Tuesday, September 20, 2011

1993 - dad

as i've mentioned before, for most of my childhood, my dad had various health problems. from gall stones to hip replacements to heart transplants, we kind of saw it all. i watched him swallow an entire handful of horse pills every morning and night and watched his body swell up as a side effect of prednisone. our cupboards were filled with small glasses and glass stirring sticks for some of his meds and my mom was meticulous about the cleanliness of our house.

we just got used to it.

but the summer of 1993 was particularly rough. earlier in the year, my dad suffered encephalitis and, as the ambulance whisked him away to the hospital, sirens blaring, he had a grand mal seizure en route. when i caught my first glimpse of him lying in his hospital bed, he had enormous, dark purple bruises on his wrists and ankles. apparently he had broken through the leather straps tying him down.

the doctors and nurses gave a grim prognosis - that of a vegetable. throughout the summer, though, he began to improve. one step at a time, he learned to walk again and eventually built up to very slow walks around the neighborhood. as it was summertime and we kids were home, we took turns being his "nurse" for the day after my mom left for work. she'd wake us up and we would lie down in her side of the bed and help dad with whatever he needed.

by the last week of august, miraculously, he was deemed well enough to return to work. although he was back on the heart transplant list, the rest of his health had improved enough that it was decided he could go back a few days a week to help train someone else to do the work he had previously been doing. my sister kelli and i were "off track" that week in our year-round elementary school rotation. so when we both woke up that morning, we had the house to ourselves. we lazed around watching reruns of the brady bunch and doing other very productive things.

around 9:30 am, the phone rang and i answered. it was my neighbor. "hi maren," she said, "i just want to let you know that we are here for you. if your family needs anything, please don't hesitate to ask." completely confused, i responded, "okay, thanks," and we both hung up the phone. 

i went back to my productive morning and about a half hour later, the phone rang again. i ran into the kitchen to pick up the receiver. it was a man named dale russon. he introduced himself as my dad's old mission president and now the owner of russon brothers mortuary in salt lake city, and asked if he could speak to my mom. i told him she was at work, but could i take a message? "you mean they didn't even give her the day off work when her husband died?", he responded, in shock. quickly, i replied, "my dad didn't die!" "oh," he said, and his voice softened. "well, could you just have your mom call me when she gets home tonight?" i told him i would and hung up the phone. 

at this point, i was really confused. two strange phone calls, one claiming my dad had died? who were these crazy people? if my dad had died, i would surely know before they did. my mom would call. kelli was only hearing my side of the phone conversations and was probably more confused than me. we decided everything was fine. if it wasn't mom would call. so we went back to our lazy morning. 

about an hour later, my aunt karen {my dad's older sister} called. "hi aunt karen!," i said. she must have had the presence of mind to realize my voice was enthusiastic and simply asked if my mom was home. when i told her she was at work, she said, "oh! of course! do you happen to have her work number?" after i gave her my mom's phone number, we had a short conversation and then hung up the phone. 

but it just didn't feel right. my aunt karen didn't normally just call in the middle of the day during a random week in september. and she was well aware my mom worked full time and wouldn't be home. and it wasn't normal to get phone calls from neighbors offering general support and help. and we never ever got phone calls telling us our dad had died. so kelli and i stood in the kitchen, feeling a little...i'm not sure what. afraid? sad? confused?  

it wasn't five minutes before the garage door opened and my mom drove in, dan in the passenger seat. he was supposed to be at school but was, instead, red-faced and crying. they walked up the steps from the garage into the kitchen where my mom bent down and said, "girls, your father died today." 

i don't remember if she said anything else. i felt like i got whacked in the stomach. i couldn't breathe. my fears from the morning's phone calls had come true and i could do nothing but stand in the kitchen and cry. 

my mom explained that he arrived at work and collapsed in the elevator on the way to his office. there just happened to be a doctor in the elevator who watched over him until the ambulance came. he was rushed to the nearby hospital where he passed away shortly after. my mom and bishop cobbley of my ward were there. she told him she wanted to tell each of her kids in person, not over the phone - so he knew not to call. she drove straight to scott at bingham high school to tell him the news. he, in true scott fashion, decided to stay at school. he wasn't one to miss school let alone do it to sit around and be bummed all day. then she drove to south jordan middle school to tell dan. as my dad's mini-me, he was devastated and immediately decided to come home with my mom. that's when they drove up to tell us girls.

