How To Tell A 3 Year Old That Dog Died In Loving Memory of My Dad

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In Loving Memory of My Dad

This past week has been a week of firsts for me. Let me share a few with you:

• My father called me on Friday night and I remember how he was so optimistic. The conversation started with him asking me many questions about my life and my health. He was very interested in hearing about my doctor’s visit and wanted to understand as much as he could. I talked a lot. The conversation then turned and he explained to me his situation of being in the hospital and released while waiting for more results. But, he downplayed his health issues and assured me he was fine. I went to bed exhausted from a very long and hectic week. And, I said to Courtney, “I’m going to turn off my phone because I really need to get a great night’s rest.” This was a first for me.

• I went to bed and fell asleep in 3 minutes versus my usual 5 minutes. You see, I’m like a toy doll and when I lay down, my eyes close. Around 1am, our alarm went off at home. That alarm is our 50 pound dog who sleeps 20-23 hours a day but is always on guard. We wake up and I go under the bed to hide. I asked Courtney to see what was going on. (By the way, just for people who don’t know me, I didn’t actually get under the bed…I went into the closet). We soon learned that she was my sister. What a sight it was, at that late hour. Honestly, her hair looked like she put her finger in the light socket and was half asleep. Jan said, “Wayne – Dad just called and said to pick it up.” I immediately called my dad and got a brief update from my mom who quickly handed over the phone. He then proceeded to tell me the situation and told me 4 words that I will never forget or think I will ever hear from him, “I need your help”. I immediately went into crisis mode and organized the next flight in the morning, arriving there around 2 pm Saturday. I rushed to the hospital and when I arrived, he seemed to be stable. He was also telling me a few funny stories and making sure that everything was fine and that he was doing well. If you’re a bet with me, I never thought my dad would ever say, “I need your help.” He was like me, or maybe, I’m like him. We are donors. He was a giver and always “Mr. Fix it.” Those words of his asking for help were an absolute first for me.

• We kind of fumbled through those days after with a battery of texts, etc., and soon it was ready to be released. During this time, we talked a lot about things and at one point in our conversations, I asked if he knew where his new home was. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “My home is in heaven, but I have a temporary stopover in Orlando, Florida.” This is where Courtney and I live. I was relieved because I wanted him and my mom to come to Orlando and live with us – BUT they wanted them on board, and he was on board! I was on cloud 9 as they were getting ready to move south. Meanwhile, Courtney was on her way up north to help me with all of this. I think: good things, life is good. My parents are going to enjoy Florida with us – let it rock!

• My father was released from the hospital and we went to a nearby hotel as I wanted them to stay one night just to make sure everything was fine before taking the house to prepare for the move to the “temporary house ” in Orlando. I drove him to the hotel which was literally across the street from the hospital with my mom telling me to slow down, get back there, etc. I’m kidding, of course, but he doesn’t like my driving, even though I have a pretty clean driving record – except for when I got a speeding ticket when Melissa was 3. Just a reminder, don’t tell a 3 year old to keep a secret – it will always come back to you. We got to the hotel and at the elevator my dad stopped and said, “Wayne I’m going down.” I did my best to help her to her knees while my mom proceeded to get more help for me and called an ambulance. We got him on the stretcher, they left and I told them: I’ll be there. For the first time in my life, I said to myself: I don’t know what to do. But, I got it together and got into the “Matt Elsey tough guy, Mr. Fix it” mode and went back to the hospital.

• We were all together in the Emergency Room, laughing and trying to strategize our next moves, etc. Everything was good. Mom was tired, but optimistic. We really thought everything was going well. Dad was always a fighter and he was the rock. However, within minutes things changed. And soon I find myself next to his bed and he dies. And, with his last breath – Mr Fix it, Matt – he told me “Wayne, take good care of your mother”. I was stunned. We left the room while the medical team tried to revive him. But, in a few minutes – which seemed like an eternity, the doctor came out with the words: “Sorry, there was nothing more we could do.” It was shocking. It was devastating. It was heartbreaking. My father, my mother’s husband, the greatest cheerleader you could ever hope to meet, was dead.

• Mother and I stood there for a while in stunned silence at what had just happened. But then, I knew, we must continue. So, I set my mother and dinner. Candidly, we had few words for each other as we were both, and still are, incredulous. I had some relief as I still remembered that my mother ate like a bird, had a salad and ate every piece of her 12 inch pizza!

So here I am, a few days later – which feels like months – and I have the following to share with you:

I woke up at 4 am on Thursday crying and it was very clear to me that we all need to think about our lives. See, this “casket” in front of us – we’ll refer to it as a box for the sake of this context. We all live our lives full of joys, regrets, worries, junk, fear, etc. But make no mistake, every day we play the game of life. And what I now vividly see is that when that game is over, everyone will return to the box. But, what remains is what we brought to the game. That never fades from time.

I ask you to think about what my father meant to you and what I mean to others – what legacy do you leave? What I have from my father are not material things, but memories. Memories of who he was and what he represented, that will live on in me, my daughter and then my granddaughter. Remember him, being Matt. Memories of the enormous love he had and still has for my mother, his wife of 53 years. I remember him working hard to provide for my mom, Cindy, Jan, Timmy and me. I remember how his eyes lit up on Christmas when Courtney and I showed up with a real Christmas surprise for him and my mom, which featured Melissa, Josh and their new great granddaughter – Aubree. I remember seeing them for the first time and what we know today, was the last time. You see most everything goes back in the box – the money at the top of the corporate ladder, the vacation home on the lake, and the status vehicle, the jewelry, the clothes and everything in between. All the tokens, game pieces we collect and prizes are left behind when it’s our time to leave the table. The only real “victory” that you claim and keep is your own soul, the memories that live in those who knew you and the love you have for Christ and others.

In the end, “Dad – I’ve had this. I’ve got to take care of your beautiful bride and my mother. I’ve had this. do it,” but rest in peace my friend. Father – you made it very clear – I know what to do.”

© 2015 Not Your Father’s Charity. All rights reserved.

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