Today marks the 4th anniversary of my second dad’s death. I though I’d share something I wrote on my family blog back then. It’s from 2013.
It’s been five months. We’ve celebrated three holidays and two birthdays without Grandpa and I guess it’s about time I put down my thoughts.
When we first found out Lloyd had leukemia, I spent the day in tears. It was too much to take in. We had a family meeting scheduled with the doctor for that afternoon, and my father-in-law was in surgery that day to get a hiatal hernia fixed. Norm had a hole in his diaphragm fixed a few years ago and it had retorn and 30 percent of his stomach was in his chest cavity. The doctors were concerned it would be a very difficult surgery because there had already been a repair and things were pretty tight. They were almost positive they’d have to open him up instead of fixing it laparoscopically. He called me after he was out of surgery to tell me he’d been the recipient of a miracle. There was no hole in the diaphragm when they went in, despite very extensive CT and MRI scans. He had it confirmed to him that he had been blessed by the power of the priesthood.
It was exactly the miraculous event I needed to have any hope at all. My thoughts were immediately filled with the song line, “There can be miracles if you believe.” I put all my trust and faith in that small line and went to the hospital to meet my mom, sister, husband, dad, and doctor.
The news was grim. Untreated, he had 60 days at most. Traditional chemotherapy would most likely kill him. We needed to get him to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle as soon as possible. He had an appointment already scheduled for one week away. He could go home and be treated for his pneumonia until then.
So, he went home the next day and my very experienced nurse of a mother took care of him to the best of her ability, but his pneumonia and cancer were much more aggressive than anyone thought. Fortunately, my babies got to spend one last afternoon snuggling Grandpa on the couch watching a movie with him.
I hadn’t told the boys how sick Grandpa was yet. I could see in my mind’s eye that he would have some serious treatments and would be fragile the rest of his life, but he would have more time. I didn’t want to make my boys worry. My bishop called for an update one day and asked if he could petition for prayers from the pulpit, and I hesitated since my kids still really didn’t know anything. But then Lloyd got admitted to the hospital again and I called my bishop and asked if I could change my mind. Then I braced myself for telling Sterling. He got very upset and the first words out of his mouth were, “I don’t want Grandpa to die.” He was worried about James never remembering what an amazing Grandpa he had. My sweet Jonah was walking by and said, “Don’t worry. Grandpa’s not going to die.”
That sealed it in my heart. Lloyd wasn’t going to die. I was supposed to believe in a miracle and my three-year-old confirmed that he would be fine.
I hung on to that. It got me through seeing Lloyd fail more every day. I knew that he would turn around. He had to. It got me through watching him go into respiratory failure and kidney failure and liver failure. There was going to be a miracle. I felt like I had been promised that!
In the email post I mentioned that Brandon knew the first day in the hospital that Lloyd’s time was short, but he felt that he needed to keep that to himself. I was kind of upset with him when I found that out later. I really could have used some warning. But it wasn’t my turn to have a warning, I guess. It was my turn to show unwavering faith and hope. But I wish I’d had a warning.
After Lloyd passed and I was holding Sterling, we were talking about why it happened and that it wasn’t fair, and my sweet Jonah came in. I asked him about saying Grandpa wasn’t going to die, and he said, “Yeah, but Grandpa got sick.” And that was that. I believe that the laws of nature are fully intwined with the laws of God, and God has to obey those laws also. But I also believe in miracles and the Godly power of the Priesthood.
Someone wrote a card to mom saying that she remembered Lloyd bearing his testimony on fast Sunday in October and thinking that it was the testimony of a man who had completed his mission here. As far as I’m concerned, he had a lot more he could have done. What about my baby? How will he ever know what’s it’s like to have the best Grandpa in the whole world? What about my mom? How could the best years of her life been so short? Who would I have to counsel with when I was feeling irrational about something?
But since his work obviously was done, I can tell you that he fixed us. Our bishop at the time Lloyd was baptized spoke at the funeral and talked about what an amazing man Lloyd was. He met my mom when she had four troubled teenagers at home who were flailing trying to cope with the tragedy of losing their father by his own hand, and Lloyd loved us immediately like his own. He saved me and he saved Peggy. He taught us how to love and to be loved. He taught us how to communicate openly without screaming and raging. He taught us how to be friends and confidants. He taught me how to be a parent. He taught us how to have fun and spend time together. He took us, broken, shut-off, and angry, and loved us, coaxed us out of ourselves, and blessed us. I can only scratch the surface of what he did for my mom, whose history of feeling abandoned, unloved, belittled, and betrayed by men was 50 years deep.
His loss is poignant. I feel it every day. I don’t cry every day, but there is still a big absence. Someone told me that our parents are like pillars in our lives and when one dies, that pillar is gone and our support system is not the same. That is absolutely how I feel.
I am extremely grateful for small moments when I know he is still near. One day I was driving the kids to school and I had my hand on the headrest of the passenger seat and suddenly I could feel Lloyd holding my hand. He had pretty distinctly rough hands, so I knew it was him. I’ve also had a small glimpse into the work his is doing now, and I’m grateful for that. Most of all, I’m grateful that he considers me his daughter and he’ll be waiting for me when it’s my turn to go home.