Sunday night…8:45 p.m. I had just finished talking to my oldest son about life…
I decided to go to bed and I shut my phone off.
First night in who knows how long that I actually do not wake up in the middle of the night nor turn on my phone to browse the net.
Nope, the only night I sleep soundly and flip on my phone at 5:30 to a frightening text message from my sister from the night before around 9:30 p.m. – A mere half an hour after I went to bed…
“Call me ASAP! It’s Dad!!!”
What a frightening message… no voicemail and yet what I didn’t realize is that there was a voicemail from my BIL and from my brother as well as several Facebook messages.
I immediately call my sister’s cell phone – knowing she is normally up or about to get up at that hour- and no answer. WTH?
So I called my Dad’s line (my parent’s house line which is stored as “Dad” in my phone). My oldest Brother answers the phone…
“Kevin, why are you answering Dad’s phone?” I think I asked him twice before he could manage to get the words out… “It’s Dad, JoAnne…he’s gone.” I immediately jump up from my sit in the room off the master suite and I burst open the door, flicking on the light and hap hazardly making my way to the edge of the bed next to my husband who has jumped up in a frantic because of my screaming. “What??? What do you mean, “Dad’s gone?” WHAT DO YOU MEAN, KEVIN?! As I sit there on the bed he calmly begins to tell me the story and as he does so my fingers are practically into the sheetrock of my walls as I grip the wall for bearing all the while trying to process what he is saying. My Mother picks up the phone half awake and I just continue to ball my eyes out, breathing heavy and trying to get the word out, “Mom!” It was the most profound way I have ever uttered the word, the beloved title of the woman who is closest to my heart. I honestly do not really remember what I said but I think I was asking her if she was ok or something to that affect. My brother tells her he will inform me what happened and she can get on the phone in a little bit if she wants. I did not realize they had just gone to bed about 3:00 a.m. so everyone was out of it.
My brother explained to me what happened. As I listened my husband sat next to me and though my phone was not on speakerphone he gathered what happened and pulled his hoody over his head and just started crying. To see my big strong man like that is a sight I don’t want to see again. I have seen him cry before for other reasons…injustice, sin in the world, etc. but this cry and pain was unlike I have ever seen before in him and we have been married for almost 13 years so…yeah, you can only imagine.
After my brother told me what happened my sister got on the phone. The sister who originally called me. They were trying to console me but nothing they or anyone could do would console me. My world was utterly shattered and no amount of tears or silence could ever reflect what was going on in the depths of my being.
My mother got back on the phone and she was very calm. I am sure looking back that it was that she was in a state of shock but also, I will say that since the manner he passed in was so very peaceful and because she is such a pillar of faith her calmness was validated in that way.
Because of the time and because they were all so sleep deprived I had to get off the phone so as to get my children ready for school. I got off the phone and broke down in the arms of my husband. It did not last long because I was in mom mode so I had to get moving timewise. I remember standing in the shower after that, water coming down on me and just feeling like my knees and legs would not support me. I was standing there crying, “oh Daddy! Daddy!”
I got out of the shower and I informed my husband that we were not telling my kids just yet. They would not be able to focus on school or anything and I still had to process everything. Originally our friend Wendy offered to pick me up and bring to my parent’s which was about an hour away. It sounded good because I did not think I could drive. But then I decided I just wanted to be alone and so I decided I would try to drive myself.
As I was downstairs with the kids getting them ready I remember vividly blank staring into the abyss and so much and for so long maybe that my eldest son actually came over to me and asked me if I was ok. He broke my trance which was good and I continued on getting everything and everyone ready and out of the house.
My husband and I finally got everyone on their way and I opted to leave early to go to the Church to pray while he took the day off to take the kids to school. I arrived at the Church all glad in black and crying, of course. There was only one woman in the Church and the Church was dark (as in it was barely lit-how apropos). The woman was just about to pray the rosary so my timing was great. I knelt there in the front pew just crying and crying and I was praying with her in my head because I didn’t feel as if I could speak. I honestly do not even think she knew I was praying with her; just that I was crying. I went from balling to crying lightly to sobbing. Every word of the hail Mary and prayers were heart wrenching. I had never heard nor prayed the rosary that way before. It was intense, “Pray for us sinners now AND AT THE TIME OF OUR DEATH.”
People began to roll into Church, the people who, in one way or another are kinda like my second family since I go to mass there a lot during the week if I am able. They could tell I was crying and I am sure they were wondering why. When the Priest, Father Leo, entered the Church I cleared myself up so as to ask him if I could talk to him after Mass to which he agreed.
I relocated myself to the back of the Church because that is where I sit for Mass. I have my reasons for doing so; it’s not really a preference. At any rate, as I was walking back to the pew I saw a friend of mine, Corey, and he immediately asked what happened. He was the first person I uttered those very sad words to, “My Dad passed away suddenly last night.” Saying those words were like swords in my heart; swords I knew were real but so painful they numbed me as in disbelief. He couldn’t be dead. My Dad could not be dead! But he was…
My husband, older son and younger son arrived at the Church. I entered into the cry room with them but told my husband I would be sitting in the main Church today. This was one Mass that I needed to be focused on or try to for the sake and soul of my Father. Before I left the cry room I told my eldest son to offer his Mass for Beaupa (my Dad). He asked me why and I ignored the question.
