Topic: Our Wonderful Husband, Father and "Papa"

I have tried to write this message several times, but found it hard to put it in writing.  It just doesn't seem real.

My precious husband of 39 years, my childhood sweetheart, the father of our children, and "Papa" to our grandchildren, died on Monday, March 5. 

Dan was diagnosed on April 23, 2005.  No one could have fought harder or tried harder to live.  He had so much he wanted to live for---more time together with me, our 3 daughters, and our grandbabies.  Since diagnosis, Dan left no stone unturned trying to find a way to keep this monster cancer at bay.  His days were spent researching, making phone calls, talking with doctors, getting 2nd and 3rd opinions, keeping track of his medical records and all the details that become a part of your life when you're fighting for your life.   

To say it's been a roller coaster ride is an understatement.  We had so many great days when we received good news that his test results showed his tumors were shrinking--and even that the tumors were gone.  We celebrated, but it always seemed these were followed by hospital stays caused by infections, fluid in his lungs--so many things that kept reminding us that the cancer was lurking, sneakily waiting for it's opportunity to show its ugly head.

And it did---this time causing untold misery to Dan by crawling (like the insect it is) into his stomach.  He couldn't eat, could hardly swallow water.  He vomited constantly, even without eating.  A mediport was inserted to provide nutrition, which I learned to do for him nightly.  Then Dan began to bleed internally.  His stomach had been ravaged by the radiation and the tumor.  He was rushed by ambulance to the hospital 3 times in one week--each time his blood pressure dropped dangerously low and we thought we would lose him.   He received what seemed like countless transfusions.  The doctors cauterized bleeding areas in his stomach at least 4 times.  But it wasn't enough to have to fight the bleeding--septic shock set in.  One day Dan was lucid and talking to us, saying he felt better than ever--the next day he was semi-concious, fighting to stay awake and incredibly weak.   We tried to talk with him, to get him to rally again, like he always had done.  We were sure he would beat this set back and come  home and continue his fight. 

It wasn't to be this time.  After a few days, when it seemed the bleeding  had finally stopped, he began bleeding again.  The doctors told us there was no more they could do and to take him home and let  him pass away peacefully.  We still believed that he would rally, even while we made hospice arrangements.  After all, Dan always came back.  He would again this time.   He just needed to come home and be around family.   While we were next to  his bed, talking to the hospice worker, she looked at him and said she didn't think he would make it through the night.  After a few minutes she said, "He's dying now."   We couldn't believe it--it was  happening so fast.  Our daughters held his hands, I layed next to him and held him in my arms.   We told him over and over how much we loved him.  After a few minutes, he took his final breath.  It was so peaceful, just what we prayed for. 

The pain and grief are unbelievable.  God will help us through this, but it will be the hardest thing we've ever done.  Dan was the centerpiece of our family.  He lived his whole life for his family.  He was always taking care of us, helping everyone in any way he could--even when he was so ill.  He was always taking care of the needs of his family--running errands, helping out with the grandbabies and doing whatever he could to make life easier for everyone.  He worried how  his illness was affecting everyone and hated that he was making us sad.  He wasn't afraid to die--he loved the Lord so much---but hated that his death would cause us sadness and grief.  He didn't want to leave us.  He tried so hard to live. 

Wasn't it enough that he had to endure stomach cancer, and non-Hodgkins lymphoma?  That he  had to go through chemo and radiation twice before?  Was cancer so determined to take over his body, that it would appear again, this time in a rare and terminal form that he had little, if any, chance of curing?  He accepted all of this with so much strength.  He always said that this was God's plan for him, that he needed to go through all of this for some reason that we couldn't understand right now.  He fought, but he also knew this wasn't in our control.  We prayed for healing and a miracle, but obviously it wasn't in God's plan. 

We hate this cancer so much.  It has been lurking around Dan and our family for the last 15 years in some form.  Dan decided long ago to be cremated.  He said that he wanted to burn up this ugly cancer--that this would be  his last strike against it.  Dan won his battle with cancer by not letting it take away  his faith and belief that God was always by his side. 

