General Question

essieness's avatar

Have you lost a parent?

Asked by essieness (7648 points ) June 12th, 2009

Today is the 2 year anniversary of my dad’s death. He had lung and liver cancer. It was the most traumatic experience of my life watching him die. Some days I miss him so much I can’t stand it, and some days are just fine. Certain things trigger memories for me: the smell of sawdust he was a carpenter, guitars and classic rock… Some days I just need to talk to him. Days when I know nobody else would understand.

I think today I might get his guitar out and play it a little. That guitar holds my dad’s essence.

Here are some pictures: May 2007, Christmas 2006, Dad in his hippie days.

So back to the original question, have you lost a parent? How do you like to remember him or her? What triggers emotions and memories for you? I’d like to hear your stories.

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56 Answers

cookieman's avatar

Yes I have.

My father died of cancer last October. He was diagnosed with a sarcoma eighteen months prior. He was sixty-two.

I think about him every day and certain songs, smells or images will bring me to tears at least a few times a week. Usually, I’m alone in the car – just driving.

He was a warm and funny man who was at once the best and worst thing in my life. His blind love for my mother coupled with his complete lack of self-esteem made him the perfect pawn in her shenanigans. But he ultimately made his own choices (many bad) – despite it all, he was still one of my favorite people on earth.

He taught me so much and was much smarter and more clever than he ever gave himself credit for. My love of music, ability to work with my hands and many other attributes I am proud of came from him.

He never made it to the third act and I wish I could have given him that, but life had other plans.

There is now a whole in my life I am learning to embrace because I know it will never go away.

All I have of him are some photos and his dog tags. My mother kept everything else.

@essieness: I’m glad you have his guitar. I’m sure he was very proud of you.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

hugs to you for today
It’s nice you aren’t uncomfortable to acknowledge your feelings of loss and to celebrate your dad’s memory.

My own father died years ago (complications from diabetes) and it was rough because I felt I’d not had enough time to get to know him after years of being denied access. I celebrate him though every time I enjoy any of his living relatives.

ru2bz46's avatar

I have not lost a parent…yet. My dad had half of a lung removed a few years ago due to almost 60 years of smoking. After the surgery, he pretty much stopped moving around very much – sat in his chair a lot. Not long after that, he cut off the end of his finger while building some furniture in his garage. A couple years later, he had his aortic aneurysm fixed up. A few months ago, just after his 74th birthday, he got a quadruple bypass. Smoking is a risk factor in all his recent problems (except the saw accident, which was likely radiation-related from his cancer treatment).

I have been watching my father slip away for the last eight years. He has made improvements in his behavior: stopped smoking, reduced fatty food intake, etc. We got him a Wii Fit, and he cried knowing our intentions. He had previously tried one at my sister’s house and liked it. I hope it’s not too late for him because I will miss him.

In a twisted way, he is inspiring me, though. I see what he has done to himself, and I know I don’t want to end up like that. I am eating better and exercising for the first time in my life (since school days). I’m now in the best shape of my life.

crisw's avatar

Yes, both of them. My father passed away several years ago, my mother in January of this year.

I think that family events trigger the most memories; it’s strange not to have them there. Driving past places that they lived, or seeing things they liked does it too.

Jeruba's avatar

I’ve lost both, 25 years apart. The years are full of anniversaries that make me think of them. I have mementoes of several kinds, gifts, certain treasures of theirs, and pictures.

I think no memento of my father is more striking or profound than my son, who is so much like him in build, features, and certain traits, even choice of academic discipline. Seeing my son in cap, gown, and doctoral hood at his recent commencement brought me to sudden tears as he seemed to transform into my father in his academic robes. He looked just like Dad as I saw him every year at all the events that required the college faculty to appear in full regalia.

Otherwise I find my father in books.

My mother’s death is too recent (a year ago) for me to have much perspective on it. It was a long, slow, difficult decline, but thank goodness she was not in any pain until very late. I often see her when I look in the mirror. I also meet her in certain music, especially piano music and sacred choral music.

