It's almost that time of the year when in the hustle and bustle of things, and as Christmas draws closer, the true meaning of Christmas comes to mind. This Christmas is truly going to be bittersweet, because it's my Dad's first Christmas in Heaven! I know my Dad is in a Much Better Place! He can now remember everything, and he is truly Happy in the Kingdom of God!
My husband Dennis and I traveled to Michigan this past June. We spent one week with my Mom and visiting my Dad daily at the Medical Care Facility where he spent the last eleven months of his life. Every day that we went to visit Dad was amazingly alert and he knew me, every day! There was a few times that he wasn't sure who my Mom might be, but he knew me right off! I can still see him walking down the hallway, taking short but deliberate steps, almost a little shuffle, but he was going. At 90, he was still up and moving. I remember, as a child, walking beside him and his strides were long, as he was so tall, and I had all I could do to keep up with him. He walked everywhere. Long before he would walk three miles one way to work! Then I saw him walking toward me in the Nursing Home, and there was a smile on his face, and through a tear, I was so happy to see him, and to see him coming toward me. We embraced, and I felt like my Dad's little girl again, if only for a minute!
Each day when we were ready to leave, Dad said something special to me. I need to tell you that my Dad was not a man of many words. He was not one to brag, nor he did he like or expect any special attention. He was truly from the old school where you were, "seen and not heard." One day when we were ready to leave after our visit, Dad said, "thanks for coming, you mean a lot to me." The next time, at the end of our visit, Dad said, "you know I care about you a lot."
Now you have to understand, during the years that I was growing up, my Dad had never told me that he loved me. He always said, "you know I do." Hearing it was something that I had always wanted. Some how I always hoped to hear those words, but I really knew now that my Dad was a victim of Alzheimer's it was never going to happen!
The very last day that we visited Dad, (I have always never did well with Goodbyes) I knew that telling him Goodbye would be difficult. I even wondered if he would remember that I was even there. The nurses told us that he actually was looking forward to seeing me, and that he kept telling them that I was coming! That was remarkable, as he seldom remembered much of any conversation. My Mom did tell him that I was coming to visit, but it surprised us to know that he actually held onto remembering days before. I also was sending my Dad a card and a message almost every week. The nurses said he was putting my cards under his pillow. Mom brought him a big manila envelope for his cards, but he still kept some under his pillow.
Getting back to the last day of our visit. I waited until my Mom bid her Goodbye to Dad, then my husband Dennis, and then it was my turn! I put my arms around him, gave him a few kisses, and then it happened. He looked me square in the eyes, and he said: "I Love You'! It was then that I knew. It was then that it hit me like a "mack truck." This is going to be our last Goodbye. This is what I had been waiting for, all of my life!! It was truly bittersweet! This was God allowing my Dad to have a necessary moment of true memory, and setting the record straight. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. My Mom still talks about it!
It was on October 18, 2009 that I got the call that I knew was coming. My Dad had passed away. At his wake I was able to share those last few days of Goodbyes, between me and my Dad. Somehow, this is what has gotten me through my loss. It was my little Miracle! It was the ultimate gift not only from my Dad, but from God. Christmas will be difficult this year, but I am truly at Peace knowing that my Dad is in Heaven, but most of all, knowing that my Dad loved me! What a Gift!!!
As I said at my Dad's wake. It is never too late to say the things that you need or want to tell someone. Do it now while you can. Tell someone you love them. It is definitely, Priceless!!!