We miss him more than I can express and life will never be same for our family.  But we know we will see him again one day, and that's what keeps us strong. 

This site  has been an incredible source of strength for me and our family.  Thanks to all of you for sharing your journey.  I will continue to read your stories and pray for each of you and your families.  God bless you all.

Juanita Uster

Re: Our Wonderful Husband, Father and "Papa"

Juanita - I am so very sorry for your loss.  I pray that you and your family will find peace and strength in the coming days as you face this very different journey in life without your precious Dan.  May you feel God's presence every minute.
Betty Johnson

Re: Our Wonderful Husband, Father and "Papa"

Juanita - I am so very sorry. Your words made me cry, so similar to my own feelings about my mother and her struggle. We also burned the cancer out at the end. The times ahead are going to be a struggle but we will see them again. Peace to you. -
Joyce

Re: Our Wonderful Husband, Father and "Papa"

Betty & Joyce - Thank you so much for your kind words.  I have to say that this is much harder than I could have ever imagined.  I miss Dan so terribly and the sadness I feel is overwhelming.  Life looms ahead like a dark, empty tunnel.  I have such a wonderful family and friends, yet I feel so alone.  I can't believe I'll never see him again or hear his voice.  I can't believe the fight is over and he is gone.  The pain is unbelievable.  There is so much to do, yet I can't bring myself to get anything done.   Can you share something you do that  helps you through your grief?  We all share stories about the illness and what we're doing to fight the disease, but after the person dies, it seems there is nothing here to help.  The grieving process is a huge part of what this all is about.  I think we can all help each other get through this, since sadly, there have been many that have come to this point.   I know this site is about cholangio and helping and learning from each other.  But I think we can also help each other when we finally face the inevitable. 

Sorry to ramble.  It's been a bad morning.  Hope you are both finding happiness in your days.  I think I have a long way to go yet.  Thanks for listening.

Juanita

Re: Our Wonderful Husband, Father and "Papa"

C. S. Lewis wrote in "A Grief Observed" the following:
"There is sort of an invisible blanket between the world and me.  I find it hard to take in what anyone says.  Or perhaps hard to want to take it in.  It is so uninteresting.  Yet I want the others to be about me.  I dread the moments when the house is empty.  If only they would talk to one another and not to me."

What you are feeling right now is so very normal.  I have read so many grief books and all of them say to let yourself grieve for as long as it takes.   God says that the more hopeless your circumstances, the more likely, your salvation.  The greater your cares, the more genuine your prayers.  The darker the room, the greater the need for light.  I have to believe that there is light at the end of this tunnel and that when we see Dan and Sam again, it will absolutely be the most unbelievable reunion we can imagine. 

I cannot tell you that I am doing good; I am not.  I miss Sam every second but I am trying so very hard to keep going knowing that one day it will get easier.  I'm not sure whether I will ever be completely happy again but I think that unhappiness on earth cultivates a hunger for heaven.  We were not made to be completely happy here; we will once again know moments of joy or even days of peace but it simply will not compare to the happiness that lies ahead. 

You and I are so very special now along with all of the ones on this site that have lost someone so precious to them.  We have God's attention; he will heal our hurts.  I will be thinking of you as you face these very difficult days ahead.  Please keep in touch.

Re: Our Wonderful Husband, Father and "Papa"

Juanita,

Your concern is something we have discussed as a family and something we discussed this past weekend as a board. 

Please feel free to give us some suggestions so that those of us who are working through the grieving process can rely on and help each other.

Stacie

Re: Our Wonderful Husband, Father and "Papa"

Betty,

You are a blessing to us all.  I wish I could bottle you and sprinkle you around a bit!  Let us know how we can help, we realize there is a critical need for grief support.  We have just been a little unsure how to go about it.

