Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A stream of consciousness on losing my Daddy...


I will never forget where I was or how I felt in the moments leading up to “that moment”.  The suck the breath right out of your very body, suffocating, life will never, ever be the same “moment”.

As you may or may not know, I am pregnant. With #5! I know, holy shit right!  I thought that very same thing.  Anyway, pregnancy causes my migraines to heighten. That Friday night my brother Adam had come over to hang out because he is awesome like that. I was sick as hell, but trying desperately to avoid the hospital...again.  I woke up that Saturday worse than ever. Dave had to work so Adam took me, bless his heart.  They drugged me and gave me fluids all the while my brother waited patiently beside me.  He stepped out to give Dad a call to see how things were going at the State meet that morning.  He did not answer....

When Adam came back in the nurse said I was still pretty dehydrated and they wanted to give me another bag of fluids so I sent Adam on his way telling him I would call Dave for a ride when I needed one.  

Awhile later as I am trying to get a ride home, but to no avail due to spotty cell service in the hospital, a random text comes through.  Without going into detail it said something to the effect of I am so sorry to hear the horrible new about your dad...etc. etc.”  Remember I had been sick for days and finally quite drugged so I wasn’t really grasping what was happening, however I knew immediately that something wasn’t right.  No one types that kind of text by accident.  The nurse came in and the look on my face must have spoken volumes because she asked if I was ok. I told her what had happened and she promptly took out her cell phone for me to use.  I called Dave and told him I got a weird text about Dad to which he played it off all casually saying he would call my Mom to figure out what was going on.  Little did I know what was happening behind the scenes. Well if you know how close my Dad and I were then you know I wasn’t about to just sit there, so I called my Mom. She answered and I could tell this was bad. She handed the phone off to my Aunt who was basically stalling by repeating herself so I didn’t have to find out alone.  Then just as “that moment” was about to hit me alone in a hospital room, Dave and my brother came barreling through my door. I knew by their faces that he was gone. He grabbed the phone from me, slammed it down and choked out “he didn’t make it”.  I looked from Dave to Adam, Adam to Dave and then the wailing began. Loud and long. I was screaming no, how did this happen. 
No one came in. Everyone there seemed to know and they allowed my crying to permeate the entire ER.

Almost as quickly as I started crying, I stopped. I checked myself out of the ER as the shock set in nearly immediately.  I can’t say I have ever felt this kind of shock. There has been bone chilling fear with Paxton and shock at his initial diagnosis but there was always a shred of hope.  My Dad had died. There was no hope and this shock was an altogether different thing.  My brain had a tremendously hard time really understanding that he was gone.  I knew that he was, people were telling me that he was, but my brain wasn’t making the connection. There were no more tears for days. Friends came over and later asked me if I remember seeing them at all I seemed so out of it. I remember the rest of that day and the days after as a blurry panning of a movie camera.  I saw what was happening but my eyes just scanned back and forth as I went through the motions. I wound up back in the ER that same night. The pain in my head so bad. The nausea and vomiting even worse. My dear neighbor drove me back and sat in the dark with me as I held a framed picture of my Dad to my heart for hours as they medicated and hydrated me again.  

I came home and forced myself not to think about it. I knew I could be nothing to my Mom, brother and sister who needed me if I continued to be as sick as I had been. My health was on a cliff and this news had the ability to fling me over if I wasn’t very very careful. 

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My Dad... well, he was some kind of awesome.  A simple google of his name will tell you what a devoted Coach he was. I could write for hours and hours about all of the lives he impacted and changed. Adults and children alike.  l touched on that devotion in my funeral speech..   (pasted if here if you weren’t there)

Good morning!  As you may or may not know, I am Jennie, Coach’s oldest daughter. Oldest by a lot of years actually.  My Dad had me when he was just a young college student.  Oh’ but even then he was as incredible as he was when he left us.  He turned out being a single dad with a very young baby for many years.  I don’t know a lot of men at the age of 21 that want to take on raising a baby on their own.  I am sure it doesn’t surprise any of you that he did though.  You see, I knew my Dad before all of this. Before he ever made the newspapers or won the state championships. Just as he has watched me evolve over the years, I was able to do the same with him. It seems time did nothing but perfect him.  

Today will be one week exactly that I found out my father had crossed his final finish line.  The shock is still as heavy as the day I was told.  The ache grows deeper every day.  The reality that I will never see him again can be all consuming at times, but then I pause and look around at all of you here now or look on facebook or any given newspaper and see the articles, the tributes, the thank yous, the love and i think “jenn that's YOUR dad.”  Your dad has touched all of these hundreds of hundreds of people in such a profound way that years later they are coming in droves to say good bye to him and that sadness turns honor. I am honored to be his daughter.   I remember when I went to high school among these very walls that I never had a name, i was always simply “coach sommers daughter”  everyone called me that and that pride ran deep.  I was the daughter of the man that everyone loved... ok and lets be real, that many hated come speedwork time.  

I don’t know why my dad was taken so soon.  I will never know.  I only know that he spent his entire life making sure Adam, Ashely and I turned out to be good people.  Kind people.  Tough people.  People who worked hard. Knew that things could always be so much worse.  I never understood when I got sad or frustrated why my dad would firmly say “ you think you have it bad Jennie, there are kids all over fighting for their lives in hospitals...” and he would let that simmer.  It sunk in and many, many years later I would come to find out just exactly what he meant when I would look at my own son fighting for his life in a hospital.  He was preparing me all along.  I can stand up here today and speak in front of you because my Dad prepared me for anything that life throws my way. I can still hear him saying “you gotta hit the curve balls bean.”  

Daddy, wherever you are please know that I love you “MORESTER” and while you would always reply and i quote that's impossible, there is just no love like a daddys little girls love.

