Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Screwed Up Priorities

Frankie is an avid athlete. He gives 110% for any sport he plays. Currently, he is a cross-country runner and a hockey player. You can see his effort and passion just by looking at him.

DSC_5798.JPGI have been making sure lately that I am thanking his coaches. When I go to meets or games, I am often appalled by the behavior of other coaches and parents. We have truly been lucky to have had great role models 90% of the time.

At a recent hockey game, I was sitting near a kid who looked like he was in sixth or seventh grade. He yelled on and off during the entire 75 minutes of the game. His mother sat next to him not responding in the slightest. He was belittling the referees by calling them “zebras” and “blind zebras” over and over again. At some point, everyone gets frustrated with refs and yells out, but there is a difference when you are denigrating them. If for no other reason, this young kid should show respect to them simply because they are adults. What is this kid’s future going to look like?

Cross country showed some unsavory characters as well. One coach was screaming at the guys, “You are running against these guys. They are not your friends. Stop running with them.” I can’t give you the intonation in written word, but it was awful. Frankie’s team supports each other and have each other’s backs. They cheer each other on and want everyone to be successful.

The worst was when I was talking to the girls after their race. They were talking about the moms from one of the other teams. She said one mom yelled out to her daughter, “At least you can burn off those calories you ate last night at dinner.” I was proud of our girls for realizing that was inappropriate. Plus, they had seen how that girl reacted to her mom and it wasn’t good. All I could think about was how she was a shoe-in for developing an eating disorder.

Competition is good for us. It motivates us and challenges us. Not everyone can have a trophy. But what I adamantly believe, is that my son needs to be a great human being first, and a great athlete second. Winning is NOT everything. Character IS everything. I’m extremely grateful for the coaches and parents we are surrounded by that seem to agree with that.

By the way, I’m pretty damn proud of Frankie- his skills as well as his sportsmanship. Well done!


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Car Shopping with a Counselor

I’ve heard it more than once or twice that people tend to spill their guts around counselors. Kinda like hairdressers, bartenders, massage therapists. It’s just what happens. I think with me, it’s more because I’m so damn intense emotionally, that it draws it out of other people too. Now, I didn’t say I’m emotional, but intense with emotions. Who knows, maybe there is only a difference in my imagination.

Almost everyone I know hates car shopping. You would think it would be fun and exciting, but it is usually stressful. Spending that amount of money, combined with making a decision that will affect the next eight to ten years of your life, it’s no wonder it feels like too big of a decision. Now add to it that most of us expect to be ripped off. We know they aren’t really going to give us their bottom life offer, even though they say they are.

My dad almost always had trucks, pretty much his whole life. They were his babies. He took meticulous care of them. We had talked about my possibly trading in his truck for a new car and I was worried I would break his heart. He was ok with it, thankfully. But now consider this intensely emotionally person taking her very recently deceased father’s pride and joy to be traded in. Even my boyfriend was like, “Yea, I have to say, this was the most stressful and emotional car shopping experience I’ve ever had.” At our age, that’s saying something.

Let’s just say that after the first three-hour visit with a sales girl, she looked at me and said, “Remember, it’s just a car.” Then I informed her that wasn’t the case for my dad. It was his baby. I started crying with frustration because we couldn’t come to an agreement for a price. Next thing I knew, she was crying too. Oh man!

Two days later, I am on speaker phone with the sales guy I have worked with for decades. He starts to have a mini meltdown with me due to the inability to come to a purchase agreement with me. I talk him down from the cliff and then he ends up disclosing some very stressful personal stuff. Love that guy, but only shopping with me would there be this much emotion spilling over everywhere.

After way too many hours and days, I did finally get a vehicle. I ended up back at the place where I had the woman crying. She was off the day I actually purchased but I got to see her a couple of days later. The employees there have each other’s backs so they made sure she got her part of the commission. She certainly earned that one.

 

IMG_20180912_082546330_HDRIt’s cute, isn’t it? Safe, good mileage, got a decent deal. Honda HR-V Sport. My insurance agent asked if I was having a mid-life crisis. I told her I was just sick of the color black and feeling like I live in the world of death and dying. Besides, Dad’s truck was red. Doesn’t that count for something?

Anyhow, perhaps you can relate to the car buying stress. I wouldn’t recommend taking me with you, though. Just saying.


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Here Again

For a supposed grief expert, I sure forget the basics sometimes. I find myself crying at odd times over odd things and get surprised by it. Then it finally occurred to me that it has only been two and a half weeks since Dad died. I preach to everyone that grief takes a long, long time. I’m not even close to being finished!

