dad had passed.  What originally started out as a fun thing to take my mind off what was happening became an agonizing journey through every amazing moment I shared with my dad and every amazing moment he had in all 64 years.  It became painful, tiring, and it left me feeling raw.  I probably cried harder then than I had during the whole three month ordeal.  It was the first time I realized, while surrounded by years worth of pictures of him, that there would be no more pictures.  He was dead and that was the end of that.  My suggestion here is to always have help in making these boards.  Zack saved my sanity when it came to putting these together.  He ran out and got all the supplies and took a lot of the responsibility of attaching each picture to each board.  Don’t do this alone.  I know you might think you’re the only one who can do this but you’re not. Ask for help.

Thursday night came and I was scared to death.  I remember going to bed and being awake for about an hour with my mind just pacing.  With the exception of the memory board break down I had done pretty well all week.  I was so worried that Friday would just shatter me.  It was going to be a long day and I’d have to see all these people who loved my dad and for the first time I wondered if I’d even be able to handle it.  I went to bed uneasy.  I’ve come to the conclusion that wakes aren’t really for the family.  I mean… of course they are but really wakes are for others to come and pay their respects.  People were going to be devastated so on Friday morning I decided I had to be strong for them.

My dad’s wake ran from 2pm to 9pm.  We got there early to set up the coffee room and spend some time with my dad’s sister and brother.  My mom and I went into the chapel first to see him and needless to say I didn’t take it very well.  One of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer is jaundice- meaning your skin turns yellow.  Towards the end my dad was pretty yellow and the combination of that and waiting 4 days to wake him meant that he needed quite a bit of makeup.  To me, he didn’t look like himself.  Everyone else commented on how great he looked and how he looked like himself but I couldn’t see it.  Thinking back, he probably did look fine- thin and a little caked with makeup but fine.  But that’s my dad… so I don’t think I was ever going to be happy with seeing him in a casket.  Honestly no one would be.

That’s where I’ll leave this for today.  It’s a really long post and I don’t want to bog you all down.  I think I’ll pick up with the rest of it another day.  I hope this maybe shed some light on what it’s like and what I had gone through.  Maybe this was better left unsaid… who knows.  I just want to be honest.



What it’s like to bury your dad- Part 1

The days I wonder

There’s one event that really sticks out to me when I think about the days my dad was sick.  It’s probably the worst event and that’s probably why it stands out so much.  The Friday before my dad died he woke up in the middle of the night and tried to go downstairs.  I was asleep on the couch on “dad duty” because we couldn’t leave him alone anymore… someone always needed to be near by.  I wrote about the experience here (about 3 paragraphs in) if you’d like to understand a little more about what went down.  It’s kind of exhausting re-living the whole thing again.

Anyways, something that’s randomly been popping into my head is this question- Why did he want to go downstairs so badly that night?  Maybe it’s been on my mind because our basement project is finally done and I’ve been spending so much time down there.  The basement was his home so I guess it would be the only explanation.

That night was the last night he was up and “talking” and walking.  I say “talking” because he really mumbled a lot by that point but he could distinctly get “let me go downstairs” and the word “basement” out.  His determination to get down there didn’t really phase me at the time.  I just thought the ammonia was making him crazy and even he didn’t know what he was doing.  Now I wonder if he did.

People often say that before you die you get this last burst of energy.  Sometimes they are alert and can actually enjoy quality time with their family members or are able to do things they love to do.  I’m wondering if that’s what he was trying to do.  Did he know it was the end?  Was he just trying to enjoy one more night in the basement in his comfy chair in front of his big screen T.V.? Was that the last thing he wanted to do?  And the worst of all… was I the one that prevented him from doing it?

I know it’s not good to dwell on the past and I can’t go back and change anything that happened but I find myself wondering more what would have happened if I just let him down the stairs.  I wonder if I had just offered him a hand on the way down would he have made it?  I wonder what he would have done down there and what he was trying to get to so desperately.  I wonder if I took his last good moment away from him.  I wish he was able to speak more clearly so I could have understood better what he needed.  Maybe if I understood I could have done more.  There are days I’m grateful I stood in front of the door and days I wish I could have just stepped aside.

I’ll never get that night back to redo it.  I keep telling myself that the reality is he would have hurt himself if he tried to get downstairs but there will always be that little voice that asks “what if?”

Just another day inside my mixed up head.



The days I wonder

Blue Christmas

So Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday.  I don’t know exactly what it is about Christmas that I like the most.  Christmas lights make my heart warm, Christmas music makes me happy, giving gifts is so much fun… whatever it is I just love it. Growing up in my house Christmas was always a great holiday.  I was an only child so on Christmas morning the attention was always focused on me so I felt an overwhelming amount of love come from my parents.  It wasn’t until I was older that I realized that the Christmas cheer wasn’t always flowing between everyone in the house.

My dad’s dad died on Christmas when he was really young.  I don’t know too much about what happened because he never really talked about it.  As I got older I figured out that my dad was 100% not a fan of Christmas and his feelings of resentment all came from his father’s death.  Obviously losing someone on a holiday is tragic (I mean we did it with Easter this year) so I understood why he was upset but I never really understood why he couldn’t move on.  My mom said that before I was born it was even worse.  He’d ultimately become the Grinch the month leading up to Christmas but when I was born my mom put her foot down and forced him to put a happy face on.