The guitar is a wonderful memento of your father, and that picture captures an era. You must feel very close to him when you play it. There could hardly be a more intimate keepsake.

essieness's avatar

@Jeruba You must feel very close to him when you play it. There could hardly be a more intimate keepsake.

That’s very true. I didn’t even open the case for about 6 months after he died. Just the way the guitar and case smell and and the image of him playing it was too much. Even that day, I opened it, became overwhelmed with emotion, then had to shut it. Now, I only open it on the days I really miss him.

@all Thank you so much for sharing your stories with me.

Darwin's avatar

I have not lost a parent yet. Both are still alive but my mother has Parkinson’s dementia so in a way she is gone much of the time. My dad is still my dad but he is no longer as sharp as he once was and sometimes now asks for my advice. The end is approaching but I don’t know how soon. OTOH, I suspect my husband may go before either of my parents. His kidneys have taken a sudden turn for the worse.

My husband has lost both of his parents, so in a way I have lost someone very close to my heart. I miss his mother especially, but I have a statue that she gave me that reminds me of her and her funny stories (it is an antique, solid brass monkey, and when I brought it back in my luggage and the security lady asked about it, she said “Yeah, my mother-in-law is like that, too!” never realizing that I liked the monkey). We remember his dad because he made several wooden items that we still use daily, including the lazy susan on our kitchen table.

@essieness – I don’t know what one thing would embody either of my parents as well as the guitar embodies your father. The fact that you have this one thing is very cool.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I’m sorry for your losses, @essieness.

I lost my “surrogate” Mom and Dad to cancer and kidney disease in 2000 and 2004, respectively. I think about them all the time, though they were only in my life for a relatively short while.

Allie's avatar

Awww, I’m sorry Essie. Looks like you have some fond memories to look back on.

I haven’t lost a parent, but I’m not sure I would know if my dad died. I haven’t had much contact with him since I was three. I’d like to think that if something happened, I’d find out through the family, but I’m not so sure that’s the case. Conversely, if I ever lost my mom I would know instantly… and I would die a little bit… I would die a lot. I don’t even like thinking about that.

My condolences, Essie.

Mr_Callahan's avatar

I lost momma down in the fresh fruit area the other day, but we found her (whispering) ....after she had her fill of free grapes.

PapaLeo's avatar

@essieness, @cprevite, @Jeruba Your stories have brought tears to my eyes. I wish there was a feature here that could give 10X lurve; your stories have really touched me.

My own father passed away in 2003. Lung cancer. Literally died in my arms. I was on a business trip in San Diego (I live in Europe) and suddenly had a strong urge to travel the hour and a half north to Riverside. I knew he was in bad shape from the tumor and probably didn’t have long. I hadn’t seen him in years. Mom was there, by his side as she had been for months on months previous. My brothers had fixed dinner and since I had just arrived I told Mom to take a break to eat while I sit with Dad. He chose precisely that moment to pass away.

Did he wait for my arrival to die? I don’t know. I think more he wanted to spare Mom the pain.

Russifer's avatar

I haven’t lost a parent but my dad tried to commit suicide a few years ago. He went in a downward spiral after him and my mom got divorced, and a few years later his mother (my grandmother) passed away. It took a while but he has bounced back incredibly into a better, happier person. I think every day about what would have happened if the ambulance was a few minutes too late, or no one found him…and I’m so grateful that he’s still in my life and doing better.

But my thoughts go out to those who have, I’m so sorry.

essieness's avatar

@PapaLeo Wow, that’s powerful! I’m so glad you got to spend that final moment with him. I hope you got to say good bye? My dad died in the morning when it was just he and my step-mother alone together in the house. She was making a pot of coffee. Then she called me said, “He’s gone.” I had been waiting for those words and when they came, I didn’t know how to feel. Relieved that he was out of pain, sad that he was gone. Luckily I had spent the previous 3 weeks with him. I told him I loved him, told him goodbye, told him we would all be OK when he left. Ok I’m going to stop typing now… tears don’t mix well with typing.

