Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The call that you get at 4:45 a.m., the one about your dad


The phone rang at 4:45 a.m. this morning; I saw my mom's number on Caller ID and I knew. "Ellen, Daddy passed away in his sleep," she said. Max was in our bed; he heard my sobs, shook his head to say "Please don't be sad" and covered my face with kisses.

It was the call I knew would inevitably come, the one you're never prepared for.

I haven't talked about my dad much here, out of respect for his privacy. He had Parkinson's that started eight years ago. It was a slow-progressing form that worsened in the last year, and particularly in the last few weeks. He grew fuzzy and unresponsive; I will forever be grateful that whenever I saw him, he knew who I was. Then suddenly, his legs could no longer hold him. Last week, he couldn't down solid foods, due to reduced control of his mouth and throat muscles. It's called dysphagia; Max has it, too.

It was one of the ironies of my life: I had a dad with weakening muscles who needed therapy to function, and I had a baby with weak muscles who needed therapy to function. My father had high hopes for Max. He was excited to see the progress he was making, especially because he understood the obstacles he had to overcome.

My father devoured newspapers, newsletters, news programs. In college and for years afterward, he'd send me interesting articles he'd clipped out—articles about Omega-3's and how they're good for the brain, articles about establishing a trust for Max. He knew about so many things before I did. I remember him telling me about something he'd found particularly fascinating. "It's called Google," he said. "You can look anything up on it. It's going to be revolutionary. Get the stock!"

He would have appreciated this blog and been fascinated by the powers of Facebook, Twitter and other technology that came along too late in his life. He would have been proud of my taking a stand on the r-word last week. "They're nincompoops, ignore 'em," he would have said of people who left jerk-y comments.

He was an incredibly devoted dad who was always showing us new things—places, puppet shows, museums, plays, ballets. He was the designated dad in high school who'd pick me and my friends up from parties at night and drive us home.

He instilled in me a love for reading, traveling, learning and butter pecan ice-cream—one of his only food weaknesses. He was into health food long before it was trendy; when I was a kid, he grew bean sprouts in a glass jar at home and made his own yogurt. Sunday mornings, he'd cook up the most foul concoction of oatmeal with wheat germ, bran, millet and sesame seeds, and we'd have big fights when I refused to eat it.

This morning, Dave sprinkled flax seed into his yogurt. "It's in memory of your dad," he said.

Last night, coming home from work, I bumped into a guy from my neighborhood who told me his dad had died a month ago. I told him my dad was ailing, and that I'd be seeing him today. "That's good you're going to see him," he said. "See him while you can."

I didn't get the chance, and I'm pretty torn up about that. But I am consoled by the fact that my father died in his sleep and that he was at home, where he wanted to be. And that he lived a long, good life.

If he were around right now, he'd tell me to go eat an apple and get some sleep. I think I will.

147 comments:

  1. I'm so so sorry for your loss.
    There are no words.

    Sending lots of love.

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  2. So sorry for your loss Ellen. BIG HUGS! xox

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  3. Oh, Ellen. I am so sorry. So sorry. I have had that call. I know this hurt.

    LOVE. So much love to you.

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  4. I am so sorry for your loss. Thoughts for you and your entire family.

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  5. Oh Ellen. I'm so very sorry. I don't know this loss yet. I can only imagine your pain. My deepest sympathies to you and your entire family.

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  6. This is about as bad as it gets. I'm really sorry for your loss. I really am.

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  7. Ellen,

    I am so sorry. :( Sending you so much love right now and wishing I could give you a giant hug.

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  8. Oh no. I am so sorry to read this. Senfing out big hugs and love to you and your family tonight.

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  9. I am so sorry for your loss. You brought tears to my eyes.

    I'll be sending prayers to you and your family during this sad time.

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  10. I was crying and smiling as I read this. You summed it up pretty well. He was always trying to get us interested in new things and I don't think we always appreciated his efforts. Remember how he ate an apple every night before going to bed? I was also thinking how much he would have enjoyed the internet and all it has to offer. Considering he lived without it, he still managed to read a lot and learn so much and he tried to pass his knowledge on to us. We should be thankful that we had him for as long as we did and that he was not really in pain and that he died peacefully in his sleep at home, where he was most comfortable.

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  11. Oh honey. I am so sorry. Big hugs to you Ellen!

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  12. So sorry for your loss. I know from experience how much this call hurts. My thoughts are with you and your family.

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  13. I'm so sorry for your loss. May his memory be a blessing to you.

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  14. So sorry for your loss Ellen.

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  15. So profoundly sorry for your loss. I took my boys to see their 96 yr old great grandma last Thursday. Was really hard for us to see her in her condition, but I'm glad we had that last opportunity. Not sure how long it will be now.

    Blessings & prayers,

    Mimi @bigguysmama

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  16. Your love for your dad radiates through this post. He was an amazing man, and he clearly raised an amazing daughter and inspired amazing grandkids! :) We'll be keeping him and your family in our thoughts and hearts. Sending you lots of love and hugs!

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  17. I'm so sorry about your Dad. ((Hugs)) to you and your family.

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  18. Oh Ellen,

    I am praying of you and your family. All my love to you all.

    Love.

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  19. I am so sorry. Sending love to the whole family.

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  20. What a loving tribute. May your dad rest in peace and your family find solace in memories of his life.

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  21. What a beautiful tribute to your dad. My thoughts & prayers are with you & your family.

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  22. I'm so sorry for your loss. How blessed you were with a wonderful dad!

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  23. Oh Ellen. I have tears rolling down my face. Your tribute to your Dad is beautiful and it is obvious what a special man he was. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your entire family during this difficult time.

