Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Thinking of you everyday Dad


There are so many things I wish I would have said & done. So many things left unsaid. I tried. I really did. When you were alive and I went to visit you on Mondays, over the course of 3 1/2 years I tried to open my heart & tell you how much you meant to me. But it was difficult. Astrid was there with us and the baby needed attention. Lots of interruptions in our conversation ensued. The Alzheimer's took you away a lot of the time & conversations weren't always possible. That would make me so sad. Not wanting to talk about death. Focusing on the present. Trying to deal with the situation & all the stress. On top of that I'm my father's daughter and peeling back all the layers to expose vulnerability is difficult for me.

The doctors kept telling us you were going to die soon. Everyone in the family was in denial, except me. And that tremendous burden was so heavy on me. I'm not complaining. What you went through was so terrible & I wanted so badly to alleviate all of your suffering. I convinced mom that she should tell you that you were dying. It was done out of love.

In the hospital, one day when you were clear headed, Mom and I were on either side of your bed, holding your hands. We didn't know how long the fog would be lifted. We both in our own way told you what was happening and that you would die soon. I'm so glad that we had that conversation with you. We wanted to know your last wishes. We wanted you to share your heart with us. I keep hearing you say, "We just need to get a better doctor." Every time I think about that I burst into tears. It hurts my heart so much because the doctors couldn't do anything for you & all the doctors told us to start preparing for your imminent death. Then you said, "I'm not ready yet. I don't want to say anything that will embarrass myself." Fuck. You were so strong. You were the strongest man I've ever met. You were a different generation. In the end you told us all you wanted was for your family to be there. Mom and I were both bawling our eyes out. I told you how much I appreciated you. I'm so glad I got to tell you while you were alive and mentally there. You heard me and I know it touched your heart. When mom told you to tell me you loved me...I said you didn't have to b/c I already knew. I've always known you loved me dad. There was never any question of that.

You always told me that your dad never told you that he loved you until you were in your late 40's. As tough & old school of a guy you were - that caused you a lot of pain & you never wanted your kid to grow up feeling unloved. So you would tell me - "You know I love you right?" you'd say. "Yes, Dad. I know." I'd say. I'm sure this was accompanied by some eye rolling in my preteen years. And you'd tell me the story of your dad and how you didn't want to make that same mistake.

You gave me unconditional love. You were the first man I ever loved. What a gift to have a father like you who thought the world of me. Growing up you always told me I could do & be whatever I wanted, except be the President of the United States (since I wasn't born in the U.S.), but you didn't think I would want that anyway. And you were right. You gave me self confidence. How I appreciate all those intangibles you instilled in me. It shows in my relationships with others. It shows in my outlook on the world. It shows in my work ethic. It shows in my marriage. It shows in my parenthood.

Not a day goes by that I don't think about you. When I look at my daughter I think of you and want to instill that self confidence and strong foundation you gave me. When I see my husband & daughter together, I think of you. Even when they struggle & have a battle of wills it reminds me of you and I. You raised me to be a strong woman & I'm striving to do the same for my child. I appreciate your life even more.

I miss you so much Dad. It's all about love. I love you & I always knew you loved me.

Sunshine through tall trees

A coworker gave me a sympathy card with a beautiful photo of sunlight streaming in through tall trees in a forest. It reminds me of the forests of Germany. I cried when I saw it. It wasn't a generic sympathy card. My coworker has traveled the world and has a good taste. It shows in his bereavement card. I have the card hanging on my wall. It gives me strength when I look at it. Tomorrow is another day. I will make it a good one.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Thoughts of the day

I'm back at work today, yet my mind is miles away. My heart is still heavy. My mind drifts to thoughts of my dad. Tears spring easily to my eyes. I feel like an injured animal limping along. Still so raw with emotion...

My husband responded:
Grieving takes a lot of time. Always remember: death leaves a heartache no can can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.

Friday, July 23, 2010


excruciating or acute distress, suffering, or pain: the anguish of grief.

to suffer, feel, or exhibit anguish: to anguish over the loss of a loved one.

An Emotional Day

It's been an emotional day. Lots of tears. Been thinking a lot of my dad.