Continuing to cooperate with investigations about the fiasco that surrounded his death certainly keeps everything fresh. And it ignites the anger all over again too. I don’t mind spending the literal hours upon hours to do this. But am I going to feel that way if at the end of it all nothing happens?  What if nothing changes?

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I keep learning new things and witnessing situations where I realize that the level of dysfunction in our medical system goes deeper and deeper. Will it ever get better? Is it even moving in the right direction? And will someone like me even able to make the tiniest difference?

I love the picture I posted last week. Dad looks genuinely happy to have his daughters with him. It is freaky weird to think that was only two months prior to losing him. He looks healthy and full of life.

The first thing that set me off was a form letter I received. I talk about this event ad nauseam every day. Seeing “we have been informed of the death of David Thiel” is pretty straight forward but it knocked me off my feet. I just started crying. Colin made me feel better. He saw it and said that it is indeed difficult to see it in print.

Thanks to the countless  number of you that have sent cards, donations, food, flowers, and just plain old check in calls. So many people knew him and think he was a stand-up guy, just like we do. There is a big empty hole in my gut that is going to be there for some time. Not sure what will start to heal it, but I know time is a factor.

An eerie number of my friends have lost a parent this year. If you are one of them, give yourself a moment to be gentle with your memories. If you know someone who is going through this, take a moment to reach out or say a prayer. It means more than you know.

Yep, that’s me and my daddy.  Darcy, Dad- camping


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Eulogy

I’ve been asked to remember to post the eulogy so here it is. I hope that it does my father justice.  Just a couple of pictures to show the bookends of his life.

Dad

David August Thiel was born on April 7, 1932. But that is how these eulogy things always start. Yet for me and my family, it feels like he deserves something special. Something that captures the essence of who he was to us.

I find myself struggling because in truth, it was dad’s ordinariness that actually made him extraordinary. He was a gentleman. A gentle man. Soft spoken. Predictable and dependable. In other words, you could count on him. He was a man who took responsibility seriously.

Dad was a man of honor. He didn’t talk about his time in the military much, but he served during the Korean War. He has a devastatingly handsome picture from that time. His eyes were like a movie star’s. In a confusing time in our country, we are so proud of his service.

He and Mom met at a dance. They got married December 4, 1954. On their 50th anniversary, Mom wrote this: “They say a good man is hard to find—I found one! You are a good husband, great provider, the best dad and we are fortunate to have four wonderful kids and eight delightful grandkids. It makes for a wonderful family. I’ll follow you down that ‘forever path’ …like it or not.  Three years later, Dad lost the love of his life. He lived on the best he could, but some losses in our lives have such a profound impact on us, we are never quite the same again. One of the greatest comforts for us is knowing he is reunited with her.

Working at the water treatment plant at Harrison’s for well over thirty years also earned our respect. He went to work every day and I don’t remember him ever complaining. Very rarely did he take a day off work. Until he retired of course. Then they traveled all over the place, seeing the things they always talked about seeing.  They had camped lots of times in their lives, but it started with new fervor when they purchased a motor home. They deserved that time together.

After working all day, Dad came home to the farm. He and mom sold asparagus for years and raised our own beef. The first cow we had I named Billy. After Billy ended up on our kitchen table, I never named a cow again. My old siblings, I mean my older siblings tell me they remember Dad hunting. I don’t ever remember that, but after the Billy fiasco, I’m not surprised. What I do remember, is snowmobiling. We belonged to a club and of course, Dad was president.

You can’t know Dad without knowing how committed he was to the passion in his life- volunteering at Terry’s Corners firehall. He was honored last year for sixty years of service. Sixty years! His nickname there was “Moses.” There are lots of opinions as to why he was called that, but I assume it is because he was a formidable leader.  He was a firefighter, fire police, fire chief at least three times that we know of. Bingo, drills, installation dinners, gun raffles, chicken barbecues. I haven’t even been alive that long and he has been working hard all that time. Wow.

We’ve learned so many things about him, right up until the fat lady sang. I had no idea my dad was such a charmer. I mean, who would have thought that someone whose high school nickname was “Squeal” was going to be a lady killer. Every doc, every nurse… heck, they would come see him even if he wasn’t their patient. He would get this big smile and be teased about being such a flirt. Nurse Amy didn’t even call him by his name. “Handsome Pants” would get called right across the room whenever he walked into the office. That trend didn’t stop in the end. The last few weeks he was surrounded by his family 24/7.  Sometimes he wouldn’t be able to respond to us and then the cute young thing called an aide would walk in and he would suddenly be responsive. I considered renting a uniform and pretending to be a nurse.  And then there was the scandalous relationship he had with the married woman next door to his apartment. He claims she had dementia and wandered in accidentally but I’m no fool.