I remember being mad sometimes that he couldn’t just pull it together and love Christmas with me.  However, he really did go out of his way to make my favorite holiday special.  He’d scream and curse at the damn Christmas lights but our house was lit up every year.  He took his man cave in the basement and decked it out with Christmas figurines and replaced the light bulbs with red and green ones.  He’d be the first person up on Christmas morning and would blast Christmas music until my mom and I got up.  The man that hated Christmas is ultimately the reason I love Christmas.

This will be the first one without him and I am terrified.  Am I going to turn into the Grinch this year?  Will I turn into my dad and become a recluse throughout the Christmas season?  He was diagnosed with PC on 12/20… five whole days before Christmas. My mom told me that night that no matter what I couldn’t let what happened that day ruin Christmas for me and I made the empty promise to her that I wouldn’t.  I tried my best to make sure it was still the same holiday I love but it just wasn’t.  How could it be? We gave him gifts he’d barely use.  Nothing was worse than buying him a brand new suitcase that we hoped he could use twice but only got to use it once.  It was the worst Christmas ever.

This year I’m trying to not let last year repeat itself.  It’s so hard but I’m trying my best.  I broke my rule this week of “no Christmas music before Thanksgiving” because I’m constantly worrying that I’m not in the spirit yet. I thought maybe a jumpstart on the Christmas cheer might make things easier.   Things still kind of seem forced but I have so many plans that I’m hoping eventually the Christmas bug bites me.  If I learned anything from my dad’s hatred of Christmas it’s that even though something doesn’t feel totally right sometimes you just have to put on a smile and do it.  This Christmas won’t feel right still.  Next Christmas probably won’t either.  But over time things will fall into place and new traditions will be formed.

So no… I don’t think I’ll be a Grinch after all.  It just might take me a little longer than it used to to turn into a Cindy Lou Who.


Blue Christmas

Keeping busy busy busy

October did not start out easy.  This time of year will always remind me of my dad and as I talked about earlier we have a lot of memories from last year that made this month even harder.  Zack and I took over decorating the house for Halloween the second weekend of October.  My dad took his decorating very seriously so I knew I had a lot of hype to live up to.  I was happy to do it but I kept felt like I was stepping on someone else’s turf.  It was hard because my dad did his decorations in such a particular way and when I got out there I couldn’t remember where anything went.  When it was done the house looked great but I still felt like I had done it wrong.  My mom seemed to take the decorating pretty hard too.  As I was leaving to go to Zack’s she started to cry and shared a lot of the same feelings I was having about this month too.  It was just going to be hard but if we kept busy it might turn out ok.


The next day I took Zack to a pumpkin patch near my house that I hadn’t been to since I was a kid.  It was a great de-stressor to the previous day.  I had just been wound up tight about the decorations and about leaving my mom alone when she was so sad.  We spent the day walking around and the evening carving pumpkins.  I’m a sucker for fall fun activities.

The following week we had my neighbors, Jen and Nick’s wedding.  It was a perfect distraction because it was a wedding full of our neighbors and some of them are our closest friends.  Just how close can neighbors be?  Well, Jen and Nick had a table set up with some candles and a metal tree that held pictures on it.  It was for all family that should have been at the wedding but passed away before it happened.  My dad was included on the tree. It was such a sweet sentiment and it reminded me of how truly lucky I am to have people like that in my life.

This past weekend was a blast.  On Friday I went on a “witches walk” with my mom, a few neighbors, a few of my friend’s moms, and some other neighborhood women.  Basically me and my neighbors Jess and Jen were the youngest people there!  It was a little bar crawl in the neighborhood where we dressed up like witches and acted like fools.  There’s really no other way to describe it.  We had such a blast though and it was the first time in a couple weeks I had seen my mom feeling better.  I was worried for a while there because although she didn’t say she was sad or upset you could just see it on her face.  I think she needed a damn good night and man, she certainly got one.

I ended my marathon weekends with a Blackhawks game on Monday night.  The game was Hockey Fights Cancer night so the Chicago Affiliate of PanCan was there.  My friends Cassie and Conor joined Zack and I for the game and during the first intermission we went down to the 100 level to visit the PanCan table.  It was great because I had recently decided to volunteer for them and I got to meet some of the people I’ve been emailing back and forth.  When I walked up they said they had just been talking about me too so that could either be good or bad… haven’t decided yet.

Anyways, the goal of October was to keep busy and I’ve certainly done that and it was pretty successful in terms of keeping my mind off things.  I’m not sure if my mom feels the same way but with October coming to a close I have to say it wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated.  I had my bad days still but I’ll take a few bad days over an entire bad month. This weekend I have a mass to go to at my church that is celebrating the lives of all the parishioners lost this year which includes my dad.  I’m not really a church person and since the funeral I find myself getting overly emotional at masses but I know I need to go to this. Luckily after mass I’m going to a Halloween party so that should certainly lighten the mood afterwards.

My dad’s birthday is coming up on 11/2 but I’m not really thinking much about that right now.  I convinced my mom to go on a trip with her friends starting on his birthday and ending on the 6th.  I thought with me going to work all day and her being retired she didn’t need to sit in the house and think about his birthday all day.  At least if she’s sad now she’ll be sad around her friends who are also going to be sad about my dad.  I can’t even begin to fathom how I’ll do on his birthday and I’m not even going to try.  Like I said, I get myself too worked up so I’m just going to take it as it comes.  I’ll just keep staying busy, busy, busy.


Keeping busy busy busy