A couple of days ago — at 8:17 PM on 01-04-14, to be exact — my Dad died.
He was surrounded by people he loved and who loved him. My brother, Mom, and I tried to make his transition to spirit peaceful. As he took his final breath, we shared with him our personal sentiments against the backdrop of Johnny Cash singing “Danny Boy” (one of Dad’s favorite songs) from my iPhone1.
Though I personally believe we are eternal, it’s still a heavy loss. “And grieving will take longer than you think,” my cousin messaged me on Facebook.
Dad was an involved, hands-on father. When one of my parent’s retail businesses demanded too much time away from my middle-school brother and I (6 days a week, 9 AM – 11 PM), they got rid of it. Mom reminisced, saying, “We had kids so we could do things with you.” Working until nearly midnight didn’t fit the mold, so the place was sold.
He was über creative with an uncanny eye for detail. As kids, we were hauled to salvage yards and pawn shops, where he would find things to fix or mold into new creations. He led our 4-H woodworking classes and my brother’s dead-of-winter Boy Scout camp outs. He taught me about plants and gardening. And when I accidentally poured fingernail polish remover down my Mom’s beloved heirloom desk, he guided me in refinishing it.
He once prepared me for high school cheerleading tryouts by working with me on a walk-over. After coaching me through numerous failed attempts, he decided that showing would be more effective than telling.
“Watch me,” he said. He sprinted a few yards and hit the ground with both hands. His feet sailed up … up … up … over … boom! He soundly landed on his back. That memory makes me smile.
Dad was a relentless “do-er.” When I joined a sorority in college, he helped me paint backdrops for rush parties. When I bought my home, he flew out for a week, helping me with plumbing, painting, tearing out cabinets, and innumerable other tasks involved with fixing up a fixer-upper.
When my parents visit to Washington, D.C., coincided with a departmental party my supervisor at General Electric was hosting, we three headed to the Eastern Shore to learn how to eat Maryland crabs. For no apparent reason, the boat lift at my boss’ beautiful waterfront home failed to work … and Dad fixed it.
“I’ll work on it,” was one of Dad’s favorite lines. Be it rewiring a lamp, untangling a twisted necklace, or eliminating a rattle-y engine, he’d work on it. “Fix it” implied a satisfying outcome; “work on it” offered no guarantee of resolving the issue– though in his hands, the problem was usually fixed.
(It’s a language strategy I’ve adopted when visiting with clients about their auctions.)
He was enormously proud of my brother and I and told us so often.
When COPD eventually confined him to a chair, he (for the first time!) learned how to use an iPad. He’d endlessly watch my YouTube channel videos again and again and again, even though he’d never been to a fundraising auction.
When he still drove, he’d carry around a 2011 clothing catalog because it prominently featured me as the model. Business cards and photos from my brother and I were lined up on his pickup dash, and he’d share our latest news with anyone who would listen. Frankly, the nurses in the skilled care facility these last five months knew more about my life than I preferred.
He (and Mom) made childhood pretty darn easy, which is a blessing some kids never get. From enjoying lots of house pets to camping at the lake to scrimping to buy me braces (“I could have bought two Yamaha motorcycles for what’s in your mouth,” Dad said a dozen times), it was a stable upbringing.
We weren’t two peas in a pod; his belief system on a number of subjects didn’t line up with mine. But as a loving, hands-on father, he nailed it.
Dad was fond of saying, “death is a part of life.” It was one of those catch phrases often heard when it came time for us to put down a beloved pet.
There is no argument there. Death is a part of life. But I’ll still miss him.
1Many hospice nurses will tell you that hearing is our last sense to leave.
Sherry Truhlar says
I want to thank everyone who has posted such kind words of support here. It’s touching to hear your own stories, too, so I appreciate you sharing them. I usually try to respond to each person who comments on my blog, but my schedule just overwhelmed me for a bit and I quickly determined I’d just need to “let it go” and respond in group fashion. Just know that I read (and continue to re-read) your supportive notes, coming from near and far. It’s also nice to be able to refer my Mom and brother to this so they can “feel the love,” also.
Lisa Hoekstra says
Thanks for sharing, Sherry. My sincere condolences about your father. May these bright memories come to mind and bring joy to your heart.
Roxie Janssen says
We were sorry to hear about your dad. You were blessed to have a father like that. Not many people get to have those kinds of memories. As the days go by you will think of things that he said or would do and it will bring a smile to you. That’s when you know the healing has started. He would want that for you. We will keep you all in our thoughts and prayers.
Cynthia Worth says
May the peace that comes from the memories of your Dad comfort you now and in the days ahead.
Sharing in your sorrow and sending prayers to you and your family.
laurie S. says
Your dad sounded like an amazing man. Thank you for sharing this tribute with all of us. I am very sorry for your loss and your family’s loss. I lost my own dad at 16 and even though it’s 30 (!!) years this March, my love and memories of him have not diminished. He’s in my thoughts every day. Sending healing prayers.
Linda Bode says
I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your Father. My Dad passed away on September 10, 2013 and I still miss him everyday. I understand your loss. But like you I remember the best of times with him. You are lucky to have him in your life. Thinking of you during this time.
Cecily Peterson says
What a beautiful tribute to your father. I am so sorry for this deep loss ess for you. I so appreciate your braveness is posting personal subjects on a professional site. Thank you for sharing some of your memories and letting us all know how the world is richer place because of him. You are still making him proud!