I can only hope I made him as proud as he makes me.  I hope I can be half the parent to my children that my Dad was to me.  I hope that his legacy lives on in all of you. He may be gone, but the work, the time, the effort and the love he put into us is not.  He has been preparing ALL of us all along how to be Sommer strong.  


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Time has now turned into two phases. Before and after. Before I lost my Dad and after.  My thoughts continually rush in and each one now holds a before or after on the end of it. Oh’ look there is where we had that race we all went to “before” Dad died.  Or I was driving down this road in this very spot when that song came on that I sobbed through “after” Dad died. Before. After. Before. After.  I presume this will fade as time marches on.  I presume this fog that I am constantly living in will lift. I pray the pain will ease, because it is so very, very heavy.  I try to continue because I know he wouldn’t want us to roll over, but getting out of bed is hard.  I just want to lay with the shirt he died in wrapped around my neck for all of eternity, but I can’t because I have 4 little sets of eyes depending on me to be ok.  Learning from me, watching my every move as I navigate through this grief.  I think of how he would want me to present myself and I do it, for him, and then when my babies are all tucked into bed I retreat to my room and fall apart.  I cry endless, hot, wet tears full of longing for a simple chance to say good bye. To tell him I love him.  Just like all of the quotes tell you to do...  

I know he knew though. I know as he took his final breaths that his wife and children were what was on his mind. I know this beyond the shadow of a doubt. After his first heart attack he would always tell me “all I want is to be around long enough that my children will be old enough to be ok.”  Over and over he would tell me this. My Dad and I had a sort of a mutually morbid way about us.  I think perhaps watching my Grandma (his mom) die a long, slow death from Leukemia grew that in us.  I can remember having conversations with him about how we wanted to die. Dad always said fast. He didn’t want to suffer and I would always say no Alzheimer's, I couldn’t imagine forgetting him.  We would go back and forth but the conclusion always remained the same, I want to make it until I know my kids will be ok.  His wish was granted.  We all will be ok.  As hard as it seems right now, I know that we will be ok. All of us. And his wish has now become mine for my children.

The last newspaper count was 1,800 people that attended his service.  That’s one thousand eight hundred people!!!  I don’t think I have even encountered that many people in my lifetime, let alone made such an impact on them that they should all want to come say one last final good bye. Many people have told me they are changed because of this.  I think anyone at his funeral could look around and think how few people there are out there as selfless as he.  So giving. So kind. He may have only been granted 58 years, but I’ll be damned if he ever wasted a single day of them.  Not a single day went by that he wasn’t helping, motivating or pushing someone to be better than they ever knew they could be.  He gave so much of himself. The man never slept.
“I will have plenty of time to rest when I am dead.” He said it all the time. Someone wrote somewhere to him “Rest Easy Coach, you deserve it,” and I will be damned if that ain’t the truth.

I remember seeing him the Friday before the service. We had a private family viewing.  I was not in favor of seeing him from the start, but it isn’t all about me, so I lost that battle. In the end, it was a battle I am glad I lost.  I will never forget the first glance at him as the entire back of my body clung to the wall for support.  I hesitantly poked my head around and nearly fell to the ground.  I thought I had prepared myself. I had not.  I looked to my brother, eyes as wide as saucers I am sure, and he said to me “I don’t think I can go in there”.  I knew then we had to do this together. So I grabbed his hand and together we walked over to see our deceased Dad.  I reminded myself over and over again that “Dad” wasn’t in this body anymore.  It was just his shell. Oh’ but I loved that shell. That giant smile, he so graciously bestowed to me when I was born. His hands that rubbed my temples when I couldn’t sleep at night.  The ears he listened to me with for 35 years, bless his heart.  I wanted it all back. ALL of him.  I stood there, staring over him, completely shell shocked.  My Dad was gone. Forever.  I would never hug him or talk to him again.  I then sat in the chair and the shock began to dissipate into loud, gut wrenching sobs.  My Daddy was gone.  

Eventually my sister and I went back up to his casket where together we held hands and touched him.  He was cold. I expected that, but once we got the initial touch over with we bathed him in love. Talked to him. Held his hands. Rubbed his face and sneakily wiped the stupid lipstick off his lips.  He would not have been cool with that lipstick man.  

In the midst of our sadness and deep grief, we laughed.  Saying he needed bronzer. Saying he didn’t smell like stinky, sweaty Dad, to which my husband offered to put one of his shoes in the casket.  We joked that we kept waiting for him to pop up and say “Ha, just f*&ckin” with ya!” because that’s my Dad.  He was funny. He was perverted. He joked constantly and if he could have popped up and did that to us he SO would have. We said we wouldn’t even be mad.  The humor sneaking its way into the sadness was exactly what he would have wanted.  There is always a reason to smile and laugh.  He left us with a lifetime full of laughter, funnies and above all....LOVE.  

Saturday after the service as they asked us to say our final good byes, I panicked. Suddenly this body that terrified me at first was my only lifeline to Dad and I didn’t want them to take him away. I laid on him and sobbed, knowing this is the last I would see of my Daddy in this lifetime.  That hurts to a depth my writer self doesn’t have words for.  

As the day came to a close and people told me how strong I was, how proud he would be, I began to realize that his body was not, in fact, my only lifeline to him. It was actually very much the opposite.  Everything he taught me through the years was. The wisdom, the love, the strength, the humor, the kindness. All of those things are my lifeline to Dad and they can never be taken away. Continuing to live the life he adamantly instilled in us is and always will be the final, never ending connection to the single, greatest man I have ever known...



"MORESTER" forever and ever Daddy!

Love, 
"Jennie Bean"


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