PapaLeo's avatar

@essieness Yes, just. Told him I loved him too. One of the very few times I had ever actually said it to him directly. I think it was the most tender moment we had ever had together. I’m getting tears thinking about it.

Thank you for your kind comments.

Kayak8's avatar

@essieness Big hugs to you on this tough day.

My dad died when I was 18 (he was 40) after fighting a brain tumor for two years. I have spent a good bit of my young adulthood trying to make him proud of me and how I turned out. Today, the thing I miss most is no longer being able to recall his voice. I can see his face (photos do help), but his voice is lost to me now.

chyna's avatar

@essieness Thank you for sharing your photos. I lost my dad when I was just 17. He died unexpectedly in his sleep of a heart attack. I still miss him and I can still picture him in my mind.

scamp's avatar

I lost my Dad 15 years ago, and it still hurts like it was yesterday. My Mom died 7 years ago, and it hurts, but not as much as losing my Dad does. He and I were much closer. I’m sorry for your loss and for the ignorant comment made earlier by someone not so sensitive to your feelings.

bythebay's avatar

@essieness: I am so sorry for the pain that you feel. I truly hope you find solace in your memories. Thank you for sharing your story and your pictures.

I also lost my Dad, 8 years ago. The pain is still hard to grasp. He was the most wonderful man, father, friend, and mentor. He was giving and loving and so smart I often felt if I lived to be 100 I could never know as much as he did. A brilliant businessman, a proud veteran, a loyal friend. He never met a stranger.

We lost him far too early, an aortic aneurysm took away a man that was larger than life, in twenty minutes. I am grateful he did not suffer and even more grateful that there were never any unspoken words between us. We adored each other, we got each other, we had such fun.

I remember him in many ways. I honor many family traditions that were important to him. Like @Jeruba, my son is so much like him it’s sometimes disarming. I cook his favorite foods and take my kids the places he took me. His pictures are everywhere and his eye-glasses sit on my desk. When I am involved in a business transaction, I channel him in action & word. I see him in birds that sit on the sill and stare in. I find him when I’m out on the water – his favorite place. I often feel him at dusk when I’m outside alone. It’s most hard to not have him here to see my kids grow and flourish, he thought they hung the moon & stars. My gratitude for having had him in my life is beyond description. God, I miss that man.

lillycoyote's avatar

Yes. I’ve lost both my parents. My mother died in April 1999. My father died a little over two years ago in April 2007.

filmfann's avatar

Both are gone. My dad passed in 1983. I married the next year, and had two kids he never knew (and no one loved grandkids like he did). I ache at what he missed.
My mom died 4 years ago. I had to take her off life support after a series of mistakes by more than one hospital.
I think of them both each day. My father worked in a tire shop, and the smell of rubber reminds me of him.
I feel for you. I know how something innocent to others can suddenly slam you with memories and emotion. I wish I could tell you it gets easier, but after 26 years, I am not there yet.

cak's avatar

@essieness (((((((((((((hugs!)))))))))))) Thank you for sharing the pictures and what you plan on doing. I think it’s a beautiful way to remember him.

January 3rd of this year, my dad died. I still hurt so damn much, there are days when I just can’t stand the pain. I miss being able to hear his touch, my children talking to him or my husband joking with him about the crazy women in the family. (Me, my mom…my sister) I miss his hugs. I miss his smile. I miss his friendly sparring. I miss so much, there isn’t a way to list all of it – I never knew I could miss someone, this much.

I still struggle to say “was” – instead of “is” – in reference to him. To put things in past tense, makes me so sad.

I talk to him daily. The smell of chapstick (black label…he was a purist!) and Old Spice aftershave can bring me to tears. Walking into my parent’s house; his hat, keys and his daily “stuff” are still sitting in the same place, where he left them December 23rd, the night before he had the stroke. In the bedroom, where he kept his wallet, there is $1.27 in change, a watch – his “backyard” watch – a well-worn Timex with a faded band, a white handkerchief, his bifocals, another Chapstick, and a business card are still sitting there. I look at it each time I go there, thinking he’s just out and I’ll see it missing, because the stuff will be in his wallet. It’s not. It’s still sitting there, untouched.

