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It is finished March 31, 2006

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I buried my father today. The funeral was terrific – if you can say that. I said my final good-bye while seeing his body. I wept over the open casket. It was very, very good.

Although there were many tears, there was also much laughter. My dad wanted there tyo be laughter at his funeral. He also wanted rock music played – none of that organ crap or hymns. So, rather then Fanny J. Crosby, there was Steppenwolf, Rolling Stones, and Three Dog Night. He was rolled out to the coach to “Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog.” I’ll make the “soundtrack” list available to you soon.

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A poem to my father March 30, 2006

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Click here for funeral details
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In 1994 I was flat broke living in Houston, Texas trying to find my butt with both hands (one of my dad’s favorite sayings). I made the trek back to Minnesota for Christmas, but had only enough money for gas and maybe a Wendy’s #1 combo meal. In short, I had nothing for Christmas gifts. So, I wrote everyone in my family a poem.

This poem is certainly no piece of literary excellence and will not be gathered into even weak vanity anthologies. What it does have going for it is some terrific hope and love. It was my heart back then and is my heart now. There are also some hidden meanings that I will flesh out some in italics between the verses.

Here goes:

Father, My Father
Father, my father,
To whom could I go
To learn the things
Your son ought to know?

To combat his sense of guilt and failure as a father, I wanted to give him a sense of exclusiveness in our relationship. If it isn’t him, then it’s no one. He is my one and only irreplaceable father.

No, you’re not perfect,
No man can be,
But you’re the perfect father,
For God sent you to me,

This second verse continues the first thought and justifies it with Divine authority. It was God’s will that he be my father. This makes my claims in the first stanza irrefuteable. My rhetoric makes it such that he would have to take objections up with God, not me.

To teach me specific truths
Through failures and success,
You’ve been ordained by God,
My life to bless.

This verse serves to give value, not condemnation to his failures. Good came out of what he did, no matter what he did. The word”ordained” is crucial here. Before I was born, he was baptized as a young and newly married adult and wanted to become a preacher. This is actually a little known secret, even to me until I was an adult. He did not become a preacher because the elders of his church at the time said that he was not ready and would need to wait probably two years to mature. Though they were probalby right, he was deeply wounded by this. So, the word “ordained” here touches on the fact that he ministered to me. It didn’t matter if her was not ordained by the church, God went ahead and did it anyway.

Father, I love you,
Though I am far away;
A thousand miles is nothing;
You’re here when I pray.

This verse closes the immense geographical gap from Houston, Texas where I was living to Eagan, Minnesota, where he was living. It serves to connect us. It also leads into the next verse.

Father, don’t stop teaching,
For I’m not done learning;
I’ll always be your son,
Though the years keep turning.

Though I was a grown adult, that fact did not mean I had arrived with wisdom, knowledge and was no longer in need of him. He needed to know that his job was not done and that he is always going to be of value to me.

You’re a great man, dad,
It’s easy for me to see;
I saw it most clearly,
When you bowed and prayed with me;

The use of the words “great man” is deep here, though it sounds shallow. I had been to a retreat earlier in that year where I came to grips with how I had hate and contempt in my heart for my father. I had acknowledged it and came to complete forgiveness. He and I reconciled after that retreat when I shared with him my heart. I apologized for how I had treated him and vowed to love him without condition from that point forward. We wept and hugged and it was beautiful.

Anyway, at the retreat I went through an exercise whereby the end result is an affirming statement about your own identity, generally in the context of God’s view of yourself. Most people came up with these beautiful and detailed statements that captured an deep inner truth. Mine was this: “I am a great man.” Seriously, I couldn’t think of anything else. So, when I called him a “great man” it was more than just a tritte thing you say, it was a deep statement of our collective identification together. There is so much we between us.

Perhaps here on Earth
I’ll see you now and then,
But more than in this life,
I want to see you in Heaven.

This is the line that got me crying again when I read it today. Living so far from him, I knew that I might see him once per year – maybe twice. I felt the weight of that distance so often. But the one comfort I had was a desire to see him in Heaven. I knew that was my ace in the hole. Well, that ace is my final play. I will do just that – I will see him in Heaven.

Funeral, Flowers & Memorials March 29, 2006

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1. The Funeral:
The funeral for Jame E. Gonzalez will take place at the Henry W. Anderson Mortuary at 11:00 am Friday, March 31st in Apple Valley, Minnesota. Click here for location.

2. Flowers:
Flowers are an acceptable expression of sympathy. Click here for address.

3. Memorial Gifts:
Feel free to donate gifts to your charity of choice in the name of James E. Gonzalez. Should you want to be directed to a specific organization, then feel free to donate gifts to The Better Life Counseling Center’s Samaritan Fund Click here for donation form.

Flaming Pine Youth Camp is also a charity that will receive a gift.