Mass began and forget about it – I was a hot mess. If I thought praying the rosary was intense that was nothing compared to the “weight” of the words of the Mass. Death…resurrection…all the time. The whole mass: blaring at me: DEATH, DEATH, and DEATH! I knew at that moment that I would never hear the Mass the same way again (which, in the end, was and is a good thing). Communion…communion with the Saints…that was another whammy for me. Ironically at the time of communion I never felt so far and yet so close to my Daddy. Hard to explain unless you have experienced it.
Mass ended and I went to talk the Priest. I wanted my conversation to be my confession actually because of what had occurred the day my Dad passed away. We had gotten into a fight which I won’t go into but you can read about it here. So I was talking openly and honestly with Father Leo and in between somber looks and chuckling (because the reason we fought was kinda funny especially from a “devout” Catholic standpoint) he listened to me and gave him words of consolation and blessed me. I guess God did not want it to be my confession even though I mentioned it to him. There have been times in my life where the Priest or my spiritual director has refused me absolution because my sins were not sins and maybe I was being too scrupulous.
I left Father Leo and returned to my husband who had informed my eldest son what happened. I guess when I had left the cry room he pressed my husband to tell him why we needed to offer the Mass for Beaupa. I had some moments there in the Church alone with my son and it was heart wrenching. He cried a lot and told me that he knew that Beaupa was in heaven because he was a good man. I nodded my head to console him but didn’t say anything… After some moments together I left him, my husband and my little son so I could go to be with my Mom and siblings. It was very hard to leave them because I wanted to be with them especially to try to offer any strength or consolation if I could because that is how we Mothers are; we console and we rally even in times of utter despair.
Of course the day I found out and after he passed it had to be pouring raining. As if it were hard enough to drive a car with a broken heart and spirit but to deal with it in the pouring rain was no fun. I felt that heaven and the earth were crying with me. Maybe they weren’t but that’s how I felt. It felt like a long drive, a drive in which I just prayed and cried and thought…a lot.
I arrived at my parent’s house and it was surreal. I was surrounded by my three siblings since my other brother was too far away to travel there yet. When I walked in my Mom was already laying out my Dad’s outfit for the viewing. It was like a scene from a movie… I asked my brother to retell me what he was trying to tell me on the phone that morning because it was all kinda a blur. He told me as did my Mom tell me specifically what happened and how my Dad passed. I was numb and consumed with grief from the inside out.
We launched into the role of children…children who had to take care of my Mom and plan the burial of our Father. Unreal. And because they were so sleep deprived and I was so numb there were several times that day and the days to come that nothing made sense to us and we would end up laughing in the most delirious belly laughing way. God is good and gave us many graces and love and laughter to get through…
After a very long day of being at the funeral home and working on funeral plans I headed home. I purposely headed home with enough time before bed so I could tell the kids what happened. I did not originally want to but after talking to my siblings I thought it was best to tell them so as to prepare them for the viewing and Thursday which was a mere three days away.
When I got home I sat the kids down with my husband and told them that I was about to tell them something and that they couldn’t leave the room. They could ask questions or whatever but they couldn’t leave the room. I honestly wish now I would have recorded (audio only) the conversation because I do not remember a lot of it but I know that some things that were said by kids, including my just turned five year old were profound.
I do not remember exactly what I said but something to the effect of, “Yesterday you all had a wonderful day with Beaupa and Bel-Mehr right?” And they all nodded yes. I continued, “Well after they arrived home, Beaupa, right as he was going to bed peacefully passed away.” I waited to see their response which, for the most part was complete tears and crying from everyone including the three year old. I said, “You understand what I mean, Beaupa has died… he is no longer alive.” They did and they cried and cried. They were definitely shocked. We talked through it. Of course some of them immediately talking about purgatory and heaven. One kid would say he was in heaven and another would responds saying, “We don’t know that.” It made me proud to listen to them and thankful for their Catholic education as well as our education as parents. At one point my oldest daughter, age 9 was crying and said, “Why?! Why do we have to die?!” to which my youngest daughter, age 7 said, “Well, let me tell you about that Maria – you see, if Eve didn’t eat the apple none of us would have died! We would have lived forever!” I looked at my husband and was astounded and said, “You are absolutely right Bella.”
After some time talking and hugging and crying I left them to be put to bed by my husband in general because he always does bedtime but also because I was utterly spent from head-to-toe and I was worried about my pregnancy having only been about 16 weeks pregnant. So I went up to my room and just sat there on the couch in the master suite crying and look for and at pictures of my Dad and me.
It’s been almost 6 weeks since my Dad passed away. The time from the day he passed until now is a story for another day…
Rest in peace Daddy.
I love you and miss you so much,
Your Princess Penance and Old Faithful daughter, JoAnne