These dreams.

The whole process of dreaming fascinates me a little. Not enough to want to invest any real time in investigating them on say a scientific level; just enough that I will often find myself dissecting what happened that month/week/day that infiltrated my subconscious.

I often describe my dreams as if everything I had said/done/seen was tossed into a blender and rearranged in some way.

So last night, I went out for a walk with the love of my life. It was a nice night, crisp and snowing a little. My father loved the snow and every time it snows, I am often reminded of him. My dad has been weighing heavily on my mind as of late, the one year anniversary of his death has just passed and it’s usually this time of year that I miss my family. The craziness of the holidays usually means chaos and I don’t get to see everyone as much as I like, nor for any extended period of time. It’s also my nephews’ birthday and he and his sister are my rays of sunshine.

I had also caught up with a friend of mine who is also getting married this year. So inevitably, we talked about our weddings. I had mentioned that we were holding out for our honeymoon because we wanted to go to Alaska on a cruise and bring my dad’s ashes along. My dad had mentioned to me the summer before he died that if he could do it over again, he would have went to Alaska while he still had the chance. So going there to honor my dad was my love’s idea, which I thought was really sweet. Needless to say, with the wedding coming up and everything else going on, my dad has been weighing pretty heavily on my mind lately in a lot of different ways.

So fast forward to today, I had a dream about my dad. A dream so clear, vivid and concise that I was almost shocked when I woke up to the realization that it wasn’t actually true. I’m usually a lucid dreamer, so I can usually rationalize and recognize a dream for what it is.

Not today though.

I dreamt that I was at my parent’s old house, except it looked like it did when I was much younger. I was standing in the living room talking to my mom drinking my breakfast smoothie. It was a beautiful day outside; the living room was filled with vibrant, natural light. I was feeling peaceful, content and happy.

I can’t remember the last time I felt that good and at peace.

There was a loud knock at the door and my mom gestured for me to go answer it.

*Random side note- No one ever knocked and waited at my parents’ house, unless you were a stranger. I grew up in a home that had an open door policy, anyone was welcome.*

I walked down the hall and I couldn’t see who was standing there through the window, it was so bright and vibrant. Imagine my shock and surprise to see my dad standing there, alive and well. He looked at me and smiled and laughed. I said to him, “what are you doing alive?” My mom said something about a mix up or something and the whole time I’m standing there and I’m thinking to myself did the morgue notice you were still alive? You were cremated, but I don’t have any of your ashes yet because I keep forgetting to take some. I do remember holding the box that they were in and thinking about how heavy it was. And just lots of confusion. There was so much light, it was like he was glowing. You know the clichéd eternal light that’s usually associated with the deceased and angels? I had SO many questions and no one was answering them, they (my parents) just keep looking at me sheepishly and smiling. I wasn’t angry, just very, very confused.

Even more so when he went somewhere and came back with two small children. A boy and a girl neither one any older than the age of 4. I didn’t recognize these children so I don’t know how they’re relevant to my dream but among my confusion, my father looked at me and winked as he was tossing the little girl over his shoulder and disappeared into the kitchen.

That’s when I kind of woke up and the realization that my father was still dead and that was a dream. I closed my eyes and started to cry. Dream visits are emotionally draining. I had a lot of dream visits right after my father died. I literally asked him to stop because it would leave me in a depressed state for days after. So it’s been a while since he’s come to visit me. I like to think that he knows he’s been on my mind a lot lately and that I’m hurting really bad because he’s going to miss my wedding and everything else. I figure that he wanted to let me know that he’s OK and that maybe, just maybe I’m going to be OK too.

A year later.


It’s only fitting that it’s snowing today. My dad loved it when it snowed; it was the one thing that gave him peace while he was in the hospital right before he died. It’s been a year now but it doesn’t feel like it at all. I remember reading this post someone had wrote lamenting about the first year she had lost her mom. It was beautiful and sad. I thought to myself I wonder what my first year would be like without him. My father was still very much alive at the time, except I knew that his time would be up sooner rather than later.

A year ago today I was rushing off to the airport trying so hard to keep it together. Alternating between sheer panic, tears and praying that I would make it home in time while kicking myself in the ass for not going home the night before.