Stacie

Re: Our Wonderful Husband, Father and "Papa"

Juanita.... I,m so sorry for lost.  Your words expressed clearly how devastating it is to lose such a couragous and loving man.   You mentioned that Dan understood this was God's plan and there must be a reason why he had to endure all that he did.  I pray that he now has the answer and I pray that God lives in your heart and gives you the strength to work through your grief.   Yes,  Juanita life on earth will continue to challenge you/us.   Absorb all the love you can from your family and friends and then remember your new challenge.  You know what that is I'm sure.   Don't be afraid to ask for help as it is there.   I have sent a prayer of support your way........

Jeff G.

Take it to the Limit,One More Time! (Eagles)

Re: Our Wonderful Husband, Father and "Papa"

Dear Juanita,

I want so badly to give you some good advice on how to cope with grief, but I'm groping in the dark myself. Somehow, it's getting worse now that all the paperwork and boring details are out of the way. It still hasn't sunk in that my mother is gone and I keep saying "You're not dead, you're not dead." I expect her to come back. I expect her to at least make a visit from beyond the grave to tell me to stop calling her back and bothering her. Days of numbness are the best, but they're followed by days of obsessing over her, especially since I"ve had to clean out her house and get rid of almost everything pretty much by myself (my stepfather died four years ago and I had to clean out a lot of HIS stuff too, and that hurt too). That house was MY house for years and now it's an empty crypt, a shell of itself, but I still want to go there to hold on to any piece of her that I can. Once that house is sold, I feel like she'll be truly erased from this world, like she never existed. My 4 year old (Coco) keeps asking how to get to heaven to see Grandma, breaking my heart. My mother's last email to my uncle, which I found recently, said "I'm not afraid of dying - I just feel bad for those I'll leave behind. Especially Coco - I hope she remembers me." So I try to keep her memory alive, without traumatizing my daughter by constantly bringing it up.

We all have our ways of coping, and I find I need to be with the people who loved her the most - her old friends who've known her since her teenage years, my friend Bobby who was like her adopted son. I get relief in reminiscing about her and talking about her, since no one else wants to talk about her - they think it would upset me, when right now it's what I need most.  Other than that, I need to be alone, since I've suddenly become a very angry person and everyone's problems seem so trivial in comparison to mine. I read a few grief books and most of them were too clinical - but there's one called "Companion Through the Darkness," by a woman who lost her husband while she was 2 months pregnant - and she expresses all the anger and isolation and loneliness that I feel. She says that grief is a very selfish process, and that's the way it should be - and I agree. When my husband complains that I'm not talking to him or being nice, I just think "It's not about you - it's about ME!" Right now it's all about ME and about my mother and nothing else matters. I know it sounds terrible, but I think it's healthy as long as it goes away eventually. People just have to understand that they should distract you as much as possible, talk about the departed, but don't try to "snap us out of it." That will come in its own time - everyone is different. It's important to have someone to share the grief with you, just share it and cry with you and not give you platitudes about it being for the best. I thought my sister would be a great comfort to me, since she loved me mother as much as I do, though I spent more of my day-to-day life with her, but my sister is coping by keeping herself busy and avoiding thinking or talking about it.  I find myself angry at her, though I know she's hurting too, but she's still in denial and doing things her own way, I know. Grief is not rational, I've learned. I have angry, petty, self-pitying thoughts that I know are not worthy of me.  But that's what happens when you're in pain.

On top of all this, my biological father died the week after my mother. He had a rare form of brain cancer. Both were only 64 years old. Very strange, very surreal to go through this. And my 90 year old grandmother is still going strong and lives alone, though she can't walk much anymore, so I'm trying to take care of her as my mother did. And my aunt is in the process of stealing my grandmother's paltry savings into her name instead of my mother's and there's nothing I can do, though I promised my  mother I would make sure my greedy aunt didn't get her hands on it.  Like you, there are some days when I just can't do ANYTHING, I don't answer the phone or pay my mother's bills or call my grandmother, I just let it nag at my brain and do nothing. This too will pass, they say. I'm sure it will but right now it doesn't seem like there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

I know I"m not being very helpful and I hope I'm not depressing, but just know that you are not alone, though it may feel like it sometimes. And it does get better with time, as I know from my experience with my stepfather's death (who was my real father to me). If we could just go to sleep and wake up 2 years from now, that would be the best solution. Grief support has been highly recommended too. I'm too immobilized to look into grief support right now, but I think I should soon.