Truth be told, Dad was a hot commodity at Elderwood where he spent the last year of his life. Men were outnumbered about 4 to 1. And most of the men there were cranky. Dad’s good nature and good looks caught everyone’s eye. Some would show no embarrassment when they would tell us how the “other” women there were chasing my dad. Every once in a while I would toss out something like, “You know, he IS a stubborn German,” hoping to comfort them but they didn’t buy it.

Also like a good German, Dad could be pretty stoic. He was NOT a man who wore his heart on his sleeve. We never doubted that he loved us. Not because he showered us with hugs and kisses and repeated I love you’s, but by his provision and unwavering presence. His humor would make it impossible to be frustrated for long. We’ve had a running joke with him most of our lives. 99% of the time, saying I love you Dad would be answered by “yeah.” If we challenged him with a louder I SAID I LOVE YOU DAD, we would be answered by a louder YEAH.

The last week of his life, Dad couldn’t leave his bed. He could barely communicate and could only sporadically do so. One of those days, Lisa and I had him trapped. It wasn’t very difficult in his condition of course, but we found ourselves sitting on either side of him in the bed. We both told him we loved him. I held my breath, as I realized that I would have done anything to hear one of those “yeahs” that really meant I love you too, but he seemed too weak to answer. I said, “Dad, aren’t you going to say it at least once to us before you go?” He surprised us when he was able to say, clear as a bell, I MIGHT.

My father was ready. We think it is incredibly brave and courageous to be able to evaluate your life and recognize that you feel finished. That takes humility, which seemed to come naturally with his personality. To grow older gracefully and look forward to what is next to come takes a human of great character. And Dad was certainly a character. Oops, Freudian slip.

The things he stood for in his quiet way are simple. Honest. Hardworking. Faithful. There, year after year after year. The truth is, they just don’t make em like that anymore. In a world where most of us shake our heads in sadness or confusion several times a day, my dad represents a better time, a better person. Our love and connection to him runs deep. He never faltered so the steady confidence we felt with him in our lives was a true treasure and gift. The cavern that is left behind for us is indeed a ginormous one. Please, lets us make a pact to honor his memory by filling that cavern by following his example. Be someone that others can draw strength from. Be someone that others know they can count on.

From Sue, Randy, Lisa, and myself, thank you for being here. Be like Dad and you will do well.

Lisa, Dad, Darcy

 

 


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At Peace

Dad finally took his last breath on Sunday, August 19, 2018, sometime around 9 am. We didn’t actually witness it because he took the path so many do – he chose to go when he was alone. We were there though within a few minutes.

Perhaps next week I will post the eulogy I intend to read at his funeral on Saturday. But not today, no spoilers! For anyone interested, here is the funeral information:

Calling hours are Friday, August 24, 4 pm- 8 pm at the Ross Funeral Home; 10 Eckerson Rd.; Akron where there will be an antique fire truck and other equipment on display

The Funeral Service is Saturday, August 25, 11 am at St. Michael’s; 6377 Wolcottsville Rd.; Akron where Craig Wilkins, one of dad’s favorite singers will be leading worship with the gospel tunes Dad loved.

A procession will then head to Terry’s Corner’s Firehall 7801 Chestnut Ridge Rd. Gasport, for a luncheon at 12:30.  A procession will then head to the cemetery in Holley at 2 pm for a 3 pm graveside service.

I wrote the first guest book entry on the three websites where Dad’s obituary is listed (the funeral home and two newspapers) which got me reflecting again. I am hoping that I will be able to fully experience the wake and service. I cope by doing and accomplishing so it will take a conscious effort to stop what is natural to me and just let myself be there experiencing the emotions.

My life has become so intertwined with Dad’s over the last couple of years, that I am truly going to be lost for a while. It is too strange to even think about the large void left behind. I keep looking at my schedule and realize over and over again how much of my life was structured around him. Once again, my household is going to recreate who we are, with one less important person than we want.

Hope to see many of you this weekend. It means so much when others take the time to be there, even we aren’t able to spend the quality time with everyone we want to. Thanks for loving us, and mostly, thanks for loving Dad.