When I got sick, a friend told me she was glad my body felt safe enough to get sick. Wise words from a Yogi (and friend who has been there for me since my dad's death). She's right; there was too much to do & no time to get sick. Everything is over now. It's just me and my thoughts.

I keep thinking of my dad's hands. He had these amazing hands. His large palms were thick & calloused from hard labor. I received lots of spankings from those hands. I watched those hands work with tools - a wrench, a screwdriver. I can see his hands being dirty after working on the car, or plumbing, or whatever it was he had just finished fixing. I can see him washing his hands in the sink afterward to get them clean again. I can see his hands typing with one finger. I held those hands so many times. As a kid they gave me great comfort. They made me feel safe. As an adult I held those hands to let my dad know everything would be okay, when there were no words to express the moment, to let him know I was there by his side & to express my love.

In a High School graduation photo, standing next to my dad I realized for the first time that our hands were similar in shape, mine being the female equivalent. My brother reminded me of this recently and it made me feel close to my dad.

Lots of thoughts of my dad. Like the "goulash" he would make, which has no resemblance to any goulash I've eaten in my life. It consisted of ground hamburger, a can of corn, and ketchup, all mixed in a frying pan. I could go for some of that goulash right about now. He also taught me how to make grilled cheese sandwiches. So many memories.

My dad's death has given me a good kick in the butt. I will be a better parent, wife, friend, human being as a result. I will not shy away from opportunities. I will tell my loved ones how much I love them everyday. Life is too short.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Helping Astrid deal with her grief

My 5 year old daughter still cries for her Grandpa and misses him. It breaks my heart. It's difficult enough for me, her mother, to understand death. I understand it physically but am still dealing with my own emotions surrounding it. For a 5 year old, it must be even more difficult for her to comprehend.

Today she told me she wants to have a picture of Grandpa in her room. After my dad died, my brother and I poured through photo albums longing to reconnect with my dad. She's at that stage too where she wants to hold onto memories of him. Missing him and wanting to be with him in whatever way possible, even if it is just through memories.

My husband and I discussed it tonight and think it would be nice to frame a photo of my dad for Astrid to hang in her room. We'd all feel a little closer to him that way.

Still thinking of you

I was in the pharmacy today. All of the stress finally caught up with me and I came down with the flu & a really bad infection of my tonsils. So as I'm waiting for the Pharmacist to fill my prescription, I started looking around at all the orthopedic devices and aides. I caught myself thinking about what I could get you. What would you need? What would help you?

I remember when I bought you your cane. A similar thought, different day - "My dad could really use a cane like that." And you loved that cane with the padded handle. I was afraid that with your Alzheimer's you wouldn't remember it, instead remembering your old cane, but for whatever reason you only remembered that new black cane I bought for you. "This is a good cane," you said. You always kept it by your side and it was the first thing you looked for when you woke up from a nap. That made me feel really good. That I could do something for you. That I could help you in some small way with all that you were going through.

Today I was standing there, staring up at the orthopedic devices with tears in my eyes. There's nothing I can do for you. That makes me really sad. You will always be my dad. I will always be your daughter. And I will always love you.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A lock of your hair

Huddled around the table in the funeral home, when asked if we wanted a lock of your hair, the three of us looked at each other and Bernard Jr. said, "He didn't have any hair." Then my mom said "No. What for?" And I got choked with emotion and said "Yes, I want it."

The funeral director crossed out "0" and wrote in "1" on the request form for the mortuary.

My brother was right, my dad didn't have much hair. He had a little crown of hair, Julius Cesar style, which my mom kept short. Because of this I kept picturing my dad with a bald spot on the back of his head where they'd most likely shave it to give me a lock of his hair.

They presented it to my mom today at the viewing and she gave it to me. "Here's your dad's hair that you wanted," she said. Looking at it later back at the house that evening, I saw that they did NOT shave it. It was just a messy cutting with hair spilling out of a tiny plastic bag, glued to a piece of paper with his name on it, presented by Inland Memorial.

I'm glad that I asked for it. It's good to know that if I ever need genetic testing done they won't have to exume the body, since I have his DNA via his hair clippings. And on a more emotional level it's just a small momento of him. Something that no one else wanted but me.

