Good Grief

I’ve been away from the blogs for a while, and wasn’t sure if I’d ever come back. Although I was planning on a small hiatus as my husband and I embarked on the first vacation we would take in 7 years to Portland, Oregon, little did we realize our 4-day trip would end up being a soul-crushing months-long journey through hell.

October 20, 2017 was the day my family’s world came crashing down when my father-in-law, Chris, died from a brain aneurysm. Late on the 19th, my husband and I received word from my mother-in-law that he was on life support; we had just parked our rental car at the hotel in Portland. Trying to process the news after having just spent a 5 hour flight from Toronto, with a three-hour time change and having to orientate ourselves around Portland in darkness during a torrential rain storm will remain a very dark memory for me. Talking to a distraught wife and mother brought it to a whole other level. She called us home to Sudbury, Ontario, to say good-bye, but seeing as how we were in Portland 3800 kms away, we were the furthest away we could have possibly been – we might as well have been on the moon! Immediately, a plan was underway to take the next available flight home to Toronto, which wasn’t happening until the next morning. We spent an agonizing 4 hours trying to get some shut-eye in between weeping. Chris died early the next morning. We were not able to say goodbye to him in time, and that remains the worst feeling.

We got up at 4 in the morning Pacific time, and headed to the airport. The direct flight to Toronto we hoped to take was packed, but we managed to get a flight that connected in Vancouver, B.C. With some time while we waited to board, I got us some terrible coffee and weird salty pastries for us to eat, while I made the sombre call to my own parents about the awful news. Through the grief we somehow managed to compose ourselves as we navigated customer service lines, security and even as we boarded the plane. How weird grief can be. I had brought six tissue compacts on this trip, thinking the hubs’ sinuses might act up. Never had I thought we’d be using them to wipe away tears.

We spent a miserable 4.5 hour flight from Vancouver to Toronto in middle seats one row apart. Two flights, two stints through security and many hours later, we landed in Toronto at 5 PM EST time. We grabbed our car from the lot, drove the 40 minutes to our house to pack up dark clothes, ensure our large goldfish would have enough food for over a week and grab whatever food we had in the fridge for the 4.5 hour ride north to Sudbury. Aside from the coffee served in-flight, the hubs and I hadn’t eaten, nor slept. Our pack was what one could call a hobo lunch – sliced bread, lunch meat, apples, bag of chips; everything separate, none of it put together. We were barely out of our little town when we busted open a pack of nacho flavoured Paqui chips; organic, gluten-free and very tasty. As we ate, we began to think about Chris and his love for junk food. He would have loved these chips! The trip up north was dark and lonely…much like how we were feeling.

Chris was a very special person who touched a lot of lives. A loving and supportive father, I saw through my husband and sister-in-law what it meant to have a father in the true sense, having lost my own when I was under 4 years old. Together, Chris and I had some fun things between us that meant the world to me. We both shared a love for Crossword and Sudoku puzzles, Maynard’s wine gums, and running for takeout. Whenever we’d have a reno project to work on, it would always begin with Chris and I writing a list for the lumber yard in a Tim Hortons parking lot. “But, first, coffee!” he would say. I cherish the times we had together.

Retired from Inco, he was still always busy working. He was a handyman: a carpenter, an electrician, a plumber…he loved to fix electronics, from old computers, to the local church’s bells, to building and repairing robotics. Chris had a genius mind; the guy could build from vision and have it come to life. But more than that, he knew exactly what tools and equipment he needed to make his ideas happen. Everything he did was for his family, friends and community, and that will never get lost on me. My house is filled with his handiwork from our gazebo out back to our bathroom reno, to our new kitchen, to that hallway closet light he installed during his last visit this past August. He taught me how to hammer a nail and shingle a roof…and to never fear getting your hands dirty.

I wanted to share the last text my father-in-law sent me that links my WordPress life to my private one in a real way:

“Dear Sarca,

Your mother in law has been getting emails from a Sarca at WordPress…I had no idea who “Sarca” was until now!!! I have just started reading, and am very impressed with your Caught Me Gaming blog! I will now read every post. I can’t promise to know everything you are talking about, but just know, dear daughter, I have now subscribed and I am reading.

Love Dad. oxoxox”

Friends, I can’t promise I’ll be writing consistently for the next bit. These days, life is moving pretty fast: there is a lot of travel and family time in the mix which is pulling me away from doing the things that I write about here. Grief also takes its time releasing its clutches. I am pretty sure we’re in for a difficult Christmas this year, but I am thankful for the closeness and warmth of family.

Thank you all for keeping me in your subs through my absences…I’ll return slowly, but surely. A special thank you to my blogging friends who reached out in the dark hours to send condolences, prayers, gifts of coffee, and offers of help – you are close to my heart. Thank you.

I’ll see you all soon!

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20 comments

  1. I was so sad to have heard the news, but reading the details of those first days…my heart breaks for you. I think I would have liked Chris if I’d known him.

    We got your back. I hope you have a good holiday season although it will have its hard times. Jen lost her dad on Nov 3 (2009), she knows how Christmas feels.

    M

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow. So sorry to you both. Especially about not being able to say goodbye.
    I remember reading about his handiwork on your kitchen reno. Having the things he built will keep his memory alive.
    He reminds me of my own father.
    After reading that I want to drive over to my parents and give my dad a big old bear hug.

    P.S. That last text was especially awesome. One to save on a hard drive forever.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was afraid I no longer had the text from Chris since I erased most of my text messages on my new phone before going across the border…but I am happy to know it is still memorialized on my old Galaxy S2 phone – thank goodness! I will forever cherish it!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Chris sounds like a wonderful man, I love that text message.
    And though I didn’t know him, after reading your loving words (and Kevin’s in October), I can picture him saying, as you described, “but first, coffee!”
    Thinking of you & Kevin

    Liked by 2 people

  4. So Sorry Kevin and Sarah for the loss of your Dad and Father In Law!
    Chris indeed sounds like a great guy who was always there for you at a moments notice!
    This is one of the most heart wrenching things I have ever read but I think its great for the soul that you put this all out there in the open. Almost therapeutic …
    Nice for you share the last text u got as well …

    Rest Easy Chris!

    Take care Kev and Sarah..

    Deke

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Read this through watery eyes. I’ve lost too many loved ones already, including my dad. He sounded a lot like my father and I’m sure Kevin and you will keep him alive in your hearts through memories, stories, and living out life with his influence. Much love guys.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. So sorry to hear your news Sarah. (Can I call you that? I know you as Sarca.) It was great that you had such a close relationship with Chris – the fact that you called him your father speaks volumes. And you have such great memories to hold onto – they will pop up unexpectedly and bring you sharp joy as your future unfolds. They will also help you through this coming Xmas – talk about him constantly – he’s still with you especially in his and also your homes. Warmest thoughts, Jud House

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for sharing, Sarca. Chris sounds like a smashin’ guy and I can’t begin to imagine what you guys have gone through. As always, this wee family of mine here are sending good vibes and big love to your family there.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for sharing. Just a fantastic piece of writing on such a devastating experience. When I first heard the news I was so hoping you hadn’t left for Portland yet. Grief isn’t enough, life has to throw incredible challenges at the same time to you! But as I know, you two are a coil of strength and can handle it all together.
    Chris was a stand up cool dude, in my opinion, and I’m glad I got a wee bit of time to get to know him

    Liked by 1 person

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