Off the Press

February 5, 2013

By David Hayes

This time, the obituary write-up was personal

I have a newfound respect for the fine work the Flintoft’s Funeral Home family does.

David Hayes

David Hayes

I’ve always thought handling service arrangements for recently deceased loved ones with distraught families had to be one of the hardest jobs imaginable.

While I’ve helped my fair share of families through the obituary-writing process here at The Press, in my 13 years, it never crossed my mind that one day I’d be writing one for my own father.

Our recently departed, former sports editor, Bob Taylor, God bless his soul, used to write about his own battle with cancer as a marathon. It was a long race, with many ups and downs and many helping hands along the way guiding him and praying for his recovery.

My father, ultimately like Bob, lost his race last week with multiple myeloma. What began with a diagnosis three years ago went through remissions, setbacks, promising new treatments, a diagnosis of early onset dementia, and then, finally, a sprint to the finish with his rapid decline.

When the cancer proved unstoppable and their options exhausted, my parents faced the end with dignity and decided to enter hospice care at home. I visited my parents Feb. 2 and was present as the case manager described the program to them.

Nine days later, Dad was gone.

While my siblings had been with them more over the years and witnessed more of his decline, I was there with my mom when he breathed his last breath.

For a bit of levity, here are the weird parts.

Being my father was not a very religious man, my wife, who accompanied me on the trip, decided to surf the Web in search of a prayer befitting him. She’d just finished reading an appropriate one when I walked through the door to tell her he was gone.

Later, when we were spreading the word through the telephone chain of his passing, we couldn’t get ahold of my sister in Maryland. The next day, after she finally found out, she shared her dream from the previous evening with my mom. In it, my parents visited her, with my dad saying, “Your mom was right. It was time for me to go.”

While my sister had been tasked with handing his affairs, I took his biographical information and threw together an obituary for the Sunday paper. Mom wanted it to be kept simple. I needed to be sure to mention they met in 1959, when he saved her from drowning off the shores of Oxnard, Calif. Seven months later, they married.

Also, it needed saying that 52 years later, Dad wanted his ashes spread in the Willamette River so he’d return to the ocean where they met.

My sister’s friend read the obit and said it was beautiful.

It was the least I could do for the man who shaped my life, who was my role model and who always enjoyed the best of what God gave him.

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