Monday, July 12, 2010

50's music reminds me of you dad

I've found myself listening to a lot of 50's music after your death. It reminds me of you. You graduated from high school in 1952. It was a simpler time when you were young and healthy. You had your whole life ahead of you. I used to turn to the 50's radio channel for you when you were in the car with me, driving to your doctors appointments, hoping it would trigger a fond memory of your past. Bernard Jr. & I recently went through your old high school yearbooks looking at all the vintage photos. The 1950's era makes me think of you & all the promise your life held. Thinking of you young & healthy, rather than old & sick.

Your funeral is tomorrow

Your funeral is tomorrow. The earliest day/time we could reserve with the National Cemetery in Riverside is tomorrow at 11:45 AM. We're able to have your viewing earlier that day to have both on one day. After the ceremony friends & family will meet at Mission Inn Restaurant in Riverside. It's a beautiful location that I would have loved to have taken you to when you were alive. I hope you will be there with us in spirit feeling our love for you & overhearing all the nice things people will be saying about you.

I'm looking forward to it & at the same time dreading all the same things:
*Seeing you for the last time
*Seeing relatives I haven't seen since the last funeral or my wedding 9 years ago
*Helping my daughter to understand your death & the celebration we will be having to honor your life
*You being placed in the ground, your last resting place

The funeral is supposed to give me closure. I doubt it will give me that.

Right now I'm dealing with all the final details - contacting family & friends who will be attending the funeral, buying navy blue dresses for your granddaughters, picking up dry cleaning. All those mundane things.

I'm also going over to your house today to spend time with Mom & Bernard, Jr. I stumbled when I tried to tell Astrid where we were going today. When you were alive I always referred to your home as "Grandpa's house" or "Grandma & Grandpa's house." Today I referred to it as "Grandma's house" and Astrid corrected me - "You mean Grandma AND Grandpa's house," she said. I told her it was now "Grandma's house" since you're no longer with us. But I still feel like it's your house. Tears well up in my eyes when I think of all the memories in that house, and I can still see your clothes and hat hanging from the rack waiting for you to return.

Looking for an e-mail from you

I went through my inbox today looking for an e-mail from you. The last time you e-mailed me was over 4 years ago, before the Alzheimer's interfered with your ability to use the computer. Your e-mail address was I remember you used to type in all caps and your e-mails were brief. How I long to read one of those e-mails again. Usually it was a photo of Astrid I sent you, or maybe a joke or something. You'd print out photos of Astrid & post them on your office wall. When you'd respond back you'd always end your e-mails by telling me you loved me. So sad I could not find one. I must have deleted them after reading them years ago, not knowing how one day I would long to get an e-mail from you.

I love you dad.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A good day with dad (I'd give anything for one more day with you)

You passed away on Sunday, July 4, 2010, a week ago. Your viewing & funeral will take place on Tuesday, July 13, 2010, the first available date for burial in the National Cemetery. It gives me some comfort to know I will see you one last time in your uniform with your medals and ribbons, before you are buried. And I know you would get a kick out of the taps style military funeral you will receive at the National Cemetery. Yet, my heart aches to go back in time and spend one more good day with you.

I tried to describe my longing to U. and he told me that all of us want to have that last conversation. While that would be nice, to be able to say all the things to you that I wasn't able to; I know you know that I loved you very much. You knew ever since I was a kid that I adored you. I know you loved me too. When you were diagnosed with Alzheimer's over 3 years ago and your memory was failing, you didn't have to ask -I was there spending every Monday with you, bringing Astrid with me. "Remember I visit you every Monday Dad." When you were diagnosed with bladder cancer I took you to your doctors appointments, to radiation, and tried my best to care for you. God damn I miss those Mondays. I didn't know how good I had it, to be able to spend so much time with you. And at the end when you were in the hospital, I tried my best to care for you with warm blankets to keep you warm and held your hand.

What I'm really longing for is just one more summer day with you when you were able to sit outside in the backyard with me, watching your granddaughter swim in the baby pool. I wouldn't have to say a thing. I just want to spend the day with you. Hear your voice. Hear you laugh. Feel your warm bear hug. Smell your Old Spice. See the light in your eyes as they shine with happiness at spending an ordinary sunny day with your daughter & granddaughter.

