Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Goodnight, Sweet Prince

 Samir M. A. Yassin 1937 -2012

 I
was supposed write a post to tell you about journeying to Iowa and Illinois, and describe the many classes I would be teaching.  But today would not be the day for such a post. Instead, this will be one of the hardest posts I've ever had to write, with the caveat that  I will never complain about writer's block again...

You might remember, a time or two ago, the story focusing on WHY I do the things I do, and why you should follow your own dreams, too, if at all possible. I had wanted to scribe another post about it, one of  the brevity of life, as demonstrated by the shocking death of my cousin's husband dying suddenly, two weeks ago. But I declined to over saturate my point and, as I was falling behind on writing (as mentioned yesterday), I nixed the post.

Had I been given the chance, then, I would have expounded the details: he had literally been at our house five hours earlier, fit as a horse, with no signs of a previous illness. And then, and then...his heart tore--in a literal, shocking fashion, sending him to bed, then the hospital, before anyone realized how horrible the situation was. A young man was he, fifty-seven. With three sons not yet twenty five.  I might've gone onto say that I couldn't know how his family feels, but that it could happen to any of us, and time is our only precious commodity....

Apparently, even these humbly offered statements had tempted the Fates...because as of today, I CAN say I know how it feels....
Fifteen days after I lost a cousin, my father, The Bear King, died at 11:45 last night. 

Whilst you and I both catch our breaths, I should probably say that while this was not a surprise, it still shocks the heart and mind...for this man was so much larger than life that I dare say there were times I was sure he would outlive me, despite a lifetime of hardships and health issues....



My father was born in amongst heat and dust, far away. The baby of four children, his life was cast into turmoil when his own father died whilst the baby son was only eight. Barely subsisting in poverty, my father's own determination put him through medical school, where he would commonly copy whole chapters of medical books, simply because he could not afford to buy them (and of course, this was an era before copy machines existed). After obtaining his PhD, he met and married my little European mother and then set off for America, the land of Milk and Honey.


Daddy as a young graduate in medical school...


Mama and Daddy's wedding day....we always joked his pants were too short for the occasion..
Or so it seemed...why some hands are dealt to certain souls, I'll never know, but within months of my father arriving, and taking up residency in New York City, he felt his legs feeling "tired" and numb. Both my parents speculated that it was a side effect of his long hours at his hospital job. Within 4 months he was wearing leg braces, as his limbs weakened and no test could pinpoint a diagnosis on his malady. Before it was said and done, my father was in a wheelchair within 6 months of our entering the United States.  From that day to yesterday, he would never walk on his own again. Our lives had set a course unlike any other.

If you think I am inking this for pity, then pity us not--this is the story, like so much journeying here, about the journey of  a person who STILL kept at a dream. Instead of dissolving in pity, that same savvy and determination set him forward to CONTINUING his doctoring career well into his sixties. He resolved to learn how to use his shaky hands to hold items, type on the computer (slowly) and maneuver much of his life. As a pathologist, he used his training and eyes to see under microscopes and type up reports. With my mother's help, he managed to create a full scale lab business (she processed lab slides and did paperwork)...it became quite a thriving business and even helped put my sister and I partially through college.

It was all so normal-seeming, so much so that I distinctly remember being  a wee child who, upon meeting the father of another friend, for the first time ever, thinking it was odd that the father was STANDING. Weren't all Daddies meant to be in a wheelchair?


Daddy and Baby Zan

It wasn't all roses, of course: there was a residual bitterness somewhere in him, which came out in a never-ending drive towards perfection in his children. I sense that he felt that if we were EXCELLENT in everything we did, nothing could touch us...we could not fail and nothing could harm us. An extremely intelligent man (besides the PhD in medicine, he spoke three languages and had an insatiable thirst for knowledge) he drove us hard on our studies and extolled difficult consequences for anything he deemed flawed. He needn't have gone so far--his idealism, high ethics, and just his everyday triumphs despite his difficulties, were inspiration enough. There was little he couldn't do...so how could we, his blessedly ambulatory and healthy girls, NOT succeed at anything we dared to?  Suddenly, something as crazy as beekeeping, writing, performing arts, riding around the country via horse and wagon...seem less outlandish or risky, if it was truly something one set their mind on.

As he aged, though, his health became more and more of a vice to him. Within the last decade or so, we had a name to this monster illness: peripheral neuropathy, but we still had no sure clue as to what caused it. It would be no matter, though, as there was no cure, and it slowly gnarled his hands, so he couldn't work, and caused him to start losing his memory. After he retired, he eventually lost so much leg and body strength that he was bed ridden, but lovingly cared for by my mother. Scarier moments were when he began getting infections...sepsis that affected his blood, drove up a fever, and sent him to the hospital. But, saber-toothed in strength, spirit, or pure stubborness, he always hurdled through it with no problems.