Jeruba's avatar

What a wonderful tribute, @bythebay. Thank you for sharing it. I don’t know how a parent could hope to leave a better memory behind than that.

chyna's avatar

Oh Cak… I’m heartbroke.

cookieman's avatar

OK, Im not sure if these wonderful stories are helping or making me feel worse.

I’m dripping on my iPhone over here

Bear hugs to everyone.

augustlan's avatar

{Hugs} to all of you. Play on, essie.

Mr_Callahan's avatar

I lost my father during my wild and rebelious teenage years. We had a terrible relationship, I would do anything to go back and change this, but I can’t. So, those of you who have those great memories of wonderful relationships….consider yourselves blessed.

cak's avatar

@chyna so am I.

@everyone – hugs to all

@Mr Callahan I’m so sorry. My ex-husband is in the same place. I’m sorry for your pain.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

I lost my dad in 1993. I don’t know if I ever really got over it. I just got on. I think that is really cool that you have your dad’s guitar. I envy you in that respect. I’m sure there is some of his energy bound to it.

Garebo's avatar

I lost both of mine when I was around 14, first my day w/ lung and brain cancer then a year later right when my mom was getting better while watching Mannix she showed me her lump. I knew right then what it was, and was horrified. She was just coming around after my Dad’s death, she had been quite traumatized by his loss.
I seemed to deal with it relatively well and still have cherished memories, but I dont think my brother ever has, for one when he died, he was in a huge conflict with my dad; he the hippie and him the Nixon lover.

cyndyh's avatar

No, not yet. They’ve both had some health issues recently, and they were both really young when they had me. So, I wouldn’t be surprised by losing either of them one day soon and I wouldn’t be surprised if they both live until I’m into my 80s. There’s both some freaky longevity and some freaky early deaths on both sides of my family. So, it seems that anything goes.

I have lost 3 out of 4 grandparents, a great grandparent, and a great-great grandparent in my lifetime. I was pretty young when I lost the great-great, but the others affected me even more than I thought they would.

Anything to do with art reminds me of one, and my daughter still has a handmade doll she made for me complete with the lace and pearls and hand-painted face. I think of her whenever I see someone I’d think of as an “independent spirit” or a creative person. She could do damned near anything well.

The fiddle, guitar, super-skinny old men, sneaking wine, and folk music remind me of another.

Ritual and religion reminds me of another along with bad cooking. That one’s complicated, but I still loved her.

The most recent to go was my younger grandfather a little over a year ago. Anything to do with golf, hearing aids, loud joking and talking all at once with multiple family members, short muscle-bound men, Texas-Cajun accents, practical jokes, dominos, card games with tricks, teasing kids (“where are we going paw-paw?” “We’re following that car.” :^>) all remind me of him. I don’t know if I ever saw him when he wasn’t smiling.

I don’t know how I’d feel losing a parent. I hope I don’t find out anytime soon.

bythebay's avatar

Isn’t it great how @essieness was able to remind us how lucky we were to have loved and been loved, even though we lost. Life isn’t perfect, and sometimes it’s just perfectly hard. If you can walk away with a lesson learned, it hasn’t been in vain. Thanks again @essieness.

essieness's avatar

@bythebay And thanks to all of you for sharing with me and helping me get through that day :)

Jude's avatar

Lost my Mom two years ago. She was only 64 and died of Ovarian Cancer. The worst thing I have ever been through—seeing her suffer from that merciless disease and then die before my very eyes. I think about her everyday. Our family has fallen apart since then and it kills me. The last year of her life, we mended fences. She wasn’t accepting of my lifestyle (being gay) prior to that. Before coming out, my Mom was one of my best friends. After coming out we had a rocky relationship and argued plenty; me, defending my lifestyle (sad, isn’t it?). And, during her last year, she finally came around after 10 years of me being “out” and loved me for being—me. I’m grateful for that…

cookieman's avatar

@jmah: I think it may be common that these traumatic deaths unearth all sorts of feelings – very often tearing a family apart (particularly if the foundation wasn’t so solid to begin with). I know that was the case with my family – my father’s death scattered everybody to the wind.