You used to sneak over to my place after Astrid was born. I had flashbacks when I saw you feeding her, as you used to feed me as a child. The air conditioning didn't work well & the house would be hot as an oven during the summer, yet you didn't mind. You just loved sitting with me, shooting the breeze, watching your granddaughter.

You came over to celebrate Astrid's 1st birthday and cracked a joke that she made a good Korean in her costume. You also told me I looked pretty that day. I was the apple of your eye and your favorite I know. It hurts so much to not have you here cracking jokes. Today I'd happily even listen to your bad jokes, or ones that I'd heard hundreds of times. You had such a larger than life personality, it's still hard to fathom that you're gone.

In the photo above you're telling Astrid you love her "This much!".
I would bring Astrid over every Monday and we would spend the day together. Here you are reading to her. Christmas of 2008 I put together a Kodak photo album for you with this and other photos of you and Astrid together so that you would remember her. Now she remembers you. She misses you and still cries sometimes.

While driving in the car the other day after your death Astrid had this thought, "Oh no mom! Who are we going to have lunch with on Mondays now?" It was such a big part of our life. No matter how bad you were feeling, you somehow rallied, got dressed and went to lunch with us. Even when your feet were so swollen you couldn't wear your shoes, you put on open toed sandals and went with us. Usually it was our favorite Vietnamese restaurant next to Stater Bros. You loved their grilled chicken, accompanied with a diet Pepsi to drink. I went there the other day with mom & Bernard and I couldn't shake the feeling that you should have been there with us.
This is the kind of summer day I would give anything to have with you. You're sitting out in the backyard leaning against your cane, watching Astrid who is playing with Cathy. Gosh how I miss those days. Mondays were for you. Unfortunately you died on a Sunday, the day before I was supposed to spend the entire day with you. That still hurts my heart so much.

A friend told me that my grief & how much my heart longs to be with you again, is a testament to how much you were loved.

You had children late in life with me & Bernard being your miracle babies. Looking at these photos, reminds me how fortunate I was to have you in my life for 36 years.

I love you & miss you Dad.

Support & Grief

When something terrible happens - a crisis, a death, an illness - you need support from others. A friend of mine whose son had a terrible accident & almost died and also went through the painful experience of caring for her mother who died of cancer - said that she now knows what to do. I feel the same way now. I didn't used to know what to do or say or how to support others going through a crisis, tragedy, loss, etc. Now having gone through it myself with the death of my father, I know what to do. I'll be there. I'll come over. I'll give support & speak from my heart.

The day after my dad died was a holiday. Everything was closed, including the funeral home. I felt so useless. There was nothing I could do. I had to sit and wait. I cried & cried until I thought I had no tears left. I didn't know what to do. A friend came over that day to sit with me. She brought flowers and gave me a big hug. It was so good to have her over. If it weren't for her I would have been staring out in space all day, alone with my grief. She was there for me. I cannot thank her enough. It meant so much to me.

Also, kindness from strangers - I'm FB friends with the sister & mom of a boy I went to school with. I've never met them. Yet they poured their hearts out to me sharing their experiences with the loss of their father and are coming to the funeral to support me. This was completely unexpected, yet welcomed. The mom wrote me and said I probably wouldn't recognize them at the funeral, yet they'd be there with their hearts waving at me. I was so touched.

Phone calls, texts, offers to buy groceries/do laundry, even one friend I haven't seen in ages, invited me & my family up to his 15 acre ranch for the weekend. I happily took him up on his offer. It will be great to get away.

Then there are those friends you thought for sure would be there and there's only deafening silence. Disappointing. Yet, luckily the people who come out of the woodwork tip the scales to offer their support with so many pleasant surprises.

1) If you knew the deceased, share a nice memory. It gives so much comfort to the loved one who is grieving (rather than just "sorry for your loss").
2) Show up. Many ppl think they should leave the grieving person alone since they have a lot to deal with. Here's a fact: NO one wants to be alone when they're grieving. Just having a friend there to talk to helps so much.
3) Check in. Let them know you are thinking of them.
4) Share your experience. If you've lost your father - share that with a friend who experiencing the same loss.
5) Be there for the person & let the person grieve. The last thing a grieving person needs are reminders that the world is moving on so quickly after a recent death of a loved one.
6) Show genuine interest & concern. It's not a time to share the latest & greatest happening in your life, expecting the grieving person to be happy for you. You can chat about that later. It may come from a good place, yet is so inappropriate. A grieving person is overwhelmed with emotion, pain & loss. My husband referred to me as a clown "Trying to keep up the smile, but with great sadness underneath." Acknowledge the sadness.