My father and I had a tumultuous relationship at the best of times. Moving to Montreal has been both a blessing and a curse for our relationship. When my dad first got diagnosed, it was suggested to me to ‘have it out’ with my dad for all those times he did me wrong.

I disagreed. I didn’t feel that it would solve anything.

I was never a passive person when it came to my father. He knew all those times he pissed me off or did me wrong. I didn’t need to call him out for being an asshole again. The man was dying. While that didn’t give him carte blanche to do what he pleased, I didn’t see what the point of dredging up the past.

So I let it go. For me and for him because sometimes it’s just easier to accept an apology you’re not going to get. I felt at peace with this decision and I still do.

Everyone really liked my dad. He was a good man. He was also horribly flawed and when he fucked up, he fucked up pretty hard. He turned into an asshole when he drank too much. He had narcissistic personality traits and, a fragile ego.
As a result, a lot of people got hurt and I, more often than not, got caught in the crossfire. I am fiercely loyal to those that I love and I spent my formative years with a not so savoury opinion of him. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my dad. I didn’t always respect him though.

I was the apple of his eye though. My father adored me like no other.

I did not expect for it to hit me this hard.

I had already started to experience bouts of depression right after I found out my father was diagnosed and loosing my job two days later. Which is normal, depression doesn’t always last forever. What I wasn’t ready for was how bad my depression actually got. It’s become a daily struggle for me now.

Less than a week after my father died, my mom called me from Ontario. We had been robbed. The bastard that my father rented out a room to had cleaned us out in the middle of the night and he stole everything. He even took the damn dog food.

As if we hadn’t been through enough already?

I couldn’t breathe. I had just come home from Ontario 2.5 days ago and there I was standing there in my office stunned and enraged. The anger I experienced in that moment was like no other. The mind has this way of protecting itself from too much damage. I was in shock for another reason this time and I just felt so violated. How dare someone, anyone do such a thing to another person? It’s even more insulting when it happens right after you just lost your dad.

That was my childhood home. He contaminated it. I would never feel the same way after that.

There’s not much less frustrating than to be 760 km away and be that helpless.

I was surrounded by people, but I never felt more alone than I did at that moment.

I look back on the year that has gone by and it’s a jumbled blur. I attempted to go to school for French but had to drop out because my mind wasn’t capable of storing a damn thing. Memory loss is common with depression.  I went home in May to say goodbye at his celebration of life and to say good bye to the house. It sold in July and it will never feel quite right not to go there again. It was the only home I had known for 37 years.  I can’t eloquently break it down into months because one day just melts into the next. That’s what depression does to you. It robs you of so many things. I knew that it was coming, I just didn’t know when. When I lost Jason in 2009, I suffered from depression and that’s also when my OCD reared its ugly head, except I didn’t know it at the time. So I foolishly thought that I would be prepared this time around. Except…

Your mind can’t heal when the hits keep coming.

Shock is a funny thing. It can last for a couple of days, or in some cases, years. Shock is normal after any traumatic event and loosing my dad was no different. I got up; I went to school once a week and just tried to do whatever I could to function. I was living life on auto pilot and I was grateful that I didn’t have a job to go to at the time. I never knew when I would get an attack of the feels and I am not one for public displays of such things.

I developed anxiety. No surprise there, its depressions bestie. I would stay in bed until noon. Being a functional adult was exhausting. Even more so when you have to pretend to be OK when you are anything but OK at all.
Having to pick up the phone to make a phone call was terrifying. Panic attacks were the norm. So were emotional outbursts. This was my life now and I didn’t know how to cope.

In some ways, I still don’t.

Loosing a parent is a special kind of hell that no one understands until it happens to them.

This is why Nick and I didn’t announce our engagement right away. I needed time and space to just breathe. Only a handful of people knew before our official announcement and it certainly didn’t help matters when a few people said: “Now that the cats out of the bag.” Which made it sound like it was some big, dark secret from some people, which was not the case AT ALL. A lot of people got upset about that, but I can’t and WON’T take responsibility for the things that other people say, nor will I apologize for needing some time to myself. I have long since learned that you can’t please everyone and I stopped trying long before Nick came along.
It was nice while it lasted, some moments were bittersweet though. Like when my wedding dress arrived at the end of March.

