This blog was formerly dedicated in 2009 to my Dad who died of Alzheimer's in 2013. It's been three years now...and I find myself missing blogging...so I am re-inventing my blog... because, after all, life is about moving through, and going forward...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Productive, Busy, Family Week... Dad's Final Plans Made.

I drove to California Wednesday, August 21st so Mom and I could pick up Dad's belongings from the nursing home.  When we arrived we were surrounded by tearful staff members sharing condolences and giving us warm, loving hugs.  Mom and I were there over two hours.  We were so touched by their outpouring of genuine love and loss for Dad.

Another testament to the quality of this nursing home, none of Dad's possession were missing.  I just cannot express how very blessed we were when I found this particular nursing home.  I think of it so highly, if I would ever need a nursing home, I would want to go there!

Thursday Mom and I filled out the pre-arranged paperwork for Dad's cremation with Neptune Society and took the forms in Friday morning.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to make final arrangements prior to your loved one's death...it made the whole process just fall into place.

Friday night, all the siblings, Mom and I met at my brother K_____'s home for a BBQ.  We all agreed we felt we were in a mental fog and knew some good food and laughter would clear our minds...

After a delicious meal of hamburgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, cabbage salad, baked beans and my sister's yummy chocolate eclair cake for dessert; we sat around and talked.  K's daughter, presented Mom with a framed collage she made from some of the family pictures of Mom and Dad before and after their wedding.  She also included pictures of us as a family, when we were all small and all living in the family home, Brutus - Dad's precious dog, Dad in his Magician's top hat and cape....lots of memories and conversations were sparked from those wonderful photos...

My brother E___ had interviewed Dad and Mom back in 2001 when he was doing some family genealogy.  He found the tape and brought it over along with his tape deck so we all could hear it.

My brother put the tape in and everyone gathered in the family room, lying on the floor, sitting on chairs and couches, some of us leaning against one another. As he pushed play, I noticed my brother S___ was lying on his back on the floor with his arms folded behind his head. He had a smile on his face and his eyes closed.  Looking around the room I felt "home-cozy", so comfortable and full of peace being with my family, sharing this moment in time together.

It was good to hear Dad's voice when it was strong and full.  As I heard him speak, I remembered a speech pattern he used to have before going into the nursing home.  He would get so involved in telling a story, his mouth would fill with too much saliva, so he would have to swallow, but in doing so, he kind of make a slight slurp sound as he swallowed as he continued on with his story.  I enjoyed hearing it again...

We all learned something new about Dad, and would turn off the tape to discuss it, or laugh at something, or rewind and listen again because we were all laughing or commenting to something he had said...

Dad told of being held back a year in school because of a "prank" he played at school...Dad had decided to ditch school, but before he faked being sick (so he would be sent home), he put a smoke bomb and a huge chunk of Limburger cheese up inside the school's duct work.

Dad lived up on a bluff above the school, so after he arrived home, he positioned himself at the big window over looking the valley below and watched the smoke bellowing out of the school as teachers and students alike, ran from the school building holding their noses.... Yep, he got in big trouble for that stunt!

My grand father, his Dad, was away a lot, traveling.  Grandpa and my Uncle were inventors.  Dad and his sisters were cared for during the day by the family help.  Grandpa frequently ordered large blocks of Limburger cheese to put on crackers and some thick syrup goop for his pancakes called "sorghum molasses."

Dad brought up the time when he played with matches behind a stuffed arm chair and set himself on fire when he was three years old.  His Mother and the ironing lady put out the flames with a red Oriental rug.  He made sure we all heard that story so we would learn not to play with fire...

It was midnight by the time we finished with Dad's portion of the interview.  We had not had time to listen to Mom's, so we will save it for the next family gathering, this Saturday.

We talked earlier before listening to the tape on what we wanted to do for Dad's service.  We all agreed we wanted the service private...only family...and family would include the staff at the nursing home, as well as the hospice staff, because the quality of care and concern they gave Dad.

I mentioned to the family that the nursing home planned on doing the Alzheimer's Walk November 2, 2013 in Huntington Beach and wanted to know if we would like to join them.  Everyone thought it would be a great way to honor what would have been Dad's 93rd birthday month...  My sister, niece and oldest daughter volunteered to co-ordinate the Walk...

I also shared with everyone, how the Activity's Director at the Nursing home, also wanted to plant a garden in the corner of the courtyard at the nursing home and call it Don's Garden.  Everyone agreed is was a perfect idea and how much Dad would have been so pleased.  When Dad first came to the nursing home, he helped the Activity Director plant window boxes with bright cheery flowers.

We talked of doing a family BBQ at Mom's house, using Dad's BBQ and playing horse shoes...one of Dad's favorite games.  One of the brothers suggested we all wear Bermuda shorts, white tube socks with sandals, Hawaiian shirts and straw hats to salute Dad's unique style of attire at most family outings...and everyone loved that idea!

I was elected to check with Riverside National Cemetery (RNC) to see what was involved so Dad could have a Military Ceremony.  We felt his service during WWII as a US Marine fighting in the Battle of Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands deserved such an honorable final resting place.  We hoped we could have the service in the morning on Saturday, September 7, and then the BBQ that afternoon...

