Dad’s last visit to Camp Confidence
With some of the ‘Fambly’ …
And Jeff Olson and Mary Harder – They are part of our Heart Fambly & Camp Confidence
The Sunday after Mom’s funeral, some of us kids were sitting at the breakfast table with Dad. He cleared his throat, which he did when he was nervous, and told us, he was not going into the clinic in the morning for dialysis. He was done. He was tired. He was ready to die. He would follow Mom to heaven. We knew this was coming, but, like my brother Patrick shared with me later – it was like a bomb going off in our hearts.
There were 5 things he wanted before he died:
- Be at son Mike and Dawn’s Wedding – Yes, we had a wedding in between Mom and Dad’s dying. I was Officiating and Fambly was planning this celebration, too.
- To talk with Father Walsh and ask him to do his funeral (and convert us kids back to the Catholic Church!).
- Connect with Mike O’Rourke from the Brainerd Dispatch, who had been asking to do one last interview with Dad about founding Camp Confidence/Confidence Learning Center.
- Take a bunch of the Fambly out to Camp Confidence for one. last. look. Sharing memories and stories … Wow, THAT was a beautiful day.
- A BBQ Rib Dinner with all the sides! (And his favorite cocktail – or two).
Later that day, I took a break and headed to my apartment across the yard. I needed quiet meditation time, and asked God for wisdom and support, as I was feeling exhausted and over-whelmed.
Deep into meditation, I heard the word ‘Ezekiel’ … in a soft whisper. Minutes later, again ‘Ezekiel’, and the 3rd time, in a normal speaking voice.
I opened my eyes … expecting to see someone – well, Ezekiel – but I didn’t.
I sat quietly … Ezekiel … hmmm. I felt a comfort – something I really needed – Thanks, God … Thanks, Ezekiel – whoever you are. I trusted the comfort I felt and was grateful for it.
I didn’t know anything about Ezekiel, so I looked him up! Ezekiel is a Hebrew priest and prophet of the sixth century B.C. His name means: God will strengthen. That was reassuring – I needed all the strength and support I could get.
The next day, I walked across the yard to spend time with Dad and visit with Fambly. He was in his recliner in the living room – “Hi, Daddy-o!” I said, with a kiss on his cheek. “Hi Deb! Say, I’ve been thinking and we’ve got to get my funeral put together, will you help me?” I didn’t well up in tears, I remembered Ezekiel: God will strengthen. I didn’t gasp. God will strengthen. Dad was clear with what he wanted, and asked me for help. I took a breath, God will strengthen, and let it out. I smiled and said, “You bet! Let’s do this!”
The priest was called, the local parish was notified and the funeral home was given a ‘heads-up’. Special people came to visit. Once again, stories and laughter filled the house. Wedding plans were being delegated, Dad still was beating Patrick at cribbage … We kids agreed to have Jake contact a neighbor in the cities who made pine boxes for his casket. (I/We had suggested Dad make us Pine Boxes for Christmas Gifts, as every year he had to come up with a new idea for all 7 of us kids … Mom nixed that idea!) Even though Dad was dying, there was a lighter air and not so sad as when Mom was crossing over. He was very ready to go.
There came a day we thought he was going off to bed and sleep his way to heaven. We took turns being with him. I remember him opening his eyes hours later and looked at me, kind of confused … I smiled and said, “Hi there … Nope, Daddy-o, you’re not in heaven, yet!” Then, he asked if there were any ribs left?! Seriously, he never followed protocol, so why start now!!??
Dad’s time had come – for real this time.
We called everyone together and gathered around. I climbed in bed with him, Patrick shared ‘The Lord is My Shepard‘ by heart, and then we started to sing his favorite songs. We got to Edelweiss and Dad took his last breath – we thought. I had my hand on his heart – it had stopped. Then he opened his eyes and took one LOUD BIG last breath – we all JUMPED!! – Jake boisterously started back in song, “Blossom of snow may you bloom and grow, bloom and grow forever …..” (Some things you never forget). I started laughing and crying at the same time. Dad was a kidder and a prankster – and he ‘got us good’ on that one. I could see Mom taking his arm as he was chuckling on his way, saying, “Ok, Dick, that’s enough now, come along!”
It was one awesome funeral!
We were wrapped in Holy, Precious Moments as we shared this time together.
Thanks Mom and Dad … Without you … We would not BE FAMBLY.
With a Grateful Heart.
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