Tuesday, September 6, 2016

My Trip

I want to document a little bit more about my trip back home to Germany at the end of July.  Writing everything down is very therapeutic for me and it helps me to "move on".  There are so many little details and memories that I don't want to forget and until I write them down I can't get them out of my head and hold on to them, but I think it would be much better for me to "let go" and move on.  I remember this process after everything happened with Evan.  I had so many things I didn't want to forget, but thinking about it every day also caused me a lot of pain, so writing it down really helped to let go and move on.  I knew I could always come back here to read the details I didn't want to forget.  This blog has become such an awesome way to preserve all of the memories we are making as a family.  I print it into a book once a year and I love to go back and read old posts.  Hannah loves reading the books too, so in the last week she took some old blog books to read after school for her 10min of homework reading.

We had just gotten back from our family trip to Germany 11 days earlier when I got the call from my mom and brother that I need to come back home as soon as possible.  I remember it so clearly.  I got the call on a Tuesday morning saying that my dad had a really bad night.  On Sunday's they were still talking about potentially bringing him home and then things went really fast.  After that Monday night they had to put him on morphine (up until that point he was able to handle all of his pain with just a few ibuprofen every day) and he was somewhat sedated and didn't really respond much.  I scrambled that Tuesday morning to figure out how I could go back to Germany to see him one last time.  Scott was such an awesome support and got on it right away to find me a flight for the next morning.  I decided that it would be best if I go by myself, so that I can spend some quality time at the hospital.  We got everything figured out with flights and childcare, so that I could go the next morning.

Scott and the kids took me to the airport first thing Wednesday morning and I was already through security sitting at the gate when my brother called and told me that my dad had just passed away.  It was such an emotional time and I was just sitting there at the airport by myself crying.  This wonderful lady just came and sat next to me and put her arm around me.  She had no idea what was happening as I was talking German to my brother.  She sent her husband to buy me a water and some tissues.  After I got off the phone she just sat there and didn't ask any questions.  I did tell her what happened and she was just very sweet and compassionate.  This trip home was very tough and an extremely long day, but I also met some incredibly nice people along the way.  I had a 6 hour layover in Chicago, which I spent in the AA lounge (I am not sure I would have been able to handle the busy airport if I didn't have access to this lounge).  After 6 long hours of sitting there I found out that my flight had a 3 hour delay.  I just broke down again, because I just wanted to get on that airplane and get home.  Based on all of my years of flying experience I had a feeling that my flight to Duesseldorf would eventually get cancelled, so I asked to be re-routed to pretty much anywhere in Germany.  I would figure out a way to get home if I could just get to Germany.  They found me a seat on a flight to Frankfurt. And yes my flight to Duesseldorf was eventually cancelled.

So, I finally made it to Frankfurt the next day and took the train to Cologne.   My brother picked me up from the train station and I was so happy to be home.  I hadn't been home by myself (without Scott or the kids) probably in 10 years and it felt very strange.  I missed them like crazy, but I was so glad that I didn't have the kids with me during that long crazy trip.  As sad as this time at home was it was also a very special and good time, because I got to spend a lot of uninterrupted quality time with my mom and brother.  It was very much needed and I loved it.

I was able to go see my dad the day I got there.  I am so glad I was able to do that and talk to him and say good bye, but that was tough.  Nobody can ever prepare you for this.  My dad's mom is still alive and she came with me.  I can't even imagine her pain.  She is 96 years old and it does not matter at what age when you have to bury your own child it is just not right.  I sat with my dad for a while and he looked so good and peaceful.  He had a little smile on his face.  My mom said it looks like he just finished a big project and is happy with the results.

My dads wish was to be cremated and to spread his ashes in the North Sea.  The North Sea connects Europe with America, so that is what he chose.  We worked on all of the formalities to get the cremation, memorial service and the trip for the sea burial set up within the next week, so that I could be there for all of it.  We went back and forth on all of the logistics, whether we should wait and I would come back or Scott and the kids could come in a few days ect, but at the end of the day it made the most sense to do it all while I was still there even if it was a little rushed.

The memorial service was the following Wednesday, exactly one week after his death.  It was incredible to see how many people came to say their goodbyes to him.  I know I didn't even realize who was all there, but seeing so many people and talking with so many people I have known my entire life was very special.  One of my dad's good friends held the eulogy.  He did an incredible job.  It was very personal and fitting and touched on all aspects of his life.  We are so appreciative that he took on this job and that he did it so perfectly.  After the eulogy we played the Rolling Stones.  Anybody that knew my dad knows how fitting that was.  "Satisfaction" has been his favorite song for a very long time.  It was part of his life and it was still the ringtone on his cell phone.  He would play this song full blast any chance he got and sang along without really knowing or understanding the words. While some people may have thought it was not appropriate it was perfect for my dad's memorial service and we think he would have really enjoyed it.

After the memorial service we held a lunch at the local pub.  It was wonderful to see all of the people come out to celebrate his life.  There were a lot of people that I had not seen in a long time and there was lots of reminiscing and story telling going on (which he was always very good at).  In Germany it is typical to serve little finger foods and little sandwiches after a funeral.  We knew we could not serve that at my dads memorial service.  He has always been a lover of good food and finger sandwiches just didn't cut it.  So, we had planned for a nice lunch with roast beef, fried potatoes and salad (he could have done without the salad).  I think we honored him well with this celebration.  My dad was a fantastic cook and could tell you about a good meal he had 30 years ago.  He would not be able to tell you the name of the restaurant, but he could describe the location, the decor of the restaurant and his waiter or waitress down to the smallest detail.  He would be able to describe to you exactly how the steak tasted :).

I still enjoy hearing the story about how my mom and dad met.  My dad went down to the Black Forest with some friends to learn how to ski.  It is not known whether he actually learned how to ski or not.  He has never been the athletic kind of guy, but he did have the best equipment.  He met my mom on New Years at a local pub where she was with her dad who was playing music there.  He had to go back to Cologne the next day, but they kept in touch and the rest is history.

On Friday we drove up to the North Sea to do the burial at sea.  My brother, Vera, me and my mom rode up along with my dads sister and her husband.  We had nice weather and went out on the MS Mecki to say our final goodbyes.
Here is a picture of the boat we went out on

We went out for about 30min to an area where they re allowed to do burials.  The captain did a nice little speech that was perfect and very fitting for my dad.  My dad was always and avid boater and loved the open water.  He knew about all of the terminology that is used on a ship and when the captain said that they will ring the bell eight times before lowering his urn into the ocean to indicate that his shift on this earth is over, it was perfect. A ship's bell is used to indicate the time aboard a ship and hence to regulate the sailors' duty watches.  The eight count mean a shift is over an was a perfect nautical euphemism.  After lowering the urn into the water the boat circled around the spot and we were able to throw in some flowers that we brought.
It was a beautiful and very sad time.  For me it was really tough as we were leaving that area to go back in.  I felt like we were leaving him all alone.  I know this is what he wanted and I think he would have been happy very happy with the way we said our final goodbyes.

We drove back to Cologne that same day and I had to leave the next morning.  My trip back home wasn't any better than the flight over there and I was stuck in Chicago for a night due to delays.  I was so excited to see Scott and the kids.  I missed them terribly, but was also glad I had this special time with my mom and brother.  Scott did an amazing job watching all three kids by himself for 11 days.


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