Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Saying Goodbye to Bob

When I wrote about saying good-by to Grandma Florence, I didn't mention one disturbing thing about that moment. I don't know what I expected, but when I reached out to touch her hand, I was shocked to feel a cold, wax-like texture, rather than Gram's soft hands. Crazy, I know, to be surprised, but I had never before lost anyone remotely close, so I hadn't had this experience, and I was left with a disappointed feeling; it wasn't exactly what I had hoped for. It made me realize that if you want someone to know that you love them, you have to tell them when they are alive, because casket goodbyes are less than satisfying.

As I've said, Gram passed away two days before Christmas. Her son, (Mr.4444's father) Bob was heartbroken. I had never lost anyone I cared deeply for, and his grief touched me. He was such a cheerful guy, and seeing him silent and withdrawn made an impression on me. Even Kendall crawling up in his lap did little to bring the sparkle back to his eye in those days. It was the saddest Christmas I can recall, of course, but that sadness did not prepare me for the loss of Bob six weeks later, when he suffered a massive heart attack and died.

I got the phone call in my classroom, where I was teaching Social Studies to a group of high schoolers. I remember Mark's words,"Barb, my dad is dead," and my disbelief, "Shut up!" What a thing to say! He told me he was serious, and that I needed to get to his parents' house right away. I remember leading my students out of the classroom, feeling like I was in a movie or something; this was unbelievable. Bob, dead?! I dropped my students off at another classroom and told the teacher (a friend) what had happened. A phone call was made, and another friend quickly drove me to Mark's parents' house, which was a mile and a half from the school.

I found an ambulance crew at the house (Mark wasn't there yet), and his mom in the livingroom in shock. Bob was lying on the floor at the top of the basement stairs, in the dinette area. My first instinct was to be with him, but Pat needed attention. After comforting her in the other room, I returned to the kitchen. I just felt such a pull to my father-in-law; so vulnerable at that moment, in my mind. (I mean, who wants to be lying dead and alone on a floor?) Remembering my experience with Grandma Florence, I turned to the paramedic and asked, "Can I...hug him?" He nodded and left the room.

{Break here for Kleenex; I can't see the screen.}

I knelt down and put my arms around Bob. He had only been there for a short time, and his body felt warm, like he was only taking a nap. Oh, how I wished it was so. After a moment, I took a deep breath and got up, feeling a sense of peace. The last thing we had said to each other the night before was, "I love you." I had no regrets.

P.S. I just want to apologize if this series of posts has depressed anybody. (I've tried to spread them apart enough not to lose you :) I've felt very happy to be able to finally lay this out for myself, examine my feelings about it, and record the experiences for my kids one day. I only have one more post on this topic, and it is a sort of funny one, so don't worry; there will be no more morbid stories. (At least until I'm ready one day to write my dad's, but that one is waaay down the pike.)


  1. I think it's wonderful that you are sharing this side of yourself.

    Real and honest.

    Not depressing.

  2. It is true that what needs to be said should be done before it is too late. Graveside goodbyes are not satisfying at all though they do serve a purpose.

  3. You should never worry that telling something like this will depress us. if we are that shallow do you really want us here?


  4. Awwww, you made me tear up again!

    You have such an eloquent way of putting your feelings down in print, it makes me easy to feel what you did and be able to relate.


    (FYI I'm not a huggy-type person, but you made me feel like you needed one yourself)


  5. Either we all share a similar experience of loss or we will share that experience, so there's no reason to apologize. The great thing about these blogs is that they are on-line diaries -- we get to write about us, our lives, our experiences, our fancies or fantasies, etc.

    The loss of your father-in-law, so unexpected, brought to mind the loss of my dad, but under completely different circumstances. My heart reaches out to yours..... it is an honor to them for you to recall the love you felt, and still feel, but also an honor for us share in the memories.


  6. You don't ever need to apologize. I know how powerful being able to write these words can be, and you weave them together very beautifully.
    It is beautiful that you were able to give him one last hug. I'm sure he felt it.

  7. I have a friend who tried for years to get me to journal, now I DO -- it's called blogging! We are putting down treasured memories like this, so that we don't lose them. I think this is a wonderful story, that future generations will treasure, especially because it's in your words. I certainly don't mind a post that brings a tear to my eye!

  8. Simply stated..... I wish I was there for you and that I could give you a hug too.


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