A year isn’t what it once was.
It used to seem like a year was a long time. But now the days pass much more quickly and milestones are piling up so high that they sometimes block my view of everything going on around me.
A year ago I got a call from my brother early on a Sunday morning.
I was home visiting my father whose health was failing. I was getting ready to go feed dad his breakfast and spend a little more time with him before heading back to Kansas for work.
We had only arrived hours before. The boys played soccer Saturday morning and we debated whether or not to head back to Chickasha considering it would be late afternoon when we arrived and we would have to be home less than a day later.
Finally I decided I didn’t know how many more chances we would have to see him so we hit the road.
I’m so glad we did.
I spent the afternoon with my brother and my dad. When Kenyon left, I stayed with dad and watched an Oklahoma Sooners game with him until he fell asleep.
I was used to dad sleeping through parts of games. I can’t count the number of times he would doze off with his hand on the remote control only to spring to life when anyone tried to slide it out of his grip.
But this sleep was different.
A strange condition called Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease had silently crept in and destroyed his brain to the point where light coming into his room through a window made him think his room was on fire. His body was completely stilled except for very limited movement in his right hand.
The symptoms had only begun to reveal the condition about a month before. At first, doctors thought he had a stroke. When strokes and every other condition were ruled out, CJD became the diagnosis.
Dad was sent back to a nursing home in Chickasha where doctors expected him to live 3-6 months.
I miss him so much, but I’m glad he isn’t here anymore.
The shell of a man who couldn’t eat, couldn’t move and could barely speak wasn’t my father. He would never have wanted to live that way.
Dad was a 75-year old who would ride on a tube behind a boat with his grandkids. He mowed lawns, cleaned buildings and took care of his Sunday School class at church.
Page 2 of 2 - He had been in the nursing home since Thursday. My brother called me on Sunday morning. I had to tell mom that dad was gone. Dad’s life was over.
We were sad to have lost him, but so glad he didn’t have to suffer any more.
I was also thankful to have been given a warning shot that his life was ending. Normally, we don’t make it home very often. But after visiting on Labor Day, we knew his condition was serious. A wedding brought us back another weekend and as dad’s clock wound down, we knew not to waste opportunities to see him.
I am also thankful that he got to wrap things up before he died. Many people have death come quickly and unexpectedly. But dad had the chance to tell my mother that he enjoyed every day of their 55 years together and how much she and his family helped him enjoy his life.
We all have the opportunity to share that thought every day. But dad could see the finish line and he didn’t want to leave that thought unspoken.
Dad spoke about how his life was enriched. But what is notable in his absence is how much he enriched the lives of those he knew.
Our family has been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time together since dad died. Almost every activity leaves us thinking how much we wish he could have been here to see it.
But thanks to how he lived, the time we spent together and our shared lives will keep him alive in our memories forever.
It has been hard all year to deal with dad being gone. The grief has gone deeper beneath the surface but it hasn’t gone away.
I don’t know that it ever will. But I don’t mind the grief so much.
Every moment of sadness is tied to a happy memory that brings lightness to the darker emotions.
Kent Bush is the publisher of the Augusta Gazette, the El Dorado Times, and the Andover American newspapers. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org