In Lieu of Flowers

Last night my mom asked if I would be willing to write my dad’s obituary.  I told her I would be honored.  I have no idea how to write an obituary, much less one that would do justice to my father.  I don’t have much experience with death or the process of dying.  I have never been to a funeral or a memorial service.  No one I have had a close emotional attachment to has ever died.

My dad’s death seems distant both in future and in past.  He is not dead but he is not alive.  I have not seen my dad since Thanksgiving although I have visited him several times since then.  He has Alzheimer’s and he has Parkinson’s and he has no longer been even the smallest part my dad since early December.  My last real conversation with him was about a week after Thanksgiving when he called me up on the phone just to chat, a very un-dadlike thing to do.  He was totally and completely my dad for those ten glorious minutes.  I cut the conversation short just so it would not crumble and end in a heap of confusion.  After that phone call I cried harder than any of those Alzheimer’s phone calls: when he would call and need reassurance that he was ok, that no one was trying to steal his money, or sell his house, or keep him prisoner in a place that looked like his house but was obviously a fake, or a thousand other alternate reality situations that were so real to him.

It was after that one beautiful phone call that I realized just how much I missed my dad.  So last night when my mom asked if I would be willing to write my dad’s obituary, I told her I would be honored.  He can no longer eat solid foods.  He chokes on liquid.  He sits, his eyes closed his mouth open, shaking and non responsive.  There is nothing left to do.  Nothing left to hide behind.  No more conversations about different medicines or ways to give him independence.  There is no more reading about the disease, no more daily stories about the glimmer of the man, for the glimmer and the man have gone.


There is nothing left to do but to wait and let him die.  This might just be the hardest part.

About Shoes

I am an elementary school teacher, a former microbiologist, a mom to a herd of two boys, and a grilled cheese sandwich and beer connoisseur.
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23 Responses to In Lieu of Flowers

  1. mommysaidaswearword says:

    The way you write about your father is heartbreakingly beautiful. Thank you for sharing this personal post, it moved me deeply.

  2. Lisa W. says:

    This is a beautiful post. I cannot imagine how difficult this situation must be for you and your family. I hope you are ALL able to find peace in the future.

  3. Mona Lisa says:

    This was so moving and powerful. Wow.

  4. muddledmom says:

    So glad you got to have a good conversation with him earlier. I can’t imagine how difficult this is for you. Beautiful post.

  5. Jodi Stonedi says:

    You do write so beautifully about your dad, it stirs me in so many ways. My dad who I didn’t have a great relationship with died in a motorcycle accident when I was thirteen. So many times I wished that I had a better relationship with him and then when I read of the heartbreak you and your family are going through it makes me glad I didn’t. Isn’t that selfish? And now here I am crying at work. 🙂

    I’m so sorry for all that you are dealing with. I’m sending some good thoughts your way.

    • shoes says:

      Oh Jodi, I am sorry to hear about your dad. I imagine it would be very hard to lose a loved one whom you wished you had a better relationship with than you did. There is no going back in either case and so we must learn to live with what is before us the best way we know how. Hugs to you and thank you for your comment.

  6. Brenda says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss– I am sure your obituary will be beautiful. Best wishes and good vibes. Take care of yourself.

  7. Nancy says:

    So well written. What a beautiful, painful, sad post. You brought tears to my eyes feeling your sadness and the task that lies ahead. My thoughts are with you and your family. The obituary you write will certainly do your father justice. You have conveyed that already in writing in this post.

  8. Jodi Stonedi says:

    BTW there is no ‘right’ way to write an obit, but if you want some guidance go to your local paper and read a couple obits or go to your local funeral home, they have a form which fills in basics and you can take it from there.

    If you need anything, you know how to reach me. 🙂

  9. EV says:

    Thanks. It’s been a long time since I’ve have 10 glorious moments. My mom is going slowly into “that good night”, too. Thanks for bringing back memories of my real mom.

    • shoes says:

      I am sorry EV that you are traveling the road of Alzheimer’s with your mom. Memories are so important. Memories of my dad pop into my head at the most random of times and I have started being aware of them and taking a moment to write them down, so that I do not lose them again. I wish I could have recorded that very last phone call.

  10. shoes says:

    Thank you for your kind comments. Each one means a lot to me. This experience is such a mixture of vivid emotions it just doesn’t seem real sometimes. I felt I had to write something so I wrote and sobbed my way through it and felt a little better after I was finished. Thank you for “listening.”