after my mom explained the delay, i told her about the three mysterious phone calls. i'm not sure exactly how each of them found out, but news traveled fast and my mom felt awful. she was grateful that at least my aunt had the presence of mind enough to notice my mood and not share any information she thought i didn't have yet. 

that afternoon, we had visitor after visitor after visitor. it was my best friend mindee's birthday and i decided to get out of the house to meet her at the bus stop. the morning's events eventually came out and she stopped dead in her tracks. i remember just hugging her for the longest time and being so glad it was her birthday so we could celebrate something and i could feel the slightest bit normal. 

the next few days were a blur. they were full of visitors, tears, memories and lasagna. 

everyone. brought. lasagna.

as much as i appreciated the thoughtfulness, i just couldn't take anymore lasagna. i will be forever grateful to my mom's college roommate marieta, who saw our faces when yet another lasagna was delivered and instead took us out for pizza. 

that was a thursday. it was labor day weekend coming up, so we had a viewing monday night and the funeral tuesday morning. at the viewing, i was quite nervous to actually look in the casket. i never mustered up enough guts to actually touch his body, but i did take a peek. and it looked nothing like him. especially his mouth. it was all wrong. whoever had prepared his body, just didn't set it right and i couldn't get over it. i kept telling my family how much it was bothering me. 

the morning of the funeral, just before it was to begin, we gathered together as an extended family to have a prayer. with the casket open and my dad's body in view, the prayer began. i opened my eyes after the prayer commenced and could not believe what i was seeing. my dad was smiling at me. i know that sounds strange, but it was as real as anything i had ever experienced. he was smiling his perfect corey smile. i was standing next to my aunt denise, her hand around my shoulder. i tugged at her shirt and said, "he's smiling! he smiled at me!" i'm sure she thought i was crazy and had no idea what i was talking about, and it was smack in the middle of a prayer, but i wanted to shout it from the rooftops. i now know that no one else saw what i saw. i truly believe it was my dad, helping to comfort me and to tell me he was okay. i often think about that morning and how grateful i am to have felt his presence and love at such a strange and confusing time.
{funeral program}

it's been 18 years since that lazy thursday morning. my dad was 41 - and would now be 59. sometimes i wonder what he might look like. would his hair be gray? would he have hair at all? would he still be a crazy byu fan? {yes.} would he still call me marsidotes and sweet cheeks? where would he be working? would he be proud of my accomplishments? would he be happy that i found ryan? would he have told me how beautiful i looked on my wedding day? would he love leah just as much as i do and what silly nicknames would he have for her? so many questions. so many what-ifs. but i can tell you, without a doubt, that this experience has been one of the most strengthening experiences of my life. i know for a fact that there is life after death. and i know, with all my heart, that my dad is with me when i need him. he was with me on my wedding day and when i graduated from college. and he also stood by my side that morning i collapsed onto my kitchen floor from hearing leah's diagnosis. and, although i would give anything to have had him physically by my side for all those things and more, my life has been blessed and i have grown in unimaginable ways because he wasn't able to be. 
 {1987 - so thin and sick, with cousins beck and rach}
 {1989 at my baptism}
 {1991 - smiling on the dock at beloved lake merwin, 
wearing a murdock travel hat and a golf tshirt. 
basically a perfect picture.}

also in 1993:


Erica said...

maren, im so sorry for such an early loss of such a wonderful person, your dad. you looks exactly like him. exactly. and I know he is with you every day. big hugs.

lmackay32 said...

What an amazing post. It was hard for me to see my dad in the casket as well, he didn't look right and I couldn't stand in the line by him - I greeted people by the front door instead.
I am 100% sure your dad is proud of you! I am proud of you and I am not even family :)

Alyse Burt said...

Maren, Ryan has always talked about how amazing Uncle Corey was/is. I truly believe he was with you all of those times too. I spent the weekend with Alysha and we loved talking about how awesome your blog is!

Jen said...

Thanks for sharing Maren. You bring tears to my eyes.

ed and kelli said...

i KNEW i should have skipped 1993. mack is wondering what's wrong with mommy as i sit here bawling at my desk. I haven't thought about the actual day's events until just now. worst feeling ever when mom came in the house and told us. glad i had you there with me. :)

ed and kelli said...

also, remember going to Free Willy with Kris Parry? and the flower pots Randee gave us both?

Bethany said...

Wow Maren, I think yours is the only blog I read that really gets the tears flowing for me. I feel really special that you shared all of these personal details about your dad. I had never seen pictures of him before, but how neat that you are the spitting image of him (in a feminine, beautiful way).

