Grieving and memories

Gary Mathews obituary

Dad died on Friday, May 29 after a long three and a half year struggle with cancer and a brain injury. I’ve known that he was dying for a year and knew that it was imminent for long enough that his death wasn’t a shock. Even so, I’ve had the full range of emotions. I’ve had despair that I temporarily lost my dad. I’ve had relief that he isn’t in pain and that my mother can have her life back after the last three years of constant nursing. I’ve had excitement to see my siblings and mother again.

Christmas 2005, Dad had a horrific fall that left him with severe brain injuries. I did my crying and grieving then as I fully expected him to die. When he didn’t, I had some struggles dealing with a father who was no longer the father who raised me because of his altered mental state. I haven’t felt any emotions since and I thought that my grieving then was all there would be. Mom’s call of early last week that Dad’s death was imminent unexpectedly shocked me and I was back to square one.

I was able to get to Toledo in time to be at his side as he died. It wasn’t very dramatic as Mom held his hand and I sat nearby. His breathing slowly slipped away until he was gone. Towards the end, he was in so much pain that the heaviest narcotics could barely dull it. It was nothing but a relief to see him die and not be in that pain any longer. Because of this, I woke up the next day, Saturday relieved, chipper, and happy. The rawness of my emotions from the previous week was gone. Silly me, I again thought thought that I had finished the grieving process.

I’ve done a bit of research tonight and one web site compares grieving to a roller coaster ride with its peaks and valleys. It said that the intensity of the grief would diminish over time, but for years, memories would flood back. A couple days ago, Sonia dragged me out to Up, a light, animated family comedy. The themes of a lost spouse, dreams with your spouse, and continuing on after the loss of your spouse were too much for me. These are all issues that Mom is working through and I’m not anxious to face soon. I spent half the movie sobbing. I considered it an accomplishment that my sobbing was silent and didn’t disrupt the rest of the movie theater.

Tomorrow is Dad’s funeral. He lived a great life and I’m proud and grateful to have him as a Dad. My memories are of a man that loved God and his family. He worked hard, served people, loved the outdoors, and loved to read.

I have too many memories of Dad to share; it is hard to pick just one or two. As a school teacher, he had the summer free. He would use his summers to teach us to work with gardening and home maintenance projects and to travel the beautiful parts of the country hiking and camping. At church, we often have opportunities to move people and perform other service. Dad was always quick to volunteer and I spent many Saturday mornings alongside my father carrying boxes and furniture.

One last memory of Dad was his love of books. We traveled somewhere most summers to visit family. Always integrated in these travels were stops at bookstores along the way to replenish our supply of books. Most people go to the library and check out a couple books. Our family went almost weekly and took an old orange box of books to return and fill up again.

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