It was a final gift from my dad. Except he knew nothing about it, he just gave me permission to rack up his credit card in whatever way I saw fit. I was supposed to buy a new laptop as a graduation gift but plane tickets for Nick and me and ultimately my wedding dress took precedence.

I remember how excited I was when my dress arrived, I pulled it out of the box and marveled at how beautiful it was and then I sat there and cried. It hurts knowing that my dad won’t be there when Nick and I say I do.

So it’s been a year. It’s been full of struggles, most of which I kept to myself. It’s taught me a lot of things though.

• That people automatically assume that depression is a feeling, not a disease. So you have to try not to get angry when people say things like: “Don’t dwell on the past.” This isn’t helpful at all, in case you were wondering. Especially when they themselves still have a dad.
• That it’s OK to not be OK.
• That there will be days when you randomly burst out in tears and have no idea as to why.
• Those moments of I’ll just call my dad and ask him and then remembering that you don’t have the means to do that anymore will cut you deep and fill you with regret for not taking the time to learn how to do whatever it is that you want to do, from him when you had the chance.
• To be more open about my mental illness. Depression is hard on so many levels. Some days it’s all consuming and getting out of bed is a bigger challenge than most people know.
• You’ll see the true colors of your family members and some of them are rather ugly.
• That the people you expect to be there for you aren’t. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the one’s that do.
• Little things can cause a memory trigger and it usually brings forth more tears. Like the first snow of the year after you lost your dad. It reminded me of one of our last conversations.
• Birthday’s and other special occasions are hard. Especially all those firsts, it’s funny how a quick text or a quick phone call takes on a whole new meaning when they stop coming.
• Some days you will feel like you’re drowning and you are helpless to stop it. All you can do is hang in there as best as you can and hope that you have a rope to hold onto.

The list goes on and on. The worst part of loosing my dad is/was loosing myself in the process.

I used to be such a different person than I am now and I am not sure how I feel about this. 

I miss the person that I used to be and while I begrudgingly accept that I can never return to who I once was, I would give anything just to feel whole again and not hurt anymore.


The day I lost him part two.

Part one can be found here.

Time stood still right then and there.

I remember my Aunt Brenda running in, about two minutes too late to say good-bye. I’ll never forget the look on her face; she looked almost as if my dad had betrayed her in some way by not waiting. In some ways I think he/fate did it to spare her somehow. It all happened so fast.

My other aunt was there, she hugged me as I ugly cried all over her. Snot bubbles and all, which is so much more gross when you’re 36. I remember saying to her that I don’t know how she does what she does and her saying to me that days like today, she didn’t either. I developed a whole new respect for people who work in hospice care that day.

It was a surreal scene, everyone crammed into my dad’s living room, made smaller by the hospital bed. Everyone on their phone’s making the dreaded phone call to let everyone know. The kids weren’t back yet and I couldn’t help but think how heartbroken they were going to be when they arrived.

The nurse arrived to pronounce him and as I was standing in the kitchen alternating between hyperventilating and crying and saying that I can’t do this she says to me, “Oh so you’re Stephanie. I’ve heard so much about you, he was waiting for you to get here.” I don’t remember what I said at that moment, if anything at all. I just remember her saying something along the lines of he was waiting for you, can you imagine him being in pain like that for the next few weeks until your scheduled arrival?

As if I would have waited until March 10th (my originally scheduled trip) to see my ailing father.  

The disdainful look on her face was a bit much. I was in a state of shock, which might have been a good thing because I get my mouth shut and silently stared at her with tears streaming down my face until I made her uncomfortable and she left the room. She needed to officially pronounce my dad and dispose of/remove all the medical stuff.

That feeling you get where you feel nothing and everything all at once. It’s overwhelming; it’s what I envision drowning to feel like.

The house just kept filling up with people. Friends and family poured in to show their support and pay their respects before my father got taken away. It was a beautiful thing to see so many people come together; I just wish it was under nicer circumstances.