Over the weekend, I discovered RNC does not do services on the weekends, only Monday through Friday,  but first I had to contact head quarters back in St. Louis, Missouri to determine Dad's eligibility by sending his Discharge paperwork.  After obtaining a case number of approval, I could contact RNC and schedule a service.  After I had the date, I could contact the US Marines to schedule an Honors ceremony.

By Monday morning I had emailed Dad's necessary paperwork to St. Louis and secured a case number from RNC.  I was given the date of Friday, September 6, 2013 at 1pm for Dad's Military service.  Dad's remains will be interred in the Columbarium at RNC because Dad did not want to be buried.

I had attempted to schedule the Honors ceremony, but was told I was "too early.  I was instructed to call Thursday morning, which was the day I planned to return to Nevada.

Mom and I picked up Dad's remains on Wednesday, August 28th and brought them back home.  We cannot praise Neptune Society enough for their efficiency, compassion, excellent customer service and the kindness they bestowed on Mom and I when we first brought in the signed pre-arranged paperwork for Dad's cremation and again when we picked up the remains.  We would highly recommend their services.

All the work Mom and I did organizing Dad's paperwork, Mom making pre-arranged plans with Neptune Society (after attending a lecture by Barbara Karnes RN), and organizing all the family photos really made our job so much easier last week.

I helped Mom with some house hold things, one goal was to find Mom a house keeper. Mom, my sister in law and their house cleaner, met to give Mom an estimate to clean her home.  At 86, Mom just can't clean and bend like she used to and she deserves to have someone come in and clean the house for her.  Mom has never had anyone clean besides our family, so this was a big deal for Mom.

I told Mom just as the Alzheimer's Support Group has helped her emotionally and mentally, the cleaning lady would help so much physically and mentally too.  She likes the idea of freeing up her time to read, do cross stitch Christmas Stockings for all the new babies born and on their way, as well as have more time to lunch and do fun things with her friends.

Mom has decided to stay in her Support Group because she feels she would give people hope who are just beginning their journey with their loved ones and Alzheimer's.

My sister in law and brother K____ told Mom they would take her out to Mathis Brothers in Ontario so Mom could select a new couch, love seat, and a couple of comfortable easy chairs.  When my other niece who was living with Mom, got married and moved out, she took her couch with her...so Mom needs some more furniture.

Thursday morning, I called the Marines and scheduled the Honors ceremony for Dad and emailed them Dad's discharge paperwork as well.  I was told we would have three Marines on deck, one to play taps, two to fold and present the flag to Mom.  I asked for full honors which would be a 21 gun salute, but the Marine I spoke with told me I would get a phone call about that, depending on how many Marines would be available...

On my way home, I received a call from a Sargent with the Marines.  I was told there would now be 11 Marines on deck to provide my Father with full honors.  Eight additional Marines will each fire three rounds to honor Dad's service for our country in a 21 Gun Salute.  I could not help it...I burst into tears.  This means everything to our family and this Marine just made my day!!

Mom had told me one of her friends had asked for the gun casings to save for the grand children, so I asked if that would be possible to save them for ours.  He told me he would work it out and present them to Mom along with the American flag.

My husband and I will leave this Thursday and stay over night in Riverside at a friend's home who lives ten minutes from Riverside National Cemetery. I want to arrive an hour early to deliver Dad's urn, the flag, the burial permit and to fill out the monument paperwork.

Dad's plaque will have a Christian Cross, his name, Corporal, USMC, WWII, Date of birth, Date of Death, and the inscription:  Loving Family Man - Semper Fi.

Saturday, September 7th we will all gather at my brother K____ and his wife T____ home, once again generously providing a safe and happy place to reminisce, laugh, eat and enjoy precious time with our family.

My husband and I will spend Friday and Saturday night with my youngest daughter and her new husband in Lake Elsinore and then Sunday with my oldest daughter's family in Beaumont.  We'll return to Nevada on Monday.  I will post pictures of Dad's service upon my return....Hugs, blessings and love to you all...

4 comments:

Linda O'Connell said...

your family gathering will add to your memoires and aid in your healing. It sounds wonderful. Peace to you and your family.

thisisme said...

How wonderful that your dad will be getting full military honours for his funeral. I can imagine how happy that will make you and all the family. Lovely to share all those happy family memories of your dear dad. I have written down what I want for my funeral. It will make it so much easier for the family and hopefully give them comfort, knowing that they are carrying out my wishes. Take care.

Jeanie said...

I think I said this before, but I am so glad you have your family for support during this difficult time. You are doing a wonderful job of celebrating the memory of your dad.

Mari said...

Oh Donna - I'm in tears reading all of this, especially the part about the military honors at the service. It's going to be a wonderful thing - a perfect way to commemorate your Dad's life, who really was a hero!
It's funny how in the middle of grieving, there can be such joy and laughter in the memories. I'm glad you are having some of that in the middle of the busyness.
Looking forward to the pictures and keeping you in my prayers.