This time last year... this was the last week of my dad's life.
There are so many memories from the month of April that are seared into my mind. Obviously the ones from the latter half of April are sad, but the ones from the beginning? Those are full of love.
On Friday, April 13th my mom called to let me know that because the cancer had spread to the brain and skull, hospice was being called. The rest of that day was a jumble: breaking down at work, filling out leave of absence paperwork, trying to pack (for a funeral when my dad was still alive), consciously knowing I needed to get my oil changed if my SUV was going to make the long trip home, contacting the oncology unit and hospice to start the Red Cross process of getting Carl home from Afghanistan.. it was a long a day.
And then my sister did the most self-less thing she's ever done for me. Rather than stay with family, she left work and got on a one-way flight to Jacksonville. She told me that if Dad passed while we were driving home it would be okay because he was with family and my mom. She didn't want me to be alone.
And so it was. We drove home. And our house filled with love, family, and old friends that week. At first my dad would sit on the main floor and visit, but once he began to get weaker he stayed upstairs and everyone would go to him. When people were eating or catching up downstairs, he would sit contently and just listen to all the love in the house, trying to make out bits and pieces of conversations and recognize voices. When Carl finally got home, he sat with my dad and went through everything in all of his deployment bags because it interested my dad so much. Later in the week the weather warmed up and my parents needed the apple tree trimmed. As Carl, Val, and I worked and laughed outside, I could see my dad's glasses in the upstairs window watching us and smiling. We had a fire that evening too, and again I could see him watch lovingly.
I recognize that in a sense, we were 'lucky' if you will, to be able to have a bit of notice...like a warning to let us know - spend this precious time together. It literally was one difficult, but precious week; one that I won't soon forget.