We’ve all heard the saying, “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.” Well, I haven’t ever broken a promise before and for the first time, I’m having to do something other than what I agreed to do. The last time I spoke to my dad, he asked me to be sure to personally bring his ashes to California for him. He even went through the directions to the cemetery turn by turn that night. I told him that I would do it, of course. He died in February, still in the middle of COVID round I. COVID complicates everything.
I didn’t know this was the last time I would talk to him, but we had already had time to say all we needed to say–thankfully.He was diagnosed with lung cancer two years before he died, which was amazing since they had only given him 3-6 month to live. We were blessed to have been given time. It was a long, insane two years. I could write a book and never quite be able to express how truly crazy it was.
I was going to go back that night, but my oldest son, his wife and their children came to town to tell him good-bye. I figured it would be too much to have us all there and I let them go say their good-byes as a family. By the next day, he was unconscious. I had no way of knowing it would be the last time I would see him conscious, but I still feel guilty about not going back that night. As you can see in the picture to the right, he was up and talking that evening. He even used his walker to walk to his room at Hospice.
As I left that night he touched my arm and one of the caregivers said, “I think he is trying to give you a hug.” I brushed it off because my dad never hugged me, I thought maybe she had misread the signals. In the last two years of his life, he tried to hit me several times when he was ranting, but never tried to hug me. Another time he tried to shove me to the ground or use his walker to shove me. This was the same man I knew for my entire 52 years of his life. He was never warm and fuzzy. In the two years before he died, he tried 4 or 5 times to get the police dispatched when my middle son and I went to visit him. He would yell and scream that he didn’t want us to visit. The staff would ask us to leave and we did. One time, a lady followed me to my car to be sure I understood that my father didn’t want me to visit him! Later would then rant on the phone because I never came to visit!
To add insult to injury, my ex continued to visit my dad and would get him so enraged with my sons and me, that when we visited, he echoed all of the things he had been told. About 4 weeks before he died, my father yelled that I was shacking up with a man and called me a whore. No doubt this came from the ex. So, on this last night I saw him, I really wasn’t thinking the man was trying to hug me. He told me repeatedly over the two years that he was going to die angry with me.I believed him–because he was always angry with me. I’ll never know if he was trying to hug me or not, but hugging wasn’t consistent with who he ever was. My father died February 3, 2021. I went to his apartment to start cleaning it out that very day. When I arrived, there was a package from my ex on his bed. In the note he explained it was a belated Christmas and New Year’s gift. I gave it to the director of the retirement home to pass along to another resident.
California opened up in the middle of June and two weeks later, I made plans to bring my father’s cremains to the veteran’s cemetery. We booked flights, hotels, the whole nine yards. A month later, California started going back on lockdown and I canceled. It’s not an easy place to get to from the east coast and the lady at the cemetery had told me that she thought it would be a good idea to wait until COVID was over. She pointed out that parks and restrooms would likely be closing again before we arrived. She says that we can have some sort of military honors for him once we are able to go out there.
My dad’s ashes have been stored at the local funeral home for over 6 months now. He needs to be laid to rest. As a Catholic, we are not allowed to store ashes at our home, but there are circumstances where they an be stored at the funeral home. As long as we try to get the remains laid to rest in a timely manner. So,I decided just to ship his ash. I’ve been working on getting his cremains to the VA cemetery in California in the last month. It turns out that it isn’t easy to ship human remains in the United States. It’s another adventure, another journey. I feel guilty that I am not able to bring his ashes, but at the same time, the Bible tells us that we are to bury the dead. My dad needs to be laid to rest. Period.
While I never used the word “promise”, I told him I would do what he had asked, and that IS a promise. I am fulfilling the promise to see that he gets laid to rest, which is the most important part. My hands may not be the one to physically carry his ashes, but I am taking care of all the arrangements, etc. I believe that counts for something. Maybe when COVID is over, I can go out to visit.