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Hanging On

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting the last couple of weeks as I’ve attempted (with my family) to help Dad navigate the beginning of a different life – the next life. A life without Parkinson’s and all the other malarkey here.

As I write, he is hanging on. He’s been hanging on for several days. He’s given me a lesson in humility as I keep realizing that no matter how much education or experience I have, no amount of prediction is full proof. After my fourth or fifth “this is it” was completely wrong, I stopped trying to guess.

My doctor asked  me today if I was ready for this to happen. I told her that he and I have been talking about this for well over a year. I want this for him, because he has wanted it so much. What I was not prepared for, was how difficult this has been. Dad did all of this “right.” He filled out his forms, got all his ducks in a row and his affairs in order. I told him the beauty of palliative care is that it would be painless when the time came.

Boy was I wrong. I already knew that palliative care that is apart from Hospice is a new concept. I knew that accepting mortality is a tough idea for people to grapple with. I just didn’t anticipate how ginormous the gap actually is. At one point, I had his primary doctor tell me that medicine is not practiced “that way” in America. He truly thinks I have some wacky idea that doesn’t even exist.

The place where he lives is also way out of tune. I approached them back in January and warned them this would be coming. Of course, they ignored that conversation over the last eight months. The result has been devastating.

I pointed out that Dad is only the beginning for them. As this idea catches on, there will be more and more people. Someone finally asked why amazing, compassionate health care is only found at the end of life. Someone finally realized that patients should be driving their own treatment, not medical staff. Now the movement has begun but it is even more difficult than I could have imagined.

That has been the hard part for me. If Dad has to go, I wanted to help him have it on his own terms. A hard-working war veteran should have the right to end his life the way he wants. And he definitely should not have to suffer because of that decision.

We finally have Hospice, but it was the battle of all battles to get it for him. There is no do-over, no second chances with end of life stuff. I just have to hope he knows how hard I fought for him. We eventually succeeded, but he suffered longer than he should have before he got “comfortable.” Damn it to hell!

Please pray for him. He is tired and ready. He seems to have a hard time letting go. I want so much for him to be able to relax into what lies ahead for him. It’s almost over, Dad. You just have to let yourself embrace it. You so deserve the rest and healing that is waiting for you.

dave (1).JPG


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Is It Me???

As I continue the drama of finding Dad the care he needs/wants, I have been astounded at the majority of medical professionals we are dealing with. I say I know these things, but when I am actually interacting in reality with it vs. speaking theoretically, I can’t believe things are as backwards as they are.

While most people wouldn’t say they believe this, in practice they betray they do. I am realizing that even medical peeps hold to the idea that every person wants to live as long as possible. If they don’t, then there is a mental illness (like severe depression) or they are “not of sound mind.”

Dad has literally been badgered repeatedly even though he has been crystal clear and actually has it in writing on every kind of medical and legal form possible.

Are you sure you don’t want an antibiotic?

Do you understand you may die from infection without an antibiotic?

Over and over and over again. This week’s appointment resorted to actual bullying and attempted manipulation. Dad stood his ground and I eventually exploded at them. The doc responded with:

“This is not medical care in America. American medical care does not work like this.”

I know palliative care is relatively new outside of hospice, but I can’t believe he was serious. He is even young. Uneducated, uninformed and therefore treating patients unethically.

Caring for a loved one with a debilitating disease, eventually losing them, etc. is so unbelievably exhausting and heartbreaking. But dealing with this nonsense repeatedly is beyond maddening. I literally shake with anger and frustration. No idea how to fix the mountain of an issue. How can we change facilities when the doctors don’t get it? And how do we change doctors when they are trained to believe death is failure?

Systemic issues aside, I have my father to care for. Please keep him and my exhausted family in your prayers as we attempt to navigate an incredibly complicated set of diagnoses with treatment options that are Catch-22’s at best, in a system that is utterly broken and unsupportive. What a sentence that was.

One moving, profound (to me) bright spot. Frankie turned 16 this week and asked me a ton of questions to try to understand what is happening with his grandfather. He absorbed the horrible information and asked for clarification that indicated that he indeed understands the depth of the problems and their significance.

He asked if Grace, his and my doctor, would be able to help Grandpa. I said that she is an excellent doctor and would respect his wishes but is unable to take on any new clients. He thought for a moment and said, “Mom, why don’t you and I give her up so she has room for him?”

I cried later in my room. I love that kid. He tries to pretend he’s selfish and uncaring because he’s a teenager. He’s not fooling me. He has an amazing heart.

Give yourself some time to think about these issues for yourself.