Monday, November 5, 2012

The Hardest Goodbyes

There are some events in life for which you don't need a photo to remember the details of the moment in the years to come. Watching my Mom say her final goodbyes to her recently deceased husband is one of those events. A heartbreaking image, yes, but also one so full of love.

I woke this morning in my own bed, with my husband at my side, my dogs at my feet, and my girls soundly snuggled in their bed in the room above us, still in a bit of shock at what our family has experienced over the last 9 days. One minute we were enjoying a casual family dinner in our Iowa home with my brother, my Mom, and my step-dad Rod, the next we were morning the passing of one of us and making arrangements to travel west to honour that life lost. In many ways our lives have stood still, and today we start to take the first steps of moving forward.

As surreal as the past week feels, I have the luxury of returning to my home here in Iowa, with my family by my side, and stepping back into our normal routine. The hole that has been left by Rod's death, or Grandpa Rod as he is most commonly called in our house, will most closely be felt by those whose day-to-day lives crossed paths with him. Mostly I think of my Mom.

Leaving my Mom yesterday as Scott, the girls, and I started our travels east was one of the hardest goodbyes I have ever had to say. I do not worry about my Mom, she is a strong woman and, as was evident in the days following our return to Western Nebraska to arrange for Rod's memorial service, she is surrounded by a wonderful web of support who will be there to help her carry on. The life my Mom and Rod built together over the past 17+ years has been a blessing to her, and will continue to be thanks to the wonderful people with whom they have surrounded themselves. It was hard to drive away knowing I would have to help to hold her broken heart from afar as she starts her journey through the grieving process. My heart hurts for her hurting heart, and when I least expect them tears come to my eyes. Through tears and with a hug she would tell me "We're gonna be okay," and I know we will.

Family are connections made because of one birth. Friends come into our lives through common interests or involvements. The strength of both connections can come and go with the ebb and flow of life. A spouse is a friend who you choose to turn into your family, someone with whom you make the conscious decision to share the ups and downs of life. My Mom chose to share her life with a wonderful man and our family will feel the loss of his company for many years to come.

Friday at the memorial service myself, my brother, and a few other friends and family said/read a few words about Rod in celebration of the goodness he brought to our lives. We all could have gone on and on, sharing stories and memories for hours. Rod always always had a smile on his face, a hug to offer in greeting, and often words of wisdom to share. I was honoured have the opportunity to say these few words in thanks for his presence in our lives.

My father-in-law often tells me about how he used to sit by Rod and Jerry at Cougar basketball games. Then one day he went to sit down and Jerry was sitting alone in their normal spot in the stands. Rod was sitting a few rows down...with a lady. Part way through the game he realized he knew that lady, it was my Mom. Rod has been a part of our family ever since.

Jason and I have never been less than HIS kids over the past 17 years. I’m so honored that Rod was there to share in the joy at Scott and I’s wedding and a few years later our graduation from college. Rod and I agreed to disagree when it came to politics, and we had very different levels of comfort with guns, but those differences were small compared to the loves in life we shared. My Mom has often accused me of turning Garth into their 85 pound lap dog during his puppy days. Over the past couple of days I have found MUCH photo evidence to suggest I was not the only, or even MOST, guilty party involved in that process. We both loved my Mom’s amazing cooking, the wide open spaces of the farm, curling up with a good book, and I am quite surprised that as much as we both loved being in or on the water that we never shared a boat ride or a ski run together.

My love for Rod grew ten fold when our oldest daughter Lexi was born and again 4 years later when Brea joined our family. Rod was a WONDERFUL Grandpa. From snuggles on the couch watching morning cartoons, an evening movie, or reading a Fancy Nancy book, to flying kites in the field, tinkering in the garage, or bugging Grandma in the kitchen as she baked up a home-made sweet treat, Rod enjoyed every minute he had to spend with his Granddaughters. He always said one day he was going to teach them how to shoot a gun, and I always thought there was no better person to do so. His love for my girls was much like his love for my Mom...deep, pure, giving, and full of smiles and big old bear hugs. I will always be thankful for the gift that his love was to those closest to my heart.

Today our hearts grieve for the memories that we will never have a chance to make with Rod. At the same time they should be over-flowing with the many memories of the great times we each shared with him throughout the years. Rod’s passing has left a huge hole in our family, but as I look around at the people who have gathered to celebrate his life, I know that his love for life and the strength he brought to our family will continue to bless us for many, many years to come.

We love you Rod. We will miss you dearly. Thank you for sharing your life with us, in turn making our lives better for having known you.


P.S. Rod's obituary can be viewed here.