On May 31, I called home to check on dad. I was calling every two hours the previous day as he was starting to decline a couple nights prior after trying to live it up too hard with his brothers and cousins (he called it his Victory Lap – so he knew the end was near). My dad’s nickname is Mr. Fun, so it was how he knew to say goodbye. My sisters, who are both nurses, both agreed on the phone that he was not going to make it much longer. They said I should fly in ASAP. I was at the airport in just a matter of hours after that phone call.
After a 1.5 hour flight delay, I finally walked through my dad’s bedroom door at 10:30pm on May 31. He was very weak; he could not hold my hand, talk or blink. His breathing was very labored. He couldn’t move on his own. We spoke into his ear and said, “Dad… Shannon is here now.” He raised his eyebrows and made a sound so I think he understood us. At 5:00pm that day his last comment was, “Where’s Shannon?” I think he was waiting for me to arrive. He had a few conscientious moments in his last few hours, but overall he was mostly out of it.
At 3:25 am on June 1, my dad passed away. He was only 58. My two sisters, my mom and I all sat on his bed cradling him for his last breaths. I had his hand on my face as he passed. It was so extremely sad and peaceful to witness. I am so glad that I made it in time so that we could all be there for him. He did not want to die in a hospital, but rather his own home. I laid with him on his bed for a few hours afterwards, before the funeral home would come to take him away. I didn't want to leave his presence.
My sisters are great nurses. They administered all the drugs, they knew the signs to look for, and they knew how to position him. We didn’t require hospice in the house because they were very comfortable with everything. In fact, my dad was signed up for hospice care for 24 hours believe it or not after he started to decline from his Victory Lap.
I spent 10 days at home with my mom. My fiancé flew in before the wake as well. There was a lovely wake and funeral services at the place where his parents and grandparents had their services. Although my dad was raised Catholic and all his family members from the Southside of Chicago were still Catholic, my dad (nor are we) was not. Yet he still wanted a priest to speak for his services. My sister gave an excellent speech which pretty much made everyone cry in the room – even the funeral director. Then everyone clapped at the end! It was that good! My uncle arranged to have a bagpiper play at the services as well at the burial. It was truly an amazing effect to have the bagpiper play. My dad would have loved it. There were about 80 friends/relatives of my dad's tailgating (aka drinking) in the parking lot of the funeral home. I, of course didn't care much for that, but my dad would have been right out there with them. He was admired and loved by so many.
I am glad I got to fly home three times previously this year. In fact I was just there visiting 2 weeks prior to his passing. I don’t feel like I was slighted in time, or have anything I wished I would have said. It’s just super sad that he is gone and I won’t get to feel his hug again. He is no longer in pain. Rest in peace, dad. I miss you.
Me and dad from January 2012. This photo went in the casket.
My dad on his Harley-Davidson in his heyday.