September 12, 2012 is a day I don't think I will ever forget. I spent the day in Buffalo, MO, sitting by my dad's bedside talking to him, reminiscing about our favorite family memories with my sisters and mom, laughing, crying, praying...all the while knowing my dad did not have much time left with us. We had called in hospice, our Pastor came to pray with us, we were frantically working with The Arbors in Springfield to get him back here to spend his final days close by, I talked with my best friends on the phone...we were all taking those steps to prepare ourselves for, what we thought would be weeks of, saying our final goodbyes. We had gone back to Springfield around 4 to grab dinner with the intent that mom would go back to spend the night with him l and Stephanie, Gail and I would go back the next morning to see him and spend more time with him. Around 6pm, just as mom was grabbing her keys and getting ready to leave, we got that call. That dreaded call. That call that you never ever will be prepared for, even if you think you are ready for it. Dad had taken those first steps into his heavenly home. I can still feel that stabbing pain in my heart, that knife in my gut, that completely empty feeling that surrounded me that night. Ouch. That was it. Just like that. There was no more chances for me to tell him how much I loved him. No more chances to tell him how proud of him I was...how lucky I felt to have him as a dad. Did he know? Had he heard everything I had said to him earlier that day and for the past 32 years?
The next few weeks are a little blurry, but what IS clear is how much of an impact my dad made on so many people. We had hundreds of people calling, stopping by, sending cards, bringing us food...all because of one man. I got to hear stories about my dad from so many people that firmed up what I already knew about my dad...that he was kind, fair, loyal, and truly loved helping those around him. He not only had left a lasting imprint on my heart, he left it on so many others. At that moment, I realized that I was not alone in grieving. Every person's life that he had touched, grieved right along with me.
Yeah, September 12th will always be a day that tugs at my heart strings, makes me sad, brings back a flood of emotions...but it is also a day that I want to make sure I celebrate. Celebrate the life of a man who brought so much joy to my heart, to my moms heart, my sisters hearts, and so many others. He took his glorious steps into his final home, he walked through those pearly gates into a home that was free from Alzheimer's, free from violence, free from heartache and disappointment. He was reunited with his mom, his dad, his brother, his mother-in-law, his brother-in-law...I can just imagine the party they had 2 years ago...and probably every day since. It might really stink for those of us here on earth who miss him every moment of every single day, but I know we will be okay. I know he's watching down from heaven, keeping an eye on us. I can hear his voice of reason still...sometimes I can even hear his voice telling me it's going to be okay...although a lot of the time it's the voice that says "Now Trina...think about this before you do something you regret. " I can see his personality shine through his grandchildren...in the things they do, the things they say, the way they act towards others. I am confident he's still with us.
I will continue to try honor his memory on September 12th every year. I will take this day to celebrate the life he led, the lives he touched, the man he truly was. My dad truly led a life of love. I am going to try to do the same. My prayer is that no matter how many years go by, that no one forgets him. I know I never will.
James Spong Appelquist
January 14, 1952 - September 12, 2012