In the last two months that I had been at home with them for the Alabama Wagon train project...he seemed rambunctious as ever, but my cousin's death seemed to take the wind from his sails, as it did all of us. He began muttering heartbreaking babbling: "he was far too young, I should have died instead."  Somehow, I think he meant it. Some part of him felt "useless," since he spent much of the day not doing much but watching television, an activity hard-chewed for a man of his vigor and intelligence.

On Friday, he began complaining, calling my mother over and over again, which he did when he wasn't well. By Saturday, he was shrieking and shaking. Whisked by ambulance, he eventually seemed to stabilize out after initial antibiotics. By Sunday, the doctor said some part of his lung collapsed,  that there was water on it, and that it could be cleared by drug therapy. We breathed a sigh of relief--

But then, no, we were wrong. A phone call at 3:30am from the hospital sent my mother and I rushing to him. His lung capacity had decreased by a full fourth. And it was confirmed both lungs were collapsed--not by water stress but--because the peripheral neuropathy had seized the lungs so they could no longer breathe on his own, and he was unconscious from his weakened lung state.  We sat in stunned silence in his hospital room when we realized that he was absolutely dying, he would not be wily enough to escape the jaws the Fates had meted out to him for all of these years. Decades of suffering, frustration, triumphs...they lay here, at that moment.

I've known many people who have died, but it was such a far away experience--tidily buffered by news that traveled through friends or family. Never had I ushered someone into death--and I didn't think I would find the armor for it. How do you tell someone hooked up to ventilators every. single. thing. that they have ever done, and meant to you? All I could do was cry, watch my mother cry, along with my cousin--my father's niece, the one who had lost the husband two weeks ago, who bravely came to escort another poor soul past its Earthly journey. How could she not? Daddy had basically helped raise HER, as a girl,when her own father died. That was my papa, he changed people's lives with his kindness, determination, and life example.

We lay shattered, a wet heap of tears, fragments of memories turning on multi-faceted edges, each one more heartbreaking than the next.  I found myself hugging this big unconscious hulk of a man, putting my head on his shoulders as if I were five year old, even surprising myself by asking my mother if we could somehow save him, a child's fantasy. At the end of the day, after nearly four decades of thinking I had it all together, I was reduced to Daddy's Little Girl.

There were several instances where he did finally open his eyes--brief moments where we told him all we could say for his journey to the other side. But once my sister arrived from her out-of-state job and said her goodbyes, we allowed the ventilators off. He had fought for three days, he was not getting better. The many passing doctors gave us no good chances for him to be off of machines. My mother wanted no continuation of his suffering.

How many kisses can you give a Goliath who has taught you everything you know? We told him that our two deceased family dogs would guide and play with him and that he'd see family members he missed. We told him we loved him and we knew he loved us, and that it was alright to go.

Life is short, my friends, and much too soon there is no time for whatever preciousness you want out of this beautiful gift.


Mama and Daddy, a few years ago...
Say what needs to be said, now.
Forgive what you can, and hope people can forgive you.
Do whatever you can, as much as you can, towards what big and small dreams you may have.
The Gems of Life: Human and Animal friends and family.
Even if it doesn't look exactly as you wish, be determined that each day holds some happiness.

Goodnight, Sweet Prince. We already miss you.

UPDATE. -- since daddy taught me to keep my word, and because I believe highly in the project--I WILL STILL BE GOING TO IOWA and ILLINOIS to TEACH BEEKEEPING! More on that, tomorrow

28 comments:

sassypackrat said...

Oh Zan my heart breaks for you and your loss! (((HUGS)))

Aepril said...

I love you, Zan. You are in our hearts, please know that Mike and i are holding you closely in our thoughts and sending you lots of love. What an amazing man your Dad was! You are like him. You never give up, and you ARE excellence.

Apifera Farm said...

Dearest Zan, I am so sorry for this hard loss- a loss we all [or most] must face and I know from losing my dad how sad and hard it is. But look what he raised! I know he must have been so proud...you will think of him daily, and in time, that will bring you more comfort and less pain, with stinging moments of missing him like crazy. My heart goes out to you and yours.Love from Apifera.

365 Days On A Farm said...

Beautifully written, I have no words of condolences, only hugs sent across the miles!

Regina said...

My dear sweet Zan....I know there really aren't any words that can ease the pain and loss but you are in my thoughts and prayers. Your strength and compassion for life and it's understanding will get your through this time. I know that you will always hold your Papa close to your heart and know that you will see him again.

I lost my Daddy in Jan 2007 and then my sweet Momma three weeks later. Losing them was so difficult but just like you did, telling them they are loved and will be missed but will be seen again and that it's alright to let go was a last gift you were able to give.

Tons of hugs to you and your family.