Molly said...

Thanks for sharing, Maren. I know everyone is saying how much you look like your dad, but I have to say it, too! For some reason I wasn't expecting that. He sounds like a great guy. I'm glad you helped us all get to know him a bit.

t.t.turner said...

Oh Maren, I never knew the story of how it all happened. It breaks my heart.

What strikes me is how much of him I see in Leah - just from that photo of him, it was very, very powerful.

Ryan Burt said...

Well written. I have a lot of memories about your father. He was a strong man. Dan is more like him than he realizes. I remember that we spent a lot of time with your family before and after this. Grandma had died over 10 years before that, and I think that your mom needed my mom. I have some really fond memories of all of the visits. It seems that every free weekend, we were off to South Jordan. I was happy to go. Scott and Dan (Scotty and Danny) were like extended brothers more than cousins, and I had two more little sisters to pick on.

I remember his smile.

Michelle said...

what a beautiful post. It's taken me 20 minutes to get the boys lunch because I kept coming back to finish reading it, through all the tears! He definitely sounds like such an amazing man, I'm sure he'd love Ryan, and yes, he'd of course love Leah just as much as you do, and I'm sure he'd have great nicknames for her. Love you Maren.

dahmush@aol.com said...

His family meant the world to him Maren. Everything he did in his last few years was motivated by his beloved family. He wasnt perfect, but he was learning and growing and Heavenly Father was skillfully smoothing rough edges. My last conversation with him was about being on the heart transplant list again. His quality of life was difficult at best, he'd gotten back to work against all odds, and he wanted you kids to know he wasnt "a quitter"....He was my brother, my protector, and felt like my twin. I am glad I didnt have to watch the 2011 BYU-Utah game with him...but i miss him everyday. Thanks for sharing. He would be so proud of you all! Dah

Britta said...

I love you so much more after reading this. Thanks for opening up a small peek into your life.

Natalie said...

I love the pictures of your dad! I don't like remembering my dad in the casket either... We had it closed casket for the viewing because we didn't want people remembering him that way either. I definitely agree that it is amazing how even though they are not physically here, they are here! They can be with us in ways they never could have been otherwise, which I love. It is so comforting to know what we know:) love you maren!

Dawn said...

This is such a beautiful post about your Dad and I'm sure it was difficult to write about. I'm certain he is always with you also, and definitely when you need him most. xoxo

Nancey said...

Thank you for sharing this. Your dad seemed like an amazing man. I wish I'd been able to meet him...maybe someday :).

Scott said...

Maybe I'm wrong, but I distinctly remember Dan sitting in the Assistant Principle's office as they brought me in - mom standing next to him - both of them in tears. Mom broke the news, which at that moment was already pretty obvious and Dan couldn't say anything at all he was just crying too much, choking/crying/spouting snot/red as a beet. I went back to my class - AP Chem - and just cried on the lab table to myself. It wasn't much different than any other day in that class for me - I usually slept through it and had a nice pool of drool by the end. That day, the drool was tears instead.

Also, I remember being told that he got off the elevator and walked past the floor reception desk where he collapsed. The receptionist was on the phone right away because, well, it was right there and being the church office building, there's a doctor every 20 feet.

I also remember a little about that morning. Dad drove me to school and dropped me off across the street from Bingham on his way to work. It was his first week back at work and my first week or so of school for the year. I don't recall exactly what he said to me that morning but it was probably along the lines of 'do your best', 'i love you', 'see you tonight'. So yeah, I was the last one in the family to see him alive, he looked fine when I left him, and that has stuck with me.

Dan Kinnersley said...

I also knew that I should have skipped this year- Heather looked over at me bawling and knew whatni was reading. Mom went to Scott first but he was unavailable so she came to my school and then we went back to the high school. I made him corn flakes that morning. I definitely remember Dad on your wedding day and all the extended family members probably thinking I was crying because you were getting married before me and not because he was there with us. Denise- glad I didn't have to watch the BYU Utah game this year with him either but he might have been there in '06, '07, and '09 and helped out a little.

I remember the day he was found unconscious with the encephalitis - the basement had flooded and Scott, me and Brandt were cleaning it up using the car to roll over the rags to wring them out- I knew he let us use the keys a little to easily...

I miss him every day and in the short 13 years he was physically in my life he taught me things that I lean on every day.

It also helps to remember him every time I look at Cannon- reminds me of his puffy medicated cheeks.

Thank you for writing all of this down.