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Saying goodbye to my Dad while he was lying on a cold, hard slab was one of the most difficult things that I have ever done.  He had only been gone for a couple of hours, but the coldness had already crept into his whole being.  I held his hand anyhow while the tears streamed down my face.  Thank God my husband was there to keep me standing; otherwise I would have hit the floor from the overpowering grief.  While my Dad was not the first relative of mine to die he was certainly the closest. He was not only my Father, but one of my closest friends.

Dad had his first massive heart attack at 59, causing his and my Mom’s life to change forever.  After having open heart surgery, he was forced to retire early because of his health.  He was a good, strong man though, and didn’t let this destroy him.  Dad had been a nurse and an ultrasound/x-ray technician during his career, so he knew all about caring and giving to others and this is exactly what he did for the next 18 years.  He became involved in numerous volunteer projects and was even named senior volunteer of the year at one time.  No matter how much pain he was in, he always had a smile on his face for others.  Over the years Dad had numerous health concerns and surgeries causing him to physically die on the table, but always come back.  Maybe this was one of the reasons his death was so hard on me, he had always cheated death before.

In the weeks before Dad passed he had been to the emergency room numerous times for severe back pain.  Since they didn’t feel it was his heart, he was medicated and  sent home with Mom.  I lived a little over an hour way, so in between visits, I spent a lot of time on the phone with my parents.  In fact, I called them two or three times every day.  When Dad’s back got worse, I started to call him at 7:30 in the morning on my way to work.  Since I already talked to him several times a day, I decided to cut out the 7:30 call so he wouldn’t get dependent on it and be upset if I forgot.  It was one of the worst mistakes I ever made.

The night Dad died my Mom called to say they had been to the emergency room and had been sent home once again with pain medicine for his back.  I offered to come home and be with them both to see what I could do, but my Mom reassured me it was OK.  It wasn’t.  At four am I got the call that Dad was gone.  I just held the phone and couldn’t even function.  My husband pretty much dressed me and we made the longest, most difficult journey that I will ever remember.

The moral of this story is to never take anyone for granted and give them that extra moment whenever you can.  If I had kept on calling Dad at 7:30 every morning, I would have been able to speak to him fourteen more times before he died.  It took me a long time to forgive myself for that but I finally did and I know that Dad is always watching over me.

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