Today I ran for the first time since my dad died

My dad had a long battle with his health and various illnesses. There's a long list, yet in the end it was Alzheimer's and bladder cancer.

I took up running as a positive way to deal with the stress. Beginning 1/1/2010 I started training for a triathlon. The running portion of the mini-tri at Hanson Dam in August is 3 miles. For me a non-runner, a 3 mile run seemed unattainable. I could barely run half a mile. After a few months I felt ready to attempt a run around the Rose Bowl which is a 3.12 mile run. This route was something I had attempted to run around in the past & always had to stop after about a mile with a sharp pain in my side, and had to walk the rest. My goal was to continue running around the Rose Bowl without stopping, to complete the loop. I was prepared for disappointment. If I couldn't do it, I'd head right back to the gym & hit the treadmill. Yet what was so funny was I completed the loop, saw my car where I had started the run and thought, "Is that it?" My body was ready to run another mile. In my mind the distance was so much farther. That gave me a lot of confidence. I could do it!

I started to love running. Running around the Rose Bowl was a piece of cake. When traveling to Europe in May I ran through the forests in Germany for 4.5 miles. A friend referred to me as a "runner", which was the ultimate compliment. I started thinking about running more outdoors, and which running paths had the nicest views, etc.

So I continued to run and bike, 3 times a week (with Yoga on Sundays) and kept up with it for 6+ months. I had just started the swimming portion of the training, when my dad passed away on 7/4/2010. I stopped running. I stopped training. I didn't even think about running.

Until my husband said, "You need to start running again. It's good for your body & your head," tapping his temple on the side of his head.

So yesterday I attempted to run again for the first time since my dad died. My dad died on Sunday so 6 days after his death. I put on my headphones like usual, and got my heart rate up & legs pumping. As I was running I thought of my dad and my body started sobbing. I felt like I was literally crying out of every single pore of my body. I barely made it to 2 miles. My pulse was over 190. Someone once told me 180 was cardiac arrest.

Will I continue running? I don't know. It was such a help to deal with the stress of his illness & all the worry with his health worsening & caring for him. Now that he's dead I don't know if I want to keep running. I would love to think that I'd continue running & see the benefits. Who knows. Maybe I'll be like Forest Gump and hang up my sneakers. Or maybe I'll take up something new like kick boxing or something to get out all my frustration & anger. I don't know. I just know it was really sad to run again today. Afterward my face was the reddest I've ever seen it. I just kept thinking of my dad & how he's gone forever.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Gravestone inscription

I've been tasked with my dad's gravestone inscription. Actually I volunteered for this. I envisioned writing something unique & personal that would set my dad's gravestone apart from everyone else's in the cemetery. Problem is, I'm limited to 22 spaces.

How do you sum up your dad's life & your love for him in 22 spaces? Examples given on the form from Riverside National Cemetery include: 1) Forever in our hearts, and 2) Mom & Dad loved by all.

I've spent the last few days wracking my brain trying to think of something personal to write. At first my dilemma was - How do I put into words how much my dad, the first man I ever loved meant to me? The last thing I want is a generic saying. When leaving the funeral home (with form in hand) my brother said to me, "You can write it. I trust you. Just as long as it mentions husband, dad & grandpa I'll be happy." He & my mom gave me their blessing to write whatever I wanted, without having to get their final approval on it. Reiterate - problem is I am limited to 22 spaces! That doesn't allow for much creativity. "Husband, Dad & grandpa" is 22 characters alone.

So here is what I came up with:

Loved Yobo/Dad/Grandpa

Yobo is Korean for "spouse". My mom & dad referred to each other as "Yobo" throughout their almost 40 years of marriage. When I hear my mom mention "Yobo" I immediately think of my dad.