I hope you're coping better than I am and I'm truly sorry for your loss. No one can understand how devastating this is until they've gone through this themselves. My husband sometimes complains about his mother and I just think "Your mother is alive - be thankful!!" And I guess that's the silver lining - this makes us realize just how much we take for granted and how much we should be thankful for. But still I feel like WH Auden in his poem, "Funeral Blues":

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

10 (edited by marions Sun, 18 Mar 2007 12:38:38)

Re: Our Wonderful Husband, Father and "Papa"

Dear Juster,

my heart if full of sorrow for you and all of us who are sharing in the grief of having lost our beloved ones. 

Though my husband passed away one months earlier then yours, I don't feel any closer to the acceptance of his passing as of yet although, I believe what truly makes me face each day is the recognition that I am so very much needed by my family.  This sustains me at this time, but what I have found the most helpful is the permission I gave myself to "feel" the pain in which ever way it manifests itself, may it be anger, hopelessness, sorrow, defeat, fear.  Amazingly, I find myself moving through these unprededictable moments by emerging somewhat stronger each and every day. 
May all of us find peace.
Marions

THIS INFORMATION IS NOT INTENDED NOR IMPLIED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS SEEK THE ADVICE OF YOUR PHYSICIAN OR OTHER QUALIFIED HEALTH CARE PROVIDER

Re: Our Wonderful Husband, Father and "Papa"

Dear Jaunita,

I am so sorry for your loss.  Thank you for sharing Dan's story.  In spite of the disease, it is a beautiful story of faith, determination, love, hope, acceptance, and the beginnings of a brighter future.  All the beautiful elements in life!  I know Dan is so pleased and proud of his family.  If you don't mind me sharing, the story of Job gives me a lot of comfort.  At the end of Jobs suffering, God rewarded him with double everything he had before his test of faith except God did not give him 14 children.  He gave him 7 more children because the 7 children that died still belonged to Job--he did no lose them.  I don't know about you, but I find comfort in that story of faith knowing that we are still a family no matter where we are.   

You had a wonderful husband and Dan's journey in passing is similar to my mother's death on Feb 28th.  She too was not afraid to die and said many times "If God wants me here He'll find a way, but if it's my time, it's my time."  She was content and never complained.  She would miss us, but she was not afraid to die.  Like you, we are still numb and still can't believe she is gone.  It's hard to distinguish all the grief.  I grieve for myself, my sisters, and my father's loneliness.  It breaks my heart that Dad is lost in his new position in life.  I am sure your children feel the sorrow of what you are going through, too.  It's overwhelming.  I hope they provide comfort for you at the moments when you need it most.  Any family that can get through the years of cancer and it's outcome like yours has can get through the days ahead knowing their loved one no longer has to go to battle with it anymore. 

I'm sure your Dan's traits are in your children as some of my mother's traits are in us.  Hopefully, his traits in them will help you feel he is not so far away.  My father says, "I just have to keep busy" and he does.  I admire his strength to push on and not hold up in the dark.  His strength will keep Mom's memories alive for all of us as we pull together like your family is doing to get through the void and sadness that comes with this.   

All I can say is that you are dealing with your loss the same way we all are and it's normal.  Some days are filled with anger and some with tears.  My mother always told me "you're supposed to cry at a birth and rejoice at a death."  It's hard to do that though isn't it?  God willing, I hope I have the strength of my mother and your husband when my time comes.  If nothing else, they make us want to be better people don't they? 

I hope you can find the blessings in your situation where you can.  For me, I am grateful that Mom did not die suddenly or alone.  For what it was, her final days were peaceful and we were able to say our farewells as your family was able to do.  What an honorary send off for a wonderful husband and father!  No one can take those memories of Dan away.