A part of what happened after my dad passed were a blur, what really stands out to me is when the funeral home arrived. I didn’t know what to expect, this was a first time thing for me. They were so kind and respectful. Even the way they handled my father, it was so respectful and not morbid at all. They brought their own gurney in and they wrapped my father in a crisp white sheet. Then they wrapped him in a quilt, almost like they were tucking him in for a nap. I remember thinking that he looked cozy and peaceful and he would have liked that quilt. It was really pretty and looked like it was made with love.

I followed them out, determined to see my father’s final journey to the very end. He was there when I was brought into this world, so it only felt right to be there by his side as he left it. I liked that they didn’t show up in a hearse. They have a specially adapted car that looks a lot less conspicuous, which helps keep the nosy neighbours at bay. I was given a bag by one of the funeral directors for my fathers’ final belongings and other things that my mom would need for the final arrangements. They were so kind. Also very good looking, so that helped too (ha).

Death takes away your ability to be rational I have discovered.

Nothing makes sense to you and things that most people would consider trivial suddenly became the most important things of all.

I took it upon myself to find something for my father to be cremated in. My dad was a pretty basic guy when it came to clothes. He was a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy. I agonized over giving him just the right pair of jeans and what kind of camo shirt should I give him. Did I give him a new pair of boots? I had an absurd thought that they would be stiff and hard to walk in because they’re new. I was also torn between giving him the one’s he always wore and donating the new ones to charity. My father had to have his boots custom made because of a medical snafu so he had a lift on the left.

Everything had to be just so*.

I couldn’t sleep that night. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted and yet I couldn’t stop. Trying to sleep meant that I had no distractions and I had to face the fact that my father was gone and I wasn’t ready to do that. Instead I stayed up and went through my fathers safe and his paperwork looking for my parents marriage certificate because the funeral home needed it.

That too was bittersweet. I found all kinds of things that my father had held onto through the years. I remember making a coupon for my dad when I was like in grade three; it was for fathers’ day. He kept it all these years. I put it in his casket when I went to say my final goodbye.


It’s scary and amazing how much can happen in as little as 24 hours. A lot can happen in just one day.  


*So imagine my OCD induced horror when we went to the funeral home to say a final good bye and they had kept on the shirt that he died in and he didn’t have his hat. This was the biggest deal ever at that moment and the funeral director felt so bad that he offered to change my dad’s shirt. I’m not that unreasonable, so I kindly accepted his offer to instead fold it nicely and place it in there with him. His hat was located, Chelsea put it on him and I made sure he had his glasses. Only then did it look like him.


My father ended up with more stuff in his casket to ‘take with him into eternity’ than he usually did for a trip.


The day I lost him.

I’m trying to cope with my grief, and in doing so I am writing out my journey. It’s cathartic for me and I am hoping that it will help clear my mind.

Friday February 27th 2015 10:30 am

“Steph, the Dr was just here. How fast can you fly home? Your father isn’t expected to last much longer and we need you to get here as fast as possible.”

I got the call. The one that you know is coming, but don’t want it to. I hung up the phone and my whole world had tilted on its axis. I was standing in our bedroom, clutching my phone screaming and crying and struggling to breathe. This was it, my father was dying for real this time and I had to go home.
I wasn’t rational, I went online to try and find a flight or a bus for that night. Flights were stupid expensive and there was no way I was going about this alone. I had Nick up my ass and in my face to go pack; he would book my ticket and meet me in Ontario.

No. No. No.

What I needed was for him to just go away for five minutes because my world had just spun horribly out of control and I needed to hold onto some semblance of such. He meant well, but it wasn’t what I needed right then and there.
I’d never flown before, which throws a lot of people off. However I didn’t have the luxury of travelling when I was a child and as an adult when you choose to be a Chef, you never have the time or the money simultaneously to go anywhere good.
It wasn’t enough that my father was dying; I also had to fly for the first time ever.

Fuck you universe. Seriously, fuck you.

Phone calls were made, tickets were bought, transportation arranged. I was flying to Toronto the following morning. I talked to my dad a few times that day. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that it was time. He sounded so jovial and happy. It was his last hurrah and he made it count.
I had gotten into the habit of calling my dad every morning in the past few weeks. Our conversations weren’t riveting in any means, mostly small talk and an excuse to say I love you, just in case. Every time we would hang up, my father would cry. He tried to hide it, but I always knew.
Saturday morning in the cab, it was early 6:30 am, I called my dad.

