My dear father-in-law, Allan, passed away last month and ever since then, things just really haven’t been the same. As my husband said ever so eloquently in his eulogy at Allan’s memorial, “Death is a bitch.” So true. It’s a tough topic for everyone and a fate we all must face eventually but to lose a beloved parent is especially difficult. This post, however, is not about me and my feelings toward this loss but about Allan- the man he was, the life he lived, and the legacy he left behind.
Allan was the kind of man who simply loved to love and loved to live. He had this way about him that made anyone he came in contact with feel comfortable and welcomed. Spending time with Allan was always easy and enjoyable- despite the illnesses and pain he had to endure over the years, he never complained, never got angry, just took things as they came and embraced life nevertheless with a smile on his face.
I remember the very first time I met Allan- I was 16 years old, on a date with my then-crush-now-husband, and Allan was in the intensive care unit, very ill, following a stroke and loss of a kidney. While I thought it strange and nerve-wracking to meet my crush’s dad this way, I timidly came into the room, stood at the side of his hospital bed and said, “Hi, I’m Laura. Come here often?” He chuckled a bit and smiled, patted my hand, and I immediately felt welcomed. Allan miraculously recovered from that bout and went on to live over 20 more glorious years, chuckling and smiling his way through an extremely joyful, happy, and loving life.
Once Mike and I had kids, I got to know a different Allan, the Allan that found immense joy and pride in being a granddad. Of course, I always knew what a great dad he was to my husband, Mike, and my brother-in-law, Alex but once our children, Samantha and Harry, came into the world I saw Allan soften even more, exponentially growing the love he already had for our family. I remember when Samantha was first born and the way he would hold her, look at her beautiful baby face, tear up, and thank Mike and I for doing such a good job making such a precious little baby girl. Harry came along one short year later and Allan and his wife Kathy were right there at the hospital, eager to hold him, eager to chase Samantha around, eager to be grandparents.
As eager as Allan was to be a granddad, Samantha and Harry were just as enthusiastic about spending time with him as they grew older, always asking to visit him and counting down the days until summer when we would vacation with Allan and Kathy at our family cabin in Pinecrest. I don’t recall ever being as excited or willing to hang out with my grandparents when I was little but if you knew Allan, you would understand why my kids felt this way- he was such a great person to be around, so gentle and loving and easy going, time with him always flew by as we would sit and chat, chase the kids, go for a walk, cook a prime rib- whatever we did, we had fun… those memories are sundry and now, often painful, but I know how lucky we all are to have had those times with him.
Finding comfort in those memories is becoming a difficult task for me as I so want to go back there and re-live those moments and spend even just a little more time with Allan to tell him how important he is to us and how much we truly love him. Yet, I know he knew this. The evening he died, I sat in bed with him, held his hand and, through tears, told him I loved him sooooo much. He said, “I love you too, Laura.” Somewhere there I know I will eventually find some solace but right now it’s still hard, it just takes time…
This is extremely difficult to write. I’ve been working on this post for the past 5 days, attempting to gather my thoughts and feelings into some sort of perfect little 1000 word package but even now I sit and weep as I look through all the photos and recall all of our adventures, knowing that even though this is hard for me and the kids, it is that much harder for Kathy, Mike, and Alex. I love my family so much and know that we are now in the hands of time, nothing I can say or do can really help ease my family’s pain, or even my own.
We received a lot of condolence cards, letters, and emails since Allan’s passing and a lot of them held some very true pieces of wisdom but something a friend wrote to me on Facebook just the other day is standing out the most right now… like I said before, things just haven’t been the same since this loss and I keep wanting to be back to “normal” but finding myself still grieving… this friend wrote, “The depth of your sadness equals the depth of your love. It doesn’t feel like it now but it is a gift to feel so deeply. Hang in there and make sure to give and get lots of hugs.”
As a family, we have adopted a lot of traditions, adventures we plan to do together year after year and a lot of those traditions were started by Allan… if you know me in real life, you know how often we visit our Pinecrest cabin, every summer I take the kids for at least a month, Allan and Kathy always coming to the cabin for a few days during that time too. That cabin is essentially Allan’s cabin, his second home, his place of refuge, our place of play and relaxation and the one thing I know Allan wanted us to continue to enjoy together for many years to come.
We plan to go up to the cabin next month but, for the first time, I’m not really looking forward to it. I’m not looking forward to unlocking the door, taking that first step inside, and seeing that picture of him and I that he hung up in the kitchen over 20 years ago. I’m not looking forward to sitting in Allan’s chair or going through his old photo albums or listening to the recordings he made of himself playing the guitar and singing because it just won’t be the same without him… I anticipate the cabin will stay just as it is, just as Allan left it, Mike nor I moving or changing a thing, to honor Allan’s memory and to be just a bit closer to him and his spirit which I know is relaxing in a comfy chair on the deck right now.
But we will eventually go to the cabin, we will wade in the sorrow then and in the meantime, we’ll continue to remember Allan, all the adventures, his laugh and smile. We will remind Samantha and Harry about their grandfather, we’ll look at pictures and videos, share stories and say how fast it all went by, agreeing that we would do anything to get just a little more time, just one last adventure, just one more weekend all together in Pinecrest…
This, I think, is truly the final lesson Allan wanted to teach us- to love life for all that it gives you (even the crappy times), never take a moment together for granted, prioritize family above all else, and tell your loved ones how much you love them while they’re still here because tomorrow that chance may be gone. Allan taught me that living a good life as a good person means that upon death you are surrounded by those who truly care, those who unconditionally love you, and wrapped in a blanket of that immense devotion, it becomes okay to say goodbye because you leave behind that love… and we will all pass it on in Allan’s honor.
I love you, Allan, I always will. I thank you for being a friend and dad to me, the one and only most awesome grandad Sam and Harry will ever know, and for raising the amazing man who is the love of my life and the father of my children. I miss you every day and while my tears are still filled with sadness, I know eventually the “normal” will return, the pain will abate, my heart will repair… as a family, we’ll get there together.