The Death of Dad

The Death of Dad
by Michelle Shelton

When my dad died, nothing was ever the same. There was a loneliness and a realization that I was truly on my own. This strong man that always offered me guidance. He was the ultimate coach. He knew when to build me up, call me out, be kind, be angry and sometimes just spend time with me in silence. He always knew exactly what I needed for me to move forward in my life. Now what?

So, the question that was posed to me was this: How does the death of a loved one affect you?
Well, I don’t know the answer to how it affects YOU, only you know the answer to that question. I do know it affects me. My answer is it affects me however I want it to. I made a choice to not have a melt down. A few years prior to my dad dieing, my best friend was murdered. I became afraid. I didn’t want to build relationships. I didn’t want friends. I began to sleep more. I wanted to move and run away. To read about the murder of Bev, please click here.

I can be sad and grief stricken or I can accept what IS and embrace the spiritual aspect of it all. You will LOVE this story about my dad because some really amazing spiritual things happened. This is not about religion as he wasn’t a religious man.

Even as a little girl I knew everyone died. I did know that my big strong and wise father  would die someday so why would I be shocked when it happened? Dad died August 5, 2007. My entire life I had been afraid to lose him and when I did lose him, the moment was one of the most spiritual moments I had ever experienced. Once again, dad had given me a gift.

He had lived a good life. Some might think that means a pure life…not so. He lived. He made mistakes. A failed marriage, a marital affair, several failed business ventures. As a young man he drank too much, ate too much and chased women.  There were other mistakes typical of 83 years. There were fortunes made and fortunes lost and over time he created a family. A family that always stood by him. He had children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was married to my mother for 62 years. Through thick and thin he was always there for me. We fought. We laughed. We shared some amazing moments. In the end, he was a shining example of what a loving relationship really is…another human being holding your face when you are dying and kissing you while they are telling you what a good friend you had been to them. This is the moment I shared with my mother and father the few days before he died.

I got there on Friday morning around 6:30 AM. Dad had been in the hospital since Tuesday with an infection from the dialysis. He had abused his body for years with hard living and the abuse had finally caught up with him. He was struggling to breath and he was hooked up to beeping machines. He smiled when I came in and reached for me to give me a hug. Since it was hard for him to talk, I asked him if he knew who I was and he nodded and smiled. Then he said my childhood nickname…”Pete – the pot”.

I had flown from Phoenix to Omaha and rented a car and drove all night to be by his side. When my brother told him I was coming he simply asked, “Am I going to die?” I visited once a year and it was typically not when he was in the hospital. He had been in and out over the years and I never got the feeling that I did this time. I knew I had to be there.

Once I saw dad, I called my husband and told him to get the kids and come. I knew this was it. My husband and all five of our kids arrived Saturday morning around 3:00 AM. Dad cried when he saw the kids. He gave each of them a hug.

The next day was a beautiful experience that I will not ever forget. Not being a religious man, I was surprised when dad kept looking around my head with wonder and delight. He seemed to enjoy what he was seeing. I finally said, “Dad, what are you looking at?”

He asked. “How are you doing that?”

“How am I doing what?” I asked back.

He seemed in wonder. And looked again around my head and his eyes went across the room. He lifted his arm and waved it and said, “All that mystical stuff.”

I don’t know what he saw. Perhaps it was an angel, an aura, some spiritual being to help him cross. All I know is it was spiritual and it was nice. He liked it and smiled as he said it. His face was intense like he was trying to figure out exactly what “it” was.

At one point dad started to sleep a lot. He woke up and looked at my mother and asked, “I’m still here?” He seemed annoyed when she nodded and then he continued, “How long is this going to take anyway?”

He always was a bit impatient once he made up his mind to do something. It wasn’t long after he made the decision that it was time that it all rolled out perfectly. He had once again, made it happen. The time was right.

On Saturday night it was just mom, dad, my husband and me. Dad became unable to talk and he was agitated. He was pulling at his clothes and still had a huge amount of strength to fight mom and I when we attempted to put his arms down. He was grunting and making noise. I could see my mother being worn down and she was feeling the stress. She was tired. She had a worried look and flashed me a pleading, helpless look and said, “I don’t know what to do.”

“Talk to him.” I said.

“What should I say?” She wanted to know.

“Tell him about when you first met.” I said.

The stories started to pour out. Stories I had never heard. At one point she took his head gently in her hands and kissed his face all over and whispered, “My best friend. We had a good life, didn’t we?”

I was so grateful to be there for this tender moment between two people that had shared every moment of MY life and nearly every moment of their long life together. She was 18 when they married and he was 21 back in 1945.

The stories continued to roll out the rest of the night. I called the pastor, he came and offered comfort. My husband was a huge support to me and stayed the night also.

In the morning, dad could only move his eyebrows. He didn’t open his eyes…his breathing changed. He was leaving us. I crawled in bed with him and rubbed his head and told him goodbye. “I love you daddy. Thank you for being a good daddy. I have called the other kids and they are on their way. They will be here in about 40 minutes. You don’t have to wait. We will take care of mom and we will take good care of your body. We all love you.” I cried as I talked to him. I looked at his hands and held them. They looked exactly the same as when I was a kid. They still seemed so big. The big hands that had always held my little hand.

My sister came and about 30 minutes later my brothers walked in the room. I wasn’t expecting what happened next. They walked into the room and my sister-in-law announced us all by name. Once she did this he stopped breathing. That was it, two more breaths and he stopped. Everyone seemed shocked. We all quickly touched him. “Goodbye daddy. I love you.” We nearly all spoke in unison and we were shocked at how quickly he let go once we were all together.

He took two more breaths. It seemed as if he was acknowledging us all being together. That was it. He was gone. His skin went cold very quickly. I looked at his body and held his hand in mine one last time. I looked up and saw my husband standing there with my 11 year old daughter. When did she get there? I didn’t care. I was glad she had experienced this beautiful death.

As we walked out of the room to tell the other kids in the waiting room, my daughter said, “Momma, someday I will do that for you…you know, what you did for Grandpa.” I started to cry.

I miss him so and I am thankful that I was there at the end. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life to share in the final moments of a life well lived. A life of success and failure. A life of love.

Richard R Seward was his name. “Krazy Dick” to his customers. He was 83 years old and he lived a full life and loved often.

Michelle and her husband own a marketing company called Krazy Dick’s Marketing, LLC in honor of her father.

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