I envy the families that pull together in times of crisis.

pallen123's avatar

I also lost my dad to lung cancer when I was 21 yrs. old—18 years ago. It too was the most traumatic experience of my life watching him get sick and then die. I think the first few years I was more tormented by the last stages of his illness and memories of that. Later, memories of who he really was/is are what last. Now, if I really care to, I can dredge up the traumatic stuff, but it takes effort—it’s covered up with other memories, the more pleasant and poignant ones. I don’t know if you have kids or not, but seeing my dad’s face and voice and mannerisms and laugh in them, helps puts things into perspective and reminds me what is true. Now I like to think of my dad when I do things, or enjoy things, or think of things that I know he would appreciate or still appreciates. You can see I’m using words that suggest he’s still here because quite frankly, although I’m not a big believer in the afterlife, I’ve come to feel that it’s more than just fantasy or wishful thinking to believe we remain connected to the people in our lives that we love—particularly the ones we’re related to. I do believe there’s some kind of unexplainable thread that weaves through all of us—and in very real ways, if we choose to, we really do keep those we love alive within us through memories and rekindling their spirit. Sounds pretty flippy dippy and I mostly live my life on the other end of the flippy dippy spectrum, but although I’m not yet 40, I’ve seen enough in this life to know there’s far far far more we don’t understand about the big unknowns, than we do—and there’s a very real connectedness through time and place that’s most clearly experienced through memories, that’s as real and meaningful and important for both the person remembering and the person being remembered, as actually being available and able to sit down with that person and have lunch together. Unfortunately, I think 99% of us aren’t able to be in tune with these realities as maybe our primitive ancestors were—we’re too busy concerned with the mundane practicalities of paying the bills and being bombarded with questions about who Jennifer Aniston is dating. Your dad is part of you. He was when he was alive, and he will be forever.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

@essieness, Hugs to you. And to all who have ever lost a loved one!

I lost both of my parents. My Dad in 1988 and my Mom in 1996. I was well into adulthood when they passed, and I am fortunate to have had a good adult relationship with them both. Before Dad died, I had the opportunity to have an “extended visit” of about 6 months at home. I spent a lot of time with them both, and helped him complete some projects around the house. In retrospect, I think he knew he was dying, but the rest of the family was in denial. Fortunately, my then-fiancee was able to recognize the fact that he was dying, and helped me to prepare.

When my Mom died, I was not at home, I was starting my own family. I had had plenty of opportunity to share things with her, and her death was like the end of a well-loved chapter in my life.

Now, 21 and 13 years later, I still miss them both. The biggest change I had to get used to was the fact I could not just pick up the phone and talk to them. But I feel them both, deep in my heart.

Jude's avatar

@cprevite My Mom was the glue that kept our family together. Also, she kept my Dad in line. One of the last things she said to him was
“put your kids first”. And, unfortunately, he hasn’t. He is (and, always has been) all about himself. My Mom sheltered us a lot from what my Dad was really like. We were never really “wanting” for a father because more than made up for it. Now, it seems as though we have neither a Mom nor a Dad.

cookieman's avatar

@jmah: That’s almost exactly my story, but in reverse. My Dad was the one protecting us from my Mom. You’re so right about losing both.

sorry :^(

SeventhSense's avatar

My Dad’s death was sudden. I hadn’t talked to him for a while. I had written him a long letter about some past grief and was trying to work through some past abandonment. He never really acknowledged the letter and it was very difficult for me. I hadn’t talked to him for a couple of years.
One Christmas he decided he was going to come East to NY for Christmas. I struggled over the decision to join with my brothers and sister in the “Hallmark Moment”. Ultimately, I decided I would go just because it was the right thing to do and to just play nice. I saw him and it was difficult and nothing really felt resolved but it was Christmas.
We saw the tree at Rockefeller Center, looked at the Macy’s window displays, had a nice meal and it was good.
He went back to Arizona and he contracted an illness. He died suddenly 2 weeks later.
I was glad I saw him one more time.

valdasta's avatar

My father passed away in 97’ of cancer; he battled it for eight years.