Juanita, please know that I share in your sorrow the loss of a loved one so near and dear to our heart.  This is a most difficult time in our life.  I will be lifting your name up in prayer for God's comfort and strength to help you and your family get through the days ahead.  I am truly sorry.

God Bless You!

Re: Our Wonderful Husband, Father and "Papa"

Dear Jaunita,

I am so sorry for your loss.  Thank you for sharing Dan's story.  In spite of the disease, it is a beautiful story of faith, determination, love, hope, acceptance, and the beginnings of a brighter future.  All the beautiful elements in life!  I know Dan is so pleased and proud of his family.  If you don't mind me sharing, the story of Job gives me a lot of comfort.  At the end of Jobs suffering, God rewarded him with double everything he had before his test of faith except God did not give him 14 children.  He gave him 7 more children because the 7 children that died still belonged to Job--he did no lose them.  I don't know about you, but I find comfort in that story of faith knowing that we are still a family no matter where we are.   

You had a wonderful husband and Dan's journey in passing is similar to my mother's death on Feb 28th.  She too was not afraid to die and said many times "If God wants me here He'll find a way, but if it's my time, it's my time."  She was content and never complained.  She would miss us, but she was not afraid to die.  Like you, we are still numb and still can't believe she is gone.  It's hard to distinguish all the grief.  I grieve for myself, my sisters, and my father's loneliness.  It breaks my heart that Dad is lost in his new position in life.  I am sure your children feel the sorrow of what you are going through, too.  It's overwhelming.  I hope they provide comfort for you at the moments when you need it most.  Any family that can get through the years of cancer and it's outcome like yours has can get through the days ahead knowing their loved one no longer has to go to battle with it anymore. 

I'm sure your Dan's traits are in your children as some of my mother's traits are in us.  Hopefully, his traits in them will help you feel he is not so far away.  My father says, "I just have to keep busy" and he does.  I admire his strength to push on and not hold up in the dark.  His strength will keep Mom's memories alive for all of us as we pull together like your family is doing to get through the void and sadness that comes with this.   

All I can say is that you are dealing with your loss the same way we all are and it's normal.  Some days are filled with anger and some with tears.  My mother always told me "you're supposed to cry at a birth and rejoice at a death."  It's hard to do that though isn't it?  God willing, I hope I have the strength of my mother and your husband when my time comes.  If nothing else, they make us want to be better people don't they? 

I hope you can find the blessings in your situation where you can.  For me, I am grateful that Mom did not die suddenly or alone.  For what it was, her final days were peaceful and we were able to say our farewells as your family was able to do.  What an honorary send off for a wonderful husband and father!  No one can take those memories of Dan away.

Juanita, please know that I share in your sorrow the loss of a loved one so near and dear to our heart.  This is a most difficult time in our life.  I will be lifting your name up in prayer for God's comfort and strength to help you and your family get through the days ahead.  I am truly sorry.

God Bless You!

Re: Our Wonderful Husband, Father and "Papa"

My heartfelt thanks to all of you for your kind and comforting words.  They are especially meaningful, since I know you are all still in the midst of your own grief.  Your stories of loss and the sadness you are going through is heartbreaking.  I pray you find the strength you need to get through this time.

The days have been so hard and lonely.  I can't believe it's been almost 3 weeks since Dan died.  Each day I go through the motions of living, but I think I'm still numb and haven't grasped the thought completely that Dan is gone.   What does keep me going is the certainty that I will one day be with him again.  Betty, you're right, that will be the most wonderful reunion. 

My other comfort is knowing that Dan is with God now, and is healthy and no longer suffering.  He would want me to be happy--and I know God wants us all to be happy.  He will give us the strength we need to get past our grief and to get on with life. 

Again, thank you all for your kind words.  I will continue to keep you all in my prayers.  Our memories may be painful right now, but I know they will one day be a source of comfort.  God Bless Each of You!

Juanita

Re: Our Wonderful Husband, Father and "Papa"

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Much love to you Juanita.