  11. Hetterbell says:

    My Mum was extremely close to her grandmother all her life until a few years before her grandmother died. Luckily for me, through their relationship I was able to spend a lot of time with my great-grandmother and grew very close to her, too. She had Alzheimers, like your dad, and so in her last years she seemed like someone else a lot of the time. It is now just over 20 years since my great-grandmother died and I think about her so much these days and miss her very much.

    I don’t really know if this helps or not, and if it comes out wrong please forgive me, because the last thing I want to do is be insensitive and upset you. You might be right when you say now is the hardest time. My Mum was upset when her grandmother died, but she felt as if she’d actually lost her a few years before, so she had already experienced a great deal of the feeling of loss before the physical loss took place. I know that what you’re going through is really hard, but if there is a grain of comfort to be found it might be this: although your dad does not seem like your dad to you, since what is happening to him is beyond his control he is not trying to hurt you. That may sound a strange thing to say, but I know of an elderly relative who has really turned on her daughter at times, even though her daughter is the one who is helping her more than anyone. This elderly relative knows exactly how she is behaving but continues to anyway, and doesn’t seem to care how it hurts her daughter. Although you feel you’re losing your dad, he is not turning against you. An illness has interupted the transmission of his character to you, but his real personality is preserved the way it always was and that is how you will be able to remember him because he has done nothing to change it.

    I find it difficult to say what I mean, but I hope you understand what I mean, and as always I send you best wishes.

    • shoes says:

      I completly understand what you are trying to say Heather and thank you. We are beyond the point of him even being someone else, for there is no one now. But before this downturn, there were many, many times where he would act in ways that were hurtful, mean, even, and though I did not see much of it since I do not live with him, my mom did. While it was hard dealing with face to face and not taking it personally, deep inside I know, really truly know that that person was not my dad. He was a puppet to the disease and it was not him doing or saying those awful things. I think you put it very nicely when you said that “an illness has interupted the transmission of his character to you” because that is exactly what was happening. My dad is dead, he just has not died yet. It could be days, weeks, or even months but no one is talking years anymore and I think that is so much for the best. It was hard to watch him “die” from the disease but the final death, that is my struggle now.

      I am very glad for all the wonderful years we had and he continues to live in my memories of him and forever will. That is something the disease can not take from me. Thank you for your kindness and wishes.

      • Hetterbell says:

        You must have experienced some unbearably difficult times. But you are absolutely right when you say that the illness cannot take your memories of your dad away. I realise that a great-grandmother/great-granddaughter relationship is not the same as a father/daughter relationship, but twenty years on I still remember my great-grandmother often and every memory makes me feel that she is closer to me. By remembering I feel I keep the real her alive somehow, and I’m sure you’ll be able to keep your dad close in this way. Although I’ve only known you through here for a few months, I do think of you and your current situation often. I wish you all the best and I am sure that your children will be a huge comfort to you through this time.

  12. Maiya says:

    Ohhhh my friend..thank you for sharing this with us.

  13. cestarr says:

    Thank you so much for your honesty and vulnerability. May God give you the strength you need for each day. I admire your courage.

  14. Yoga Mama says:

    oh, wow. you are going through so much. my heart aches for you. I am struck by how helpless we are, and how love is really the only thing that matters in the end. your love for him comes through clearly in your words, as does your pain and your strength in the face of something that to me sounds impossible to handle. my admiration to you for your bravery, your love of your father, and the wisdom you have in knowing in your heart that your dad’s true self was not what the disease made him.

    • shoes says:

      Thank you for your kind words. There are days when I feel like this can not possibly be reality. I am realizing that you can talk about death but until you face it close up, I does not seem so solid, so there. I am trying to find a balance between where to physically be in the next week or two. There are school presentations and Valentine’s parties that are important to the boys but then there is my dad. I want to see him one last time.

  15. oh Shoes!I wish I could hug you and just let you cry. These images are still very much vivid in my own memory of my own grandfather.

    Before this trip I called my own dad to ask about oil for my oil change.I wanted to make sure Brandon was using the right type….I realized while on the phone I had to start letting go of these little things because my dad wasn’t always going to be around to answer these questions and it was one small very hard realization to face.I told Brandon to use whatever he felt was best but it was a very hard thing for me to let go of,because cars has always been mine and my father’s things.

  16. shoes says:

    Whoa! I about fell off my chair to see a comment from you! It has been too long that you have lived in the land of bad internet where you can not read my blog – I miss your comments and input. I am sorry you had to go through the Alzheimer’s journey with your Grandfather.

    It is the little things we have to let go of piece by tiny piece that makes the grieving process so drawn out. But it is also the little things that truly make the memories so dear to us.

    I was so hoping that I could meet you on your trip across the mountains but my world is imploding bit by bit. I don’t think I would make for great company.

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