Although it saddens me that I can't put more words down - at least it's unique to my dad. He was married to a Korean woman (my mom), lived in Korea while stationed in the Air Force, and had 2 Amerasian children. The Yobo is a tribute to my mom as well, acknowledging her influence in his life.

I think my dad would understand and he'd love the "Yobo" reference.

Goodbye Facebook & hello again blog

After my dad passed away on the 4th of July, 2010 I was so filled with sadness & grief and longing to reconnect with him (still am) that I took to Facebook and wrote about his passing & posted some old vintage photos of him. I asked my husband, "Is it too much? Or okay?" He responded that it was just fine. Yet after a few posts he said to me, "You may want to start blogging again. People don't know how to respond to grief and anyway Facebook should be kept light."

So here I am back to my blog away from home. I hope that blogging will help me through my grief, both in mourning the loss of my dad's life & sharing my experience with others. No one knows how painful it is to lose a parent, until it happens to you. No amount of preparation can prepare you for the pain you will experience when it happens. As my husband describes it, "It's like getting kicked in the balls." It brings you to your knees emotionally.

So as I feel the need to get things off my chest, I will be blogging away. In essence resurrecting this blog. I'll continue to post on FB with more lighthearted material like pics of my daughter & what events I'm attending. Friends can click on the "like" button and see what I'm up to. Blogging will be more cathartic in nature, helping me speak from my soul, so that only those interested in reading it can, and those who would rather not be bothered, won't be.

Bernard M. Hook, Sr. Memorial Fund

My father, Bernard M. Hook, Sr. (1934-2010), was a Shriner for many decades. The charity work he did for children was something he felt really good about. After retiring he volunteered as a Shriners Clown, making children smile with balloon animals, stickers & warm hugs.

In his loving memory, my family is asking that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in his name to the Shriners Hospital for Children to continue his philanthropic work to make a difference in the lives of children.

Below is a link to his memorial page to make an online contribution.

Thank you.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Happy birthday Dad. You would have been 76!

You died 4 days before your 76th birthday. We had hoped you would hang in there to turn 76, yet it was your time to go on the 4th of July 2010, shortly before 4 PM. Watching the fireworks will never be the same for me.

To honor your memory, I had the family over today at my house for a bbq. Me, U., Mom, Bernard Jr. and both of your grand daughters. U. grilled a small feast. We shared memories of you, ate, drank and U. gave a toast to you while mom shouted up to the sky, "Happy Birthday Yobo".

We miss you. We love you. You are in our hearts forever.

Funeral for Bernard Hook

My dad will have a military funeral ceremony at the National Cemetery in Riverside, with full honors. Friends are welcome to attend.

Tuesday 7/13/2010
11:45 AM
Riverside National Cemetery - Stage 4
22495 Van Buren Blvd.
Riverside, CA 92518

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

My dad's military ribbons & medals

My dad served in the U.S. Air Force for 20+ years & retired honorably as a Master Sergeant. My family decided that he should be buried in his full military uniform with his ribbons on his jacket & medals displayed in his coffin.
My dad's ribbons awarded over his 20+ year career in the Air Force.
Some of my dad's military medals.

Miss being by your side dad

Dad, you've been gone just 2 days & I'm longing to connect with you & to keep memories of you close to my heart. Looking through old photos I found this one of you & I on a camping trip long ago at the lake. I remember how much you loved to go fishing. As a kid & as an adult, I loved being by your side.
I miss you Dad.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

My dad young, healthy & handsome - RIP

My dad, Bernard M. Hook, Sr. dressed in his U.S. Air Force fatigues.
Young, healthy & handsome.
1934-2010. RIP

Monday, July 05, 2010

Dream a little dream for me

Dad, remembering how you grilled the best bbq chicken on 4th of July's past, adding your secret Wish you could have seen the fireworks one last time. I saw them exploding in the sky all around the hospital. Feels surreal that you're gone. Love you so much. Sweet dreams.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Dad's passing on the 4th of July 2010

My dad passed away today. He was the toughest guy that I've ever known. He will be missed terribly. I have so much love for him & I will always be Daddy's little girl.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

As Tears Go By

Heartfelt favorite of mine. How the world can continue to go on as usual while my loved one is dying is something I'm grappling with.