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Friday, October 31, 2008

Bittersweet Halloween

My dad died on Halloween morning, four years ago. I can still remember that morning like it was yesterday. My dad had pancreatic cancer. He lived 11 months after diagnosis, which is a very long time. We had plenty of time to say goodbye, I guess, but that didn't make his death any easier. You always wish for more time.

So, needless to say, Halloween is a bittersweet holiday for me. Quite honestly, the night my dad died, I have no idea where Young One was or who was with him. I'm pretty sure he was with D and some friends trick or treating, but I can't quite be sure. You see, that morning is still clear as crystal to me, but the rest of the day, well, it's a much needed blur. I had been up all night with Dad, helping him die. I guess that's the only way it can be put. My brothers couldn't handle it and my mom was dizzy with grief and emotion. I had to take charge. So, I held him and helped him clear his lungs. I kept him warm and comfortable and increased his oxygen when he needed it. I did loads and loads of laundry, running from his recliner to the washer and dryer.

Hospice was so wonderful, teaching us how to medicate dad to help him peacefully pass. This has always been something that's sort of bothered me. As a nurse, I know what those doses of medications would have done to a healthy person. I know for sure, though, that cancer killed my dad.

I face each Halloween with a brave face. We don't talk too much about what this anniversary means. I don't think it's necessary or healthy for Young One to associate this traditionally fun, kid day with Grandpa's death. I throw myself into the festivities. Dad wouldn't want it any other way.

I'm still struck at how grief will hit me from time to time. It's surprising in its intensity. It might be triggered by the way Young One holds his mouth when he's thinking hard (just like dad did). It might be realizing that I can't remember what his voice sounds like anymore. It may be in the passing of a memory, like how he called everything a finort and told me that I needed to eat something because it would put hair on my chest (this horrified me as a child!). I may think about the mysterious Gazeekerpiper, a bodily organ that dad often referred to. I still don't know what he was talking about!

My dad will always be with me. I know that for sure. I hope I get to be with him again someday. I miss being his little girl. For now, though, it's celebration time.

Happy Halloween, I sure hope I didn't bring you down. Eat lots of candy, enjoy the giggling gaggles of kids, and most importantly, make some memories.


  1. Elizabeth, oddly enough, my first father's birthday was Halloween, he died of pancreatic cancer when I was about 6 or 7 years old, not on Halloween though. Much of it is still a blur to me, other than remembering seeing him in the hospital not long before he passed. I was with my godfather, Michael, when my dad passed away. Halloween definitely takes on a different meaning for me, as I always remember my first father and how we always had a birthday cake along with the rest of the normal festivities of pumpkin carving, costumes, and candy on Halloween. I wish you a Happy Halloween, and hope you and your family has a wonderful day.

  2. Elizabeth, I'm sorry. What else can I say but that. Thank you for sharing your strength and story with me.

    You will always be your daddy's little girl, that will NEVER EVER change....

    I'm sending you prayers and love for your heart!

  3. what a hard day it must have been for you. anniversaries of deaths always are, but for it to be on halloween would make it harder.

    my grandfather used to always tell me and my siblings to eat something because it would put hair on our chest. i always thought that was a funny remark.


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