No one picked up.

The flood of guilt hit me like a truck. I thought that my father had died and I had missed it because I didn’t go home the night before. I could have but didn’t because I wasn’t ready to face it and a million other things.

Enter my second panic attack in the last 24 hours.

I sat in the cab, shaking the whole way, willing myself not to cry and freak out. We just managed to grab the airport shuttle from Lionel Groulx metro and halfway there, I tried my dad’s cell again. Marilyn (his caregiver) picked up. I stopped breathing, I thought he was gone forever and I never got to say good-bye. Turns out, she was about to call me.

Dad was still with us but he had a rough night. His all day/night crown royal bender had caught up with him. It affected his medication and he was in rough shape because of it. The Doctor had offered him something stronger to keep him comfortable but he refused.
Because of me.

He was suffering and in pain because of me. He wanted to be alert when I got there. He didn’t want to be out of it.
I didn’t find that out until later though.

We made it to the airport in plenty of time, my anxiety was all over the place and that got kicked up a few notches when it was time to board. Thank god I got assigned seating so that Nick and I could sit together. We flew Porter since they go right downtown. My cousin had offered to pick us up at the airport and I gratefully accepted.
Nick made a point to tell our flight attendant that it was my first flight. She politely inquired as to why I was flying that day. I debated lying, why ruin her day? She had a genuine smile. I found myself telling her the truth however. My father was dying and I was flying home to say good-bye. She didn’t miss a beat, and looked me in the eye and said “well I’m happy that we’re able to get you home quickly.” Me too I said. Thanks.

She was so kind. Our flight was short, just over an hour but I could see her looking at me from time to time since we were only in the second row from the cockpit. In spite of the circumstances, my anxiety and a million other things my first flight was one of the most wondrous things I have ever experienced. I was so fascinated to be soaring so high above the clouds. I can’t describe it, but it was awesome and for a moment I was able to forget my reason for flying in the first place.

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My cousin arrived just as we got out of the airport and we were making the final leg of our journey to my dad’s house in Cambridge.
I called my mom to see if she needed/wanted anything and she told me to hurry. That changed the mood exponentially. One minute we were driving along and the next the true realization really started to sink in. That’s the funny thing about shock, there are moments of clarity and moments when you are just stunned stupid.

I rushed to my dad’s bedside; he was in rough shape, shaking so badly. You could see that he was in pain and I just wanted to do anything I could to make it stop. I started bawling immediately, I tried not too. I wanted to be strong for my dad but I couldn’t stop crying. He knew I was there, he kept asking for a pen and a piece of paper. Which his caregiver refused, she said that there would be time to talk later. She would give him his meds to help slow down his erratic breathing and then we could talk. He insisted and I felt guilty because I didn’t speak up. Even if it was just a scribble, it would have been something. Yet I kept telling him that it was OK. The pained and panicked look on his face was more than I could take. He closed his eyes and seemed to relax a little.

I sat on his bed beside him, talking to him and stoking his hair. They had bathed my dad that day in anticipation of my visit. I remember how nice it smelled, it was comforting.

I was telling my dad about the flight and how magical it was to be soaring above the clouds. That was the last time he looked at me, knowing he was still conscious I told him about Nick and I getting married. Nick really wanted to ask my dad for his blessing but we got there too late and he wasn’t really able to communicate much.
At some point I grabbed my camera, I wanted one last picture with my dad. It as one of the most awkward images I have ever taken in my entire life. It’s now my most treasured possession.

Waiting for him to go was agony. I kept telling him that it was OK to go. My cousins said their good-byes, as did my mom. My aunt, who is a hospice nurse held his hand. Thank god for her. She knew it was almost time; we called my aunt and my sister. This was it, it was almost over. He looked so peaceful. My sister arrived and said whatever it was that she needed to say. Just as she finished saying I love you, he was gone.

On Feb 28th 2015 at 1:21 pm my father was finally called home.