Ring. Ring. Ring.
Working in news, a phone call in the middle of the night is never good. It means something bad happened to someone. I don't even remember if I was on-call that early Tuesday morning two years ago when my phone rang. I just answered it.
Hello, I said without looking to see who was calling.
The voice on the other end wasn't any of my newsroom co-workers. It was my dad. I knew this wasn't going to be good.
I usually talk to my dad early Sunday afternoon, but it had become more frequent recently. Just over a week earlier, he called late on a Sunday afternoon. My aunt had been in a car accident and she passed away. She had spent the afternoon with her daughters in the Twin Cities and was driving home when it happened. I couldn't believe it. It was so sudden. I was shocked.
This morning's call was one that I had been dreading, but also relieved to get.
"Brian," he said. "Mom died."
At least that is what I think he said. I really don't remember. I heard the words, but I was numb. I didn't want to believe it. She had been battling cancer for almost three years. She was on her third round of chemotherapy, but unlike with the previous two rounds this one wasn't going so well. In fact, it was going so poorly that she asked to be taken off chemo. The end was coming.
Hospice was called to help her and my dad in those final weeks. My sister was a huge help to them, driving several hours to assist my mom with planning her funeral and helping my dad take care of things around the house. My brother also flew into my hometown to see her before she passed away, but I didn't make it back in time. We planned a trip to go, but my mom couldn't wait that long.
Because news is a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week kind of job, it is hard to get time off. Aileen and I were both still in the business and on very different schedules so it was nearly impossible to get away. We had made plans to visit my parents on a Monday and Tuesday, but we were also planning a baptism for our youngest daughter at the end of October. Mom wasn't going to be able to be there physically because she couldn't travel anymore.
It turned out, she didn't need to, because she left us the Tuesday before the baptism. Her wake and funeral were that Thursday night and Friday morning. I felt her spirit with us as we drove back home that afternoon and she was with us Saturday night for the baptism.
I think about her a lot, but not as much as I would like. Life happens and I get busy and don't take time to reflect. Every Sunday, though, I pause for a moment to say a prayer. I thank God for my mother, who I wasn't ready to let go of, but God needed her more. I'm thankful that He allowed her to be with her two youngest granddaughters before she went to heaven.
I thank Him for my grandmother who would have been 103 this year, but left us a few months shy of that mark. I thank Him for my father-in-law who died 4 days after the birth of his first granddaughter. He never met her, but had a picture of her by his side when he passed away.
All told, Aileen and I have each lost a parent since we started dating. She also lost a grandparent and I've lost three grandparents and an aunt in that time.
Life is full of ups and downs and I feel like we have had more than our share of downs, but the two ups we have, our beautiful daughters remind me of how great life is. And those Sundays when I thank God for the people we've lost, I remember fondly all of the great times spent with them and it makes me hold the girls a little tighter.