I had to take a minute before continuing

I loved my dad, but he wasn’t a good father. He wasn’t abusive, we were well-to-do, but he wasn’t there. All I ever wanted was to hear my dad say, “I love you” or “I am proud of you, son.” But I never got it. That is, until I told my dad that I loved him, when he was in the hospital weeks before his death.

My dad had funny stories, that is how I remember him. I have told them to many people and my children ask me to repeat the stories over and over again.

I have keep-sakes of my dad throughout the house. In fact, my dad and I wear the same size suit jacket; he left me with 25 suits! Every Sunday, when I put one of those suits on, I think of my dad.

druebeall's avatar

Yes I have and recently too. I was an only child and I really miss my Mom. Especially now at Christmas time. I have countless memories to hold on to and share with my own kids. Little traditions that I hold so near and dear. I do know that without a doubt that she is in heaven though. On that note, I am very happy for her. She is exactly where she should be. I miss her but will be reunited with her one day.

Ghost_in_the_system's avatar

My father died in May 2008. I can still hear his voice in the world around me. The smell of a certain soap and old spice puts me in mind of him instantly.

HighShaman's avatar

My father died in 1996 of alcohol abuse… liver and kidneys gave out.

In 2004, my mother was MURDERED by my Sister….

NO; parents are left…

chyna's avatar

@HighShaman My heart goes out to you. A horrible way to lose one’s parents.

SeventhSense's avatar

@essieness
You still around? I haven’t heard from you in a while..

aprilsimnel's avatar

@HighShaman – I’m so sorry. :(

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I lost my father in 1982. He had been a naval aviator from 1937 to 1971. When he retired he purchased a T-33 aircraft for his personal use. In August of 1982 shortly after a takeoff, a bird was sucked into the air intake, destroying the engine. He died as he had lived, a heroic and inspirational figure.

My mother died of heart failure in 1994.

valdasta's avatar

Whenever I watch a movie that depicts a father who neglects his son, I am immediately touched and I identify with the son.

When I hear the sound of jingling keys, I think of my dad. Whenever he came through the front door of the house we always could tell if it were dad; he used to toss his keys into the air and catch them…every time.

Cheeseball451's avatar

@essieness, Yes i have

I’m sorry, best of luck!

partyparty's avatar

My dad was killed in a car accident 1980. He lived for eight hours, and we had reached the point where we had hope that he would live. Sadly the doctors could do no more for him, and he died.
I still miss him to this day. I know how you feel.

Just_Justine's avatar

Yes, both my parents are dead, my mom recently my dad two years ago. It’s sad and hard sometimes.

lillycoyote's avatar

@essieness I answered this question so long ago, and have been off fluther for a while, and this question popped up in my lurve for some reason, but I seem to have forgotten for some reason, to say how sorry I am about your father’s death. You have an anniversary coming up soon. That’s going to be hard, I know. April 4th was the 11th anniversary of my mom’s death, and April 5th, the 3rd anniversary of my Dad’s death. I guess I should thank them for making them so close together, it doesn’t have to be spread out over the year, but I had gotten over associating early spring with my mother’s death, when my dad decided to die a day after. What were they thinking? I’m at the point where can I laugh and cry in a single sound (thanks Bruce Springsteen, for that one, it’s a perfect description for a number of times in my life.)

SeventhSense's avatar

I’ve never been one to memorialize a death like an anniversary. I think it’s kind of maudlin.

lillycoyote's avatar

@SeventhSense I don’t necessarily memorialize the anniversary of a death. They just happen, and they are still meaningful, and very often painful.

SeventhSense's avatar

I don’t even remember the date of my father’s death or anyone’s death for that matter.

filmfann's avatar

this week will be 5 years since my Mom passed. I get massively depressed near the anniversaries of my parents passings. It stresses my Wife, because she doesn’t remember those dates like I do, and doesn’t understand my mood change.

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