Regina

HelenFern said...

wow. thank you for sharing this amazing story. we are at the edges of my own father's life and i'm facing it with a gamut of emotions. i so appreciate your warm, honest and thoughtful story of your father.

thank you.

-helen

Lucie said...

I am glad that you have put this down on paper. It is your way and his. Always. Thank you to your father for all the kindness and drive, and to you for following in his like.

Lucie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lucie said...

I am so glad you have decided to write this story down on "paper", I am grateful to your father for instilling the power of belief in you, and to you for following suit. It is those hardest of losses that have the magic to bring us a change. I am very sorry for your loss but thrilled he is no longer suffering. To the kind world of animals and humans.

Miss Effie said...

My dear dear friend .... there are no words. Just lots of love and hugs coming your way.

fullfreezer said...

Oh Zan... words can't express how sad I feel for you. You are, even in your grief, elegant and inspirational. Hugs to you and your family.
Judy

honeysuckledolls said...

What a beautiful eulogy to your precious, brave, brilliant father. I would say he was blessed to have you; you would say it was the other way around. Both are right. I recall in an earlier post you said that it is because of your father that you are who you are today. Having lost both of my parents several years ago, I know that the passing years make us more painfully and joyfully aware of the gifts they have given us, and the times you spent with them become more meaningful. But just think - every time you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard?), or dance wildly in circles, or create a doll or care for an animal, or bump along on your remarkable equine-drawn journey, you will remember with reverence how and where it all began.

Ren said...

Zan,
Maybe one day soon your Father will go with you on that wagon trip and sit by your side...
Thinking of you x

NatureGirl said...

That was so beautifully written. Your father I am sure is so proud of all that you are. There are no words that can express how sorry we all are for your loss, but I would like to thank you deeply for sharing him with us in that lovely tribute.

Cameron said...

I am so sorry, Zan....reading this has made tears well up in my eyes and my heart swell with all the important emotions in Life....
I will give my family members hugs...and deep words of love.....and be thankful that i can still do so...

Thank you for the reminder...and for being strong and beautiful and brave through this process to share it with us...

Karen said...

Zan, I am so sorry. I lost my father nearly 7 years ago and I know the depth of your grief, the unreality of it all. It will be a long road for you and your family. It does get better, but you never stop missing your Daddy.

Faerie Moon Creations said...

I am so so sorry for your loss, Zan. You wrote such a loving tribute to your father. You are so strong to keep on - just know that we are all with you. Sending you tons of hugs and love.

Diane MacNaughtan * Dianie Mac * said...

Oh my friend Zan,
I'm am so very sorry for the loss of your father. Your writings in his memory is so beautiful, and conveys the magnificent person he was throughout his life.
I am sending you many prayers and a warm hug.
Love,
~Diane

selene wicketsham said...

Oh dear Zan having lost my father when I was 10 and my mother in 1997
And not having any siblings
I understand the sheer pain of loss
He will alwYs be your daddy
Keep your heart open to note signs from him now in this
Transitional time
My heart and live goes out to you
And yes we are so fragile and precious
Years fly
Moments missed
But I believe in the live bond and that Ge is there with you
Carry on his legacy in his special ways and you will keep him alive
My mist sincere condolences
Much love and peace

ginny said...

Dear Zan, my heart goes out to you. It is obvious that your daddy was a huge influence and you made him proud, I'll bet. I'm glad you were there in his final moments and I thank you for sharing that precious, sweet time with us. God bless you and keep you.

LuLu Kellogg said...

My Beautiful Zan....
I will hold you and your family close in my heart and prayers. I am so glad you were able to be there with him.
Love,
LuLu~*xoxo

Unknown said...

Zan, Harry and I both lost parents early. Remeber that your dad will always be with you now. He will see all of your great adventures and help guide you and keep you safe.

Venus Blues Hideaway said...

Dearest Zan,

I have only just found your blog. I read your eulogy for your father, it was beautiful. I am so sorry for your loss and can offer little comfort except to say that he was a very lucky man to have a daughter as loving and devoted as you are. My heart goes out to you. May god keep you and your family in his embrace.

Faye

Lisa Nelson's Art said...

Zan, I'm so sorry for your loss. Your tribute to your father is beautiful. Wishing you and your family strength and peace. Hugs, Lisa

Marie Patterson Studio said...

Dear Zan, Your beautifully written tribute to your father moved me to tears. He will always be with you!

Beth said...

May his memory be eternal. I am so sorry for your loss and will remember you all in our prayers. My father passed away just a year ago. Peace and goodness to you. B

Donna OShaughnessy said...

Can't wait to see you here, I have lots of peaceful things for you to experience

Alyssa said...

Zan,

I am so sorry for your deep loss.
What beautiful beautiful words you wrote to commemorate your father, what an amazing man he was..and you are carrying it on..
Thanks for the reminders that life, indeed, is short.