Terry Mate says
So very sorry to read about your Father’s passing. He looked and sounded like a very wonderful Dad. You were lucky to have him in your life.
Cecile Guerra says
Sherry, even though you and I have never met, please accept my sincerest condolences with your Dad’s passing. Your tribute to him told me what kind of father/parents you have. You and your brother were indeed blessed with awesome parental love. Saying good-bye is never easy but I hope you know that his spirit lives on in you as well. Your family is in our thoughts and prayers. God Bless You!
Erma (Loseman) Grise says
What a wonderful, loving and inspirational tribute to your dad! You had an exceptional childhood with very special parents. It is true that the most important thing one can give their child is love and you had an abundance. Your dad had every reason to be very proud of you just as you have every reason to be very proud of him.
An admiring classmate of Shirley and Wendall
Brad Boyd says
Sherry: While we have never met, from your lively and intimate blog posts I feel like we know one another. As one who has lost both parents (and in-laws, for that matter), I am so sorry for your profound loss. He sounds like a genuine, loving father whose creative flair and attention to detail was passed along to you. Keep focusing on fond memories and know he is watching over you and relishing your every success!
Marilyn P. says
What a lovely tribute to your dad who was a wonderful influence in your life. He reminds me very much of my dad who was able to work on/fix just about anything. He would sit with all my 4 siblings and me while we practiced piano and attended all our sporting events. My sister and I were so proud to dance with him at our Father/Daughter dances. My dad was also very artistic and at the age of 50 decided to take piano lessons himself and later that year decided to learn the art of calligraphy. My dad has been gone since 1990 and I still think of him and miss him daily. We are both very lucky daughter to have had such great dads!
LouAnn Martin says
I just lost my Dad on 10/21/13, 4 hrs. Before his 95th birthday. He had just been diagnosed with lung cancer on the 2nd along with my Mom being diagnosed with Melanoma on the same day. I’m finishing up my second go around of Chemo for breast cancer. I arrived home to Ohio on the 10th and he was gone on the 21st. My mom is 96 and they had been married 76 years. My Dad was an insurance agent and owned his own agency for 37 years. He insured most of Paulding County, Ohio. He was the first married man to be drafted from Paulding and my mother ran not only their agency but another agency in an adjoining town while he was gone to WWII. They had just been married 22 mos. and she was living away from all her family. As your Dad, my Dad was ready to go. He had his faith and was at peace. I know now that he was waiting for me to come home before he let go. It all happened so fast and I was so busy taking care of Mom, my brothers and my daughter that I didn’t have time to acknowledge my feelings. Then I came back to Oregon to more chemo treatments and still struggle. I’m heading back to Ohio in a couple of weeks to get mom set with the taxes etc… She has her days but has done very well considering she not been on her own for quite some time. Both my brothers live in the houses next to her. The blessings of the church and the people of this small town I grew up in is amazing. My parents contribution to this little community has not been forgotten. My dad and I talked politics all the time and we loved football. I have really missed him during this Bowl season. I would always call him during the Ohio State games at halftime. My folks always had martinis at 5pm most nights. When I was able to share that time with them, it was priceless. The last thing I want to share is my daughter and I said that the amount of love that my parents shared for each other was never more evident than the night my Dad passed away and the Days that led up to it. That, I will never forget.
Cara Crown says
Sherry, I am very sorry for your loss but thank you for taking a moment at this difficult time to introduce us to your Dad. I truly enjoyed seeing your sweet pictures and peeking into the Truhlar family. I find it hard to be sad about someone’s passing when they lived a life with such zeal and love, not wasting a minute. I wish more of us aspired to live our lives like your Dad.
Doug Hawley says
Your feelings may not have much to do with auctions, but they have everything to do with life. I can assure you that after twenty-five or thirty years, you won’t miss your Dad quite so much. .
Pat Seuberling says
My heart hurts for you. I am truly sorry for your loss. What a wonderful tribute about your father. How lucky you were to have had in in your life. Treasure those memories. His spirit will remain with you but yes you will miss him forever. I lost my mom on January 4, 1997 and my dad in 2002. I still miss them everyday. I will keep you and your family in my prayers through this sad and difficult time.
Christy Inge says
I’m so very sorry for your loss. Yet isn’t it wonderful to have these beautiful, fun memories to hold onto! Your family will be in my prayers.
Jeff Eck says
Sherry, Sorry to hear of your Dad’s passing. Your blog about your Dad and growing up is really a tribute to your parents. Ciao, Jeff
So sorry for you loss Sherry! It’s great that you have such fond memories of your dear father. Be kind to yourself during this time of grief! Hugs to you and your family.
Pete Woodcock says
So sorry for your loss but this is a lovely piece. Your father was always very nice to me (I spoke to him a few times when calling your brother) – he was a gent!
patrick perez says
Sorry about your loss, it gets easier with time.
Amy Snyder says
Simply beautiful Sherry – such a loving story to share and I now deeply appreciate who he was and recognize him clearly in you. He had so much to be proud of in you two. What a pure gift. Hugs.
I love your auction postings and have been following you for the last few years. Your Dad sounded like a terrific man and you were lucky to have him guide you through your childhood. I hope you will always treasure those special moments with him. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.