Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Your proxy Bucket List

My father's loss is the first big loss of my life - I have not only lost a parent, but also a dear friend. We could chat about sports, politics, gossip about various family drama, etc. I will miss him more than I can ever explain here.

There were a few things that gave me some comfort during the days dad was in a coma, and after his passing, and I will share them with you.

1 - Make memories now. Dad had health issues, sure, but his passing was still unexpected. I will forever treasure the pictures I asked a friend's husband to take back in February. There was no "reason" for them, I just wanted photos of my parents with the boys, so we went to a park. Little did I know one of the photos would be the last one of my father and I together. His face reflects the love, pride, and joy he felt for me, and it is one I will treasure always. We had planned to go to Peru in a couple of years so he could show off his grandkids to his friends and relatives there, but sadly, that never happened. I wish we had taken the plunge and done it.

2 - Plan, plan, plan. I was fortunate in that I had spoken to both my parents about their wishes in case they were not able to make decisions for themselves. This was a few months ago after my mom had an emergency appendectomy. With this document, signed by my father, I knew he didn't want to be kept alive if there was no chance of him coming back to us, I knew he wished to be cremated, and I knew he wanted to stay here and not go back to Peru. Had we not discussed this, raw emotions and confusion would have led me to make some very different decisions. I also knew I wasn't making decisions for him, but merely carrying out his wishes. That was a comfort amidst all the grief.

3 - Honor important people in their lives. We had a steady stream of friends and coworkers at the hospital, and when dad was finally taken off the machines that kept him breathing, there were not only several people inside the room with him, but many others standing at the door and even outside the door, paying their respects. I didn't know most of them, but I would not have dreamed of turning them away. These people worked with my father for over a decade, shared conversations at the coffeehouse for over 15 years, and were very important to him. They brought him joy and he saw them more often than he saw me and the boys. Some in my family were not happy to have these people there. I am glad I could decide for dad, to have them accompanying him on his last minutes. He would have wanted that.

4 - Make them part of your life. My boys and I visited my parents twice a week. Not only that, I frequently took photos of everything going on in our lives - playdates, gardening updates, and dad loved seeing all of them. He took joy in the boys' antics, he took pride in my gardening adventures, and I was so happy to share all these moments with him. My dad visited my backyard a couple of months ago and was amazed at everything I am growing. His praise will live with me forever. His delight at seeing Halloween pictures or hearing funny stories about the boys is something that makes me smile.

5 - Leave nothing left unsaid. Dad and I had some rough times. At times, I didn't speak to him for months. The last few years were very different. He was a very loving father and grandfather and adored me and my family. I made sure he knew he was loved as well. We discussed the rough times, talked everything out, and I have the peace of knowing there is nothing I didn't say to him before he died. Oh yeah, I'd love to have a few minutes with him to tell him I love him and I will miss him and I wish he'd been in our lives longer, but there was nothing left unsaid that would have changed anything in our relationship.


  1. I am so sorry for your loss. I will continue to keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

  2. Claudia,
    I dropped by to thank you for your kind comment on my blog and came upon this post. I'm so sorry for your loss. My father passed away 14 years ago and, I still remember those months after his passing. So difficult. I've already sent up a prayer for you and your family. Take care.
    - Suzanne

  3. You've brought tears to my eyes here. These are excellent tips and I'm so sorry you had to write them from such recent experience. How lucky that you'd had important conversations and how wonderful that you have fresh and recent photos.