Monday, December 15, 2008

In Memory Of

Twenty two years ago today my father John William Jurden passed away. I decided that since this was the first anniversary of his death that I have had a blog I would share the story of that day this one time. You may want to grab a box of tissues and settle in for this one.

Shortly after I was born my dad was diagnosed with melanoma which is the worst form of skin cancer you can have. It started with a mole on his back that he didn't know had changed or looked weird because he couldn't see it. By the time he knew something was wrong it was too late. They removed the mole but the cancer had spread. For the next 4 years he had numerous surgeries to remove tumors and moles in different parts of his body. Early in 1986 doctors at the James Cancer Research Center found a brain tumor. After a few months of getting second opinions and looking into all the options my mom and dad decided to have it operated on.

The operation went well and then as planned my dad started rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. After a few weeks in the hospital they moved my dad home but it was to a room with a hospital bed and a nurse from hospice that came in everyday to take care of him. For the next six months my dad lived in the front bedroom of our house and was taken care of by my mom and nurses.

Usually by the time I got up in the mornings my dad was awake but on the morning of December 15, 1986 my dad was still asleep. Because of this my mom kept yelling at my sister and me to be quiet so we didn't wake my dad up. She told us that Nick had woke up in the middle of the night and it woke dad up too so he was just tired and needed to rest.

Shortly before I had to leave for school I overheard my mom on the phone with someone telling them that she couldn't get my dad to wake up and she was worried about it. Of course hearing her say she was worried made me worried but I did my best to act normal around her. Typically my mom would walk me half way to school (it was just down the street from our house) but that morning she told me the neighbor was going to walk with me but before I left I need to go in and say goodbye to dad. At first I argued with her about this saying that I didn't want to wake him up but I finally listened to her and went into his room. I climbed up on the stool next to his bed and I gave him a big hug, a kiss on the check, and I whispered in his ear "I love you daddy".

Those were the last words I said to my dad and the last time I ever saw him. After that I headed off to school. At the end of the day the school secretary called my classroom via the intercom to tell my teacher I was to walk to my Grandma's instead of home that afternoon. This was not an uncommon thing for me because my Grandma lived one street over from us. When I got to my Grandmas things were a little strange. Steph, Nick, and mom were all there as well as my Aunt Pat and her two sons Jeremy and Christopher.

About an hour or so after I got there my mom and grandma asked me to come into the kitchen with them. We all sat down at the table and my mom proceeded to tell me that my dad had died. While I remember all the events of the day leading up to that moment I do not remember the exact moment my mom uttered those words or even what those words were. What I do remember is telling her she was mean and I hated her for lying to me because dad was not dead and I wanted to go home and see him. There was also a large amount of crying on my part but eventually I calmed down and realized my mom was telling the truth. After all the talks my mom and dad had with me about that moment it still didn't seem real but it sure was.

Until I was 18 years old I believed that when I hugged and kissed my dad goodbye that day he had already died but this was not the case. I was finally able to get my mom to talk about the events of that day with me over the phone one evening. Like I remembered her telling me Nick had woke up around 3 am that morning and he was crying but my mom had been up late the night before so she didn't hear Nick. What finally woke her up was my dad calling for her because Nick woke him up. She went and got Nick then took him into my dad where she sat and rocked Nick. When he finally fell back asleep she said goodnight to my dad and went back to bed. Sometime between then and 7 that morning my dad slipped into a coma. The doctors and nurses had told my mom that this was probably how it would happen so she wasn't that surprised by it. While Steph and I were playing that morning mom made calls to hospice, the doctors, my grandma, and my dad’s parents. She asked that everyone wait until I had left for work before they came over. As soon as I was out the door my moms mom came and got Steph and Nick and the nurse, my dads parents, and a few of his sisters came to say goodbye. Shortly before noon my dad passed away while my Grandma Jurden was sitting with him.

Hearing this information truly changed everything for me. Instead of feeling that I never got to say goodbye I realized that he was alive when I said I love you and they say people in comas can hear you so I believe he did.

It may seem strange to you that I remember so much about that day when I was only five years old. Somehow through the years I have been able to keep the memories of that day and ones before it with my dad but I do not remember much of the whole year after it or much of Nick as a baby. I guess that is the price I pay to remember my dad and how he seemed like the tallest person on this earth (he was 6’2” so not really) and how before he got really sick he always smelled like the pipe he smoked. Or all the nights I would sit on his lap watching the Browns, or the Reds play and I would eat half of the grapefruit he got for himself. There was also the time I thought he was trying to trick me with our word game when he asked if I got to see my Grandma get on the plane, but I was too smart to fall for that one and told him he was silly and she would fall off.

December 15, 1986 changed my life forever and not just because my father wasn’t going to see me go to prom, graduate high school or college, walk me down the isle at my wedding, or be there for the birth of my children. His death taught some very hard lessons of life; life is too short, life is not fair, and you don’t always get what you want out of life. I have been able to keep these lessons with me as I have grown since then and because of him I am able to appreciate some of the smaller things in life and I don’t take the big things for granted. This event truly made me the person I am today and as sad as it was, and as much as I wish it never happen I am in a way grateful for the things I have because of it.


Anonymous said...

Oh Jess, what a nice entry! I never knew that story about your dad. Beautiful...

Anonymous said...

- Tif above