Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The sudden goodbye

I haven't been blogging this past week as an event in our lives took the family on an unexpected turn and trip out of town.

Last Monday, we got the call that my father-in-law passed away suddenly. He was found in bed, having passed in his sleep from a heart attack.

We later learned he had also suffered from emphysema, gall stones, and a prior major heart attack that may have gone undetected. No wonder the duplex was scattered in pain medication.

It's difficult to know what to say.

We actually didn't see Ron very often. His business running a pilot car fleet kept him on the road and he wasn't very comfortable in family situations. In the last four years, we saw him three times and I remember very well the last visit he made. I knew we wouldn't see him again for a long time and tried to make the most out of the visit, talking more than we had before. Maddox was also old enough to climb into his lap, which startled him a bit, and began chattering away.

We walked into the house one day after he died. Everything was just as he'd left it and one could visualize him walking around, sitting just so at the computer, and leaning back on the sofa watching a stack of movies while snacking on fiber bars in a glass bowl. It was eerie to be trespassing this way.

The spirit of the man still lingered. Especially in the bedroom you could feel his presence, but also in the kitchen. It was difficult to begin, so I began by taking out the trash. We slowly began opening drawers and looking under the bed for any hint of land information, business documents, account numbers, and possibly a Will. I started making a pile of what we needed to take home on the bed.

It was odd, unnatural to be sorting through someone's private things-- even after death. It was even stranger to be throwing many of those things away or sending them off to the Salvation Army. I just had to keep reminding myself that it was "just things." The man and the belongings were not one. His presence slowly faded as the house began being emptied.

Just a few hours after arriving at the house, we had to pick out the suit he would be buried in. And plan the details of the funeral.

My father-in-law had many accomplishments in his life and in the end, held onto many secrets. We discovered more about him through the experience of cleaning out his house and making funeral arrangements than we ever knew before, but we never did find where he stashed his Will and important documents. He never trusted banks so we were and still are in a bit of a scavenger hunt.

There is never a perfect time to suddenly pass on, but I do wish Ron had a chance to grow closer to his son. There is so much they could have said....

But may you rest in peace. The long journey is finally finished.

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