Thank you for the many prayers, kind words, and concern.

Without My Father March 29, 2006

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I thought I might be sleeping a little better than I am, but at around 2:00 AM, I am awake. I am posting from the kitchen table in my mother’s house. To my left is a Jenga game toppled over. The past three days have been a Jenga game. The thing about Jenga is that eventually, the thing collapses.

I have had a bizarre dream, which is not out of the ordinary for me. Usually my dreams relate to what is going on in my life. This one is no different. ***Begin dream***In my dream I was with my son and we were trying to visit my father’s apartment located at a retirement/assisted living facility. They were making renovations. We tried and tried to get to his place, but each effort was blocked by construction. So, my son and I climbed the scaffolds that looked like a jungle gym. It was very dangerous and my son took risks that a 6 year old doesn’t realize are risks. We never made it to his room, so we decided to ask the doctor what was going on. The doctor kept avoiding us. Finally we cornered him and he gave some lame excuses why we couldn’t get there. It was very frustrating. Then I saw some old familiar faces from back in my college days who were expecting a really good speech, a funny one. Well, I was too upset to say anything of value, let alone anything humorous – and I told them so. They were surprised at my directness and I didn’t care. ***End Dream***

How is it that I can know beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is gone, but at the same time still wonder if it is really true? Right now there is no way to tally the facts that will quickly convince my heart that I will never hear my father laugh again?

We’ve had our last pizza from the Ole Piper Inn. We’ve had our last conversation about creating “a money mahcine,” with sage financial advice from someone who couldn’t control his spending. I’ve heard his last word of unconditional support on even the most ridiculous of my ideas. I’ll never see him beam again in the presence of his grandchildren. I’ll never get to hear him create or butcher any more cliches.

There are only so many people who are allowed into a person’s inner circle and I just lost one of them. That irreplaceable slot will simply remain vacant for the rest of my life. I’ll just have to deal with less. Now I am crying again. Yes, I am very sad.

There are a million little places that he has occupied in my being that are now empty. Yes, it’s like that. One huge empty spot and a million little ones. It’s going to take me a long long time to search and own all of those little places. I’m sure that I have no idea just how into me he is. That’s how grief plays out. It is dealing with the gaping hole and finding every little spot that has been vacated. It is overwhelming for all of its hugeness and all of its smallness. It is micro and macro. It’s like the bridge has collapsed and the road is riddled with potholes on all of the alternative routes. It’s not like I’m lost, but that doesn’t make this road easy to drive on.

When there was nothing else the doctors could do, we stood around him and he faded away. The heart got slower, the blood pressure dropped, his breathing quit completely – and he faded away. We all spoke our words and we ushered him out of this life in a prayer.

I wonder what he is doing right now. What are the first conversations a person has with the creator of the universe once arriving on that side of eternity? What does God reveal? I wonder if it feels like he’s always been there. Is he getting some time with his mother? His sister? Are they giving him the tour? Do you get a little adventure time checking out the universe? I wonder if it is strangely familiar, like he finally realizes he has been seeing this place all along. Does he miss me? Can someone unbound by time miss someone bound by time? Just what is his perspective now?

Lord of Heaven, can you tell my father that I am so glad he is with you now? But will you also let him know how badly I miss him? My heart is glad for him, but so very sad for me. Will you gather my tears and give them to him as my love? Tell him I will be OK even though this world is a little smaller without him.

The Fight Is Over March 28, 2006

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Just after noon on Tuesday, March 28th, my father passed on from this life to the next. Thank you all for the prayers and words. They matter.

It went like this: About 11:00 he began to have signficant respiratory problems on top of the problems he already had. There must have bee 10 doctors, nurses, and other medical people in the room working on him. The entire staff at The Ridges Medical Center in Burnsville, Minnesota are fabulous. They worked with skill and compassion.

They tried to get a new breathing tube into his chest, but it did nothing. He just couldn’t get enough air into his lungs. His vitals were shrinking slowly. The pulmonologist and the “main” doctor said that there was little chance of anything good happening at this point. So, we decided to stop treatment and allow him to pass.

We had about 15 minutes with him, holding his hand, talking to him, and weeping. It meant a lot to stand with my family over my father and pray for his transition from this life to the next. I managed to ask God to keeop him entertained until I get there. Geez, is that what you say? Well, I guess it’s what I say, anyway.

Of course I am deeply saddened and have cried so much. At the same time I am relieved for my father. His fighting is over. His is free from his turmoil, tumult, and pain. No more striving and fighting.

And frankly, I am relieved for myself. I won’t see my father for a long time – when I go to see him – and that is the place where my hope lies. I don’t think I could have lifted my hopes for his physical life much more. I’m tired and drained.

