On June 3rd, my husband and I skipped town and went to New Orleans. We were set to get on a cruise June 5th but wanted to spend a couple of days before exploring “The Big Easy”.
When we got on the ship Sunday, we had several hours of sailing down the Mississippi River before we entered the Gulf of Mexico, which meant CELL SERVICE!
I sat on the top deck, overlooking the beautiful sunset and called my dad. We share a love of the ocean (it’s our happy place) and I’d be certain our ancestors made some horrible mistake settling in Kentucky if it weren’t for the horse racing… another shared love.
My dad had surgery on the day we left for NOLA.
He had complications from diabetes and smoking WAY too much and had to have his toe amputate in April. The surgery in June was to clear out some of the dead skin and make sure everything was healing right. “I’m fine,” he’d always say.
When we spoke, he was happier than I had heard him in months. He had just gone through a terrible divorce and at 61 had found himself starting over. It had been a hard journey, but he was coming out of the valley and was on his way back up.
You see, his personality has always been bigger than life… so seeing him down was hard. As a little girl, I watched as people were drawn to him… he was funny, never met a stranger and was always the center of attention. You couldn’t be around him and be bored. I wanted to be just like him. But those things can’t be taught, they are born in you and I must have missed that gene… haha.
When we were finishing up our call, he said, “I’ve decided, this is the last cruise you’re going on without me.”
“Well pack your bags, because we’re going again in October!” I said excitedly. “I love you dad.”
“I love you too honey…so much.”
And those were the last words I heard my dad said to me.
On Wednesday, June 8th, we made our first stop in Rotan, Honduras. We were out on the ocean snorkeling when I got a text from my mom saying to call her immediately. She was watching our son, so my first thought went to him.
“Karrah, your dad died this morning.”
“Ok…..I understand. Let me call you when we get back on land.” I had no emotion, shock was all I felt. Like someone had just told me something completely irrelevant. No tears, nothing.
I called my mom and my aunt (my dad’s sister) when we were back by the cruise ship. It appeared that my dad had gotten up to take his sugar and had a heart attack. He was supposed to stay off of his foot and he simply wasn’t doing it. He was supposed to stop smoking and he didn’t quit. I sat right there with him in April when the doctor said, “If you don’t quit smoking, you will die.” But I guess it’s easier said than done.
When we got back to our room, the tears came. And when my wonderful husband left the room, the weight of what had happened crushed me. Wailing and unimaginable grief… I couldn’t breathe. Why did this happen? What was I going to do? I needed to be planning a funeral and instead I was stuck on a cruise ship. How could I live in a world that didn’t include my dad anymore? How would I plan a funeral? I had no idea what to do.
My mom and my aunt stepped in. They made all arrangements, let people know what was going on and were right there for me the entire time. The great people at Carnival and Delta worked with me and arranged it so that we could get off the ship in Cozumel and fly home on Friday.
I was surrounded that weekend by family and my dad’s friends. These friends were so much more… they were family. Some even stayed at the funeral home from open until close. I realized quickly how lucky and loved my dad was.
I said goodbye to my dad on Monday, June 13th exactly one week and one day after I said goodbye on the phone.
At one point, I was given his phone and looked at the last person he had texted with and it was my mom. She had taken my son to see him the day before he passed away. Dad’s texts were thanking her for coming over, telling her how proud he was of Luke (my son) and wanting make plans when he felt better.
Our God works in amazing ways. My parents had been divorced for 18 years and only in the last few weeks had they started talking again (friends talking… not dating talking). My dad, while sick was staying at my grandmother’s house (my mom’s mom) and it was a blessing. There are so many little things that I could go in to…but above all else, I think God knew I’d need both sides of my family during this time… and he provided.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my dad. Some days are good and some are overwhelming. I’ll be in the car and think, oh I need to call him… and the reality hits.
We had our last call already.
I’ve started…then stopped writing this post about 1000 times over the past couple of weeks. When you have a blog that anyone can read, you have to decide how much of yourself you want to share with the world. So I’ve thought about my purpose for this blog, why did I start it? That’s easy, I want people (especially women) to see that you can do anything. Even when things seem overwhelming, if you take the time to learn, plan and imagine… you can do ANYTHING. But for me, it’s so much more than even that…losing a loved one is the hardest thing that we’ll ever do. I cannot even imagine or fathom the grief that would come with losing a child. But there are people who know what you are going through. With the world we live in now, show kindness. Be the better person… you never know when your last phone call will be.
Last thought: My family is all about laughter and there were so many things that happened that looking back now, gave us laughter at just the right time. I could seriously write a book. But let me just say this… let’s place these gems under THINGS TO NEVER SAY TO SOMEONE AT A FUNERAL:
“You’re his daughter?? I didn’t know he had a daughter… he never talked about you.”
“I bet there’s a party in heaven tonight… or wherever they are.”
Seriously people… no.. just no, haha.