The Last Time I Saw My Father

Funny how a memory pops up when we least expect it.  Our minds go to unexpected places at unpredictable times.  Sometimes there’s an obvious link; often, memories seem to appear out of left field like an errant baseball thrown past home plate and into the stands.

The last time I saw my father was at the lunch following my mother’s funeral.  My dad didn’t want a funeral and, along with my two surviving siblings, conspired to make sure that my mother didn’t get the service and burial she would have wanted and deserved.

The grand compromise?  There would be no funeral home service but a small one at the gravesite.  Some compromise.  But that was the best I could do.

And there we were standing on the front porch of a distant relative’s home (Everyone else had moved away) —my husband, son, good friend from high school and my dad.

The friend waxed eloquent about how my mother and father had been like substitute parents and how much he appreciated their concern and support.

“Well, at least someone appreciates me.”

He looked straight at me.  “That’s more than I can say about some others.”

Was he serious?  What the hell had I done?  Maybe the knock on his head (actually, he fell and suffered a subdural hematoma two days before my mother died)  had rattled his memory.  I’d been the dutiful older daughter who jumped through hoops to make him love me.

Okay, so he was pissed that I’d “forced” a service for my mother.  Well, screw him!  He couldn’t forgive me for what turned out to be a lovely celebration of my mother’s life?

My friend said a quick good-bye and headed for his car.  In what looked like a choreographed move, my son, husband and I stood and walked back inside the house. We were in no mood to weather my father’s abuse.

And that was it: I never hugged my father, said how much I missed my mother or how I knew the next months would be tough but that he could count on me to be there for him whenever he needed me.

He did call me once after that and offered me my mother’s car.  A peace offering?  I graciously said “no” because I had a car and didn’t need another.

He died two weeks later.



Sister Loss


The death of a sister can be a painful loss—a loss that, for some, leaves a lifelong ache.  For singer Patti LaBelle, the death of her two sisters from lung cancer propelled her to lend her fame and influence to the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE initiative to raise awareness about the dangers of the disease for women.

We often hear of a parent who launches a foundation in the name of a deceased child.  The foundation is focused on raising awareness—often on raising funds—that will help the general public learn more about a range of issues from gun violence, to disease, to child molestation.

(My parents, for example, started a fund to annually support a deserving musician  because of my brother’s love of music and his burgeoning skill as a guitarist.)

Less frequently, do we hear of siblings who start a foundation or create a trust fund to raise money/awareness in memory of their sibling.

But that’s what Kate Fitzsimons did after the tragic death of her older sister Nicole who, while in Thailand with her boyfriend, was in a horrific motorcycle accident and died.

Kate and her family created a trust fund that would raise money for things Nicole “loved and was passionate about”, such as sponsoring a ballet student.”

The trust fund eventually grew into the Nicole Fitzsimons Foundation, allowing Nicole’s life to be commemorated in the light it deserves. “We couldn’t let her down without taking on that same kind of fearless attitude and bring something positive from such an unfair tragedy,” Kate said.

Aussie Kate also discovered that many Australian tourists, while visiting other countries, die in motorcycle accidents.  She felt so passionate about the issue that she left her corporate career to devote all of her energies to promote safe travel.

“I’m only one voice but I’m going to make it as loud as I can and try and make it travel as wide and as far as I can,” Kate Said.

Whether famous or not, sisters who lose a sister can elevate their loss to a whole new level by honoring the deceased by volunteering for relevant organizations, establishing a trust fund or a foundation.  Such commitments keep the deceased sibling’s memory alive and provides a way in which the living can make their loss a little bit less painful.



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