Now we make all the funeral decisions. I know that some readers of this blog are close personal friends who will want to show their sympathy through flowers or cards or gifts. I will make this kind of information available on this blog. I also know that some readers of this blog are people I have never met. So, making this information available is in no way some kind of solicitation for anything. This blog is merely a conveneitn way for me to communicate informaiton that will be relevant to whom it is relevant. I feel a little saying saybing such, but I’d feel much sillier being mistaken in my intentions.

I am at peace. I am sad. I am OK. Again, thanks for your prayers.

Fighting Like Hell March 28, 2006

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At noon the interventional radiologist comes in to determine if he can get a dialysis line put in. If he can, then we might be able to get rid of the sepsis and the fluid that is building at the rate of 10 pounds per day. Yes, he is gaining 10 pounds pr day because his is in kidney failure.

If the interventional radiologist cannot put in the line, then the question is how to die.

His blood pressure is good and he is off all pressers and BP meds. This is an unexpected positive turn. His breating is still completely on the vent.

He’s not going to go without a fight and we will fight for him.

On another note, I am thankful for a hospital room that has such good air ventiliation that the room does not have the “sick” smell in it – much anyway.

I’m going with khaki and black March 28, 2006

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No news overnight. I’ll be to the hospital soon. I will have something more to report then.

When we got word about my father’s situation, we left Arkansas from my in-law’s house with the clothes on our backs. No coats or toothbrushes. Since we didn’t feel like we could afford the 3 hours to get back to home and pack and make it MN the same day, I’m wearing what I wore Friday and everyday since. We’ve taken a trip to Target to pick up some essentials and my mother’s washing machine is getting daily use.

Wearing the same clothes daily is kind of weird, except for the fact that I don’t care. Priorities change in the presence of the truly important and truly meaningful. I’ve though a time or two about the fact that some people wear their same clothes everyday – because they don’t have anything else. These people don’t have the luxury of ICU medical care. Their ill loved ones would just die without any intervention.

I guess where I am going with this is that I am so grateful for what I have.

High Risk Measure March 27, 2006

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The 2 kidney doctors have said that putting in a line for dialysis is not possible . They will not even try it. If he does not get dialysis, the sepsis will kill him. If they try to put in a line, the risk is so high that any mistake will kill him. It is a catch-22.

One of the kidney doctors mentioned that an intervention radiologist might be able to get a line in. If they can’t do it, no one can.

So, if they tihnk they can get it in, we will ask them to try it, even though it is extremely risky and likely to fail. If we don’t try it, he will certainly die.

We face this potential decision Tuesday morning.

“Is your dad saved?” March 27, 2006

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Is your dad saved? or Has he been baptized?

I’ve got this question only once – verbally. Many others have thought it, but didn’t ask. You might be thinking it as well. It’s a good question and it is OK to ask. If you are a Christian, then it might be THE question.

I don’t know how to answer the question. Yes, he was baptized. No he has not been to church in decades. Yes, he believes in God. No he doesn’t read his bible – ever. Yes, he is a “good person.” No, he has some terrible habits. Yes, he prays. No, he does not live the “Christian” life.

What makes someone “saved?” If the question really means, will he spend eternity in Heaven with God? Then I believe that he will. He will because Jesus died for his sin. Jesus saves – brings to eternal Heaven – those whom He died for. Those wishing to bypass Heaven will probably be granted a pass and not be required to go. However, I have the feeling that my father is willing.

Now, think of the saved question as something like this:

Will he be relieved of the consequences of his bad habits?
Will he be free from his frail and ailing body?
Will he never fear again?
Will he know the fullest extent of forgiveness?
Will he finally know love?
Will he be freed to see the wonders of God?
Will he know his worth?
Will he be freed from depressive moods?
Will he be free to speak his heart?
Will he finally exit the dark shadow of his father?

So, is he saved? Well, in many ways he has always been saved. In others, he is on the verge of being saved.

Death Interrupted March 27, 2006

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Life is unpredicatable, as you all know. So is death. Last night it appeared that we would make a decision today. Today, we are in limbo. Although the improvements are minor, they are enough to make us take pause and not rush into a decision to end life support. Once life support is removed, there is no going back.

Also, as my father is able to respond with head shakes, we are deferring to his wishes as best as we can. He wants to live.

To pick up where the past post left off, he’s afraid to die. It may be that his fear of death is what keeps him alive right now. His “I want to live” might not be as strong as his “I don’t want to die.” Although those might sound like the same thing, believe me, they are not.

On an emotional level, there is intermittent sadness interrupted by longer periods of “get-r-dun,” sprinkled with “I wish I could do something that actually does something.” My father has lots of siblings. Naturally they are welcome, but at the same time, my emotional bank is low on funds and I just need to get away now and again. Burger King was a good time out. It had a playland for the kids.