I made it home safely from the spooky mansion, hopefully without any ghosts in tow. We spent a lot of time just exploring the +10,000 sq ft building. Most of the place was just empty rooms. A lot of them. Row after row of small bedrooms and bathrooms down one of the longest hallways imaginable. Most of them somewhat creepy in their state of disrepair.
But there were still some pretty elements that reminded us of what it must have looked like in its prime over a century year ago.
Last night we congregated around the large table in the tea room to play games, drink wine, and eat our way through the junk food we had brought. My oldest sister, who brought her puppy along and LOVES to play practical jokes, tried to scare us by knocking on the windows when she took her dog outside.
So before she made it back in, the rest of us decided to hide on her. We jumped up, ran upstairs and scattered our way throughout the bedrooms. We heard her yell, “very funny guys!” when she got in, but no one answered. When she came looking for us, there was a lot of screams and her dog barked madly at the girls from The Shining another sister had secretly taped to a hallway door.
We saw no ghosts, but we had a great time scaring ourselves. It was fun just to hang out together again, even if it meant getting a lousy night sleep on air mattresses. I’m thankful for our time together and for the kindness of our host, my niece’s boyfriend who is staying at the mansion as caretaker until its future fate is determined .
One of Patrick’s sisters sent us a monopoly game based on one of his favorite video games. Today we played. I lost.
Frankly, I have terrible luck with board games. He would draw a card and win money. I’d draw and lose. I went to jail at least 6 times and always landed in the spots that cost me something. He built an empire. But it was fun. And something different for today.
I mentioned previously how much I appreciate my in-laws, and that includes Patrick’s sisters too. I have four sisters already, but I was thrilled to gain two more when we got married. And they’ve been amazing to me. Not because they send fun gifts, but because they treat me like a sister. I’m so thankful for that.
My dad died today. My sisters and mom and I sat by his bedside all night last night, listening to his labored breathing, holding our own breath every time he stopped too long between gasps. He never woke up. So we chatted amongst ourselves and cried intermittently and finally, around 2 am, requested pillows and blankets and tried to sleep on wooden folding chairs. There’s something exhausting and guilty-feeling about waiting for death. The constant wondering if the next moment is going to be the last one together. Just after 5 am, when it was just my mom awake by his side, my dad simply stopped breathing. My mom said she had just told him he didn’t have to hold on any longer. He could go, and so he did.
I have to admit that when I first got the call yesterday that my dad had taken a turn for the worse and maybe wouldn’t survive the day, I didn’t want to go back to the hospital. It wasn’t that I had just made the three-hour drive back home, it was that I didn’t really want to face it. I wasn’t sure I had the energy or the strength to watch my dad die. But then I knew that whatever I felt didn’t matter. What was real was that the man who spent his life taking care of me and my sisters and my mom would be gone within hours, and I had the privilege to be there by his side. No matter how much it would hurt to see, this was a gift, to say a final goodbye.
I’m thankful my dad was a Christian. He believed that he was headed to a better place and had absolutely no fear of death. I know that made his final days easier for him. And I’m sure he was looking forward to seeing the many people he had lost in his almost 67 years: his own dad who died too early in his 30’s, his mom who suffered from Alzheimer’s, his brothers, his son, his best friend. It must have comforted my mom also, allowing her the strength to tell him to go to the others she believed were waiting for him.
The world lost a wonderful man today. A man with a hearty laugh and a deep love for people and animals and the Lord. A man of strength and honor and commitment. A man who loved my mother and her children as his own. He was my stepfather, but I never thought of him that way. To me he was always my dad. I’m thankful he entered my life so long ago. And I’m thankful I was there when he left so peacefully this morning.