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  24. Please accept my condolences. I'm so sorry.

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  25. Carl's Sister/AdvocateMarch 8, 2011 at 10:38 PM

    Very sorry for your loss... I'm a huge Daddy's girl and can't imagine what you are going through.

    Sending lots of love and good thoughts.

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  26. I'm so sorry to hear about your dad's passing, Ellen. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. Sending lots of love your way!

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  27. I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my dad to an extended terminal illness a year ago. Even knowing that death is imminent doesn't make it any easier when the time comes. Take care of yourself in this difficult time.

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  28. Oh, Ellen. My friend. I am so, so sorry. Once again, your eloquence brought tears to my eyes, but this time, my heart really hurts for you.

    Your dad sounds like an incredible man. He would be so very proud of you.

    Hugs from MD--
    amy

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  29. Ellen, I'm sorry. I lost my mom six years ago...and I miss her every day. Your dad is smiling down on you as you remember him today. Hugs.

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  30. Oh Ellen -- I'm so sorry!

    Thank you for sharing the story of your Dad's remarkable life.

    It IS a gift that your dad died in his sleep -- and at home!

    It will be the second anniversary of my Dad's death next week. He had a horrible death in hospital and he sooooo wanted to go home.

    I bet your Dad is so proud of you. Louise

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  31. So sorry to hear about your dad, he sounded like an amazing super father, love Mel xxx

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  32. So sorry,Ellen.Thank you for sharing what a remarkable man your father was.

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  33. thank you for sharing such beautiful memories of a beautiful father, husband, grandfather.

    may his memory be for a blessing.

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  34. Oh Ellen. I'm so sorry. Your words about your dad were just beautiful and I thank you for sharing with us.

    Prayers being sent up for you and your family.

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  35. Oh no!

    I just loved your dad in his unique hat. I am so sad for you!

    I know the pain of losing a spouse and a grandparent. I can't imagine how terrible it must be to lose a parent, especially since I rely on mine so much.

    Maybe you should take a few days off, it might not hit you straightaway.

    Your tribute to your dad says it all--he was obviously a wonderful guy who was very loved, and a fierce advocate for those he loved. Anyone who uses the word "nincompoop" is a star in my book!

    Big hugs to you all.

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  36. So very sorry to hear about your dad. Your family will be in our thoughts and prayers

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  37. Thinking of you and your family during this time of loss. May the support of your friends and loved ones guide you through the days ahead.

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  38. I am so sorry Ellen, my thoughts are with you.

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  39. He sounds wonderful. I'm so sad for you. What a man to miss. Xxx

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  40. There can be no higher goal attainable in my eyes, than to have a long life filled with interest, and to go quietly in one's sleep knowing, as your post so clearly shows, that your children love you.

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  41. So sorry to hear that. He sounds like he was an amazing man that loved his family lots.

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  42. My condolences. Take care of yourself.

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  43. Your father sounds like an amazing man. I'm sorry for your loss.

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  44. I am so very sorry for your loss. I know what it is to receive just that 'phone call. Love and best wishes to you all. You have written a beautiful tribute to your father.

    Lynn

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  45. Ellen, I am so sorry for your loss, he sounds amazing and be comforted to know he is well and watching over both you and Max. Big hugs to you today!

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  46. I am so sorry for your loss Ellen. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time.

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  47. I am so deeply sorry for your loss. Thinking of you...

    Sending love across the wires,
    Courtney
    www.lovewilllead.com

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  48. Sorry for your loss Ellen.

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  49. Stephanie PinksterMarch 9, 2011 at 7:31 AM

    So sorry for your loss Ellen!! You and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers this week. May the Lord hold you tightly in His grip as you endure this loss. And I hope you feel the love and support that is so clearly evident here :-)

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  50. Ellen, I'm so very sorry for your loss. I hope you can find peace in his passing.
    On a different note, look at Max's big Buddha belly! So cute!

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  51. He sounds like such an incredible man. What a gift that he and Max got to know and understand each other.

    Hugs to you.

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  52. May God comfort you among the mourners of Tzion. I am sorry for your loss.

    I have a friend who passed recently who has a severely autistic child. Everyone noticed, in the months after, that he is actually doing better. Why? Because if she took this world by storm , imagine what she did in the next.

    I bet your father is up there right now advocating for Max, and your whole family, taking Heaven by storm.

    He sounds like an amazing man.

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  53. I'm so sorry for your loss...he sounded like a wonderful man. It is great he got to know Max and Sabrina. Sending prayers...

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  54. Ellen, I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

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  55. We are praying for your family Ellen. I know you will miss him greatly.

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  56. What a special and wonderful dad you had, I hope you find some peace in that.

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  57. I'm so very sorry! Love and hugs to you and your family. He sounds like a very special guy.

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  58. So sorry for your loss Ellen! Thoughts and prayers are with your entire family!

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  59. Words can not express my sadness for your loss. I lost my dad almost 7 years ago and I miss him every single day. I smile more when I think of him now and cry less often. Keep friends and family close and enjoy them every single day.

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  60. Oh, Ellen ... my deepest condolences to you and your family. I'm so sorry.

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute to your dad. He sounds like a truly remarkable man, and I am sure he was (and is) proud of all of you.

    You will be in my thoughts and prayers. Much love.

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  61. Sorry Ellen, Max, Dave and Sabrina. ((hugs))

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  62. Ellen, I am sorry for that news. But I am so glad that you have all those wonderful memories of a very special father.

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  63. I am so sorry, may you find comfort in those closest to you.

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  64. Oh man... I have no words...

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  65. You've written about your Dad a few times (the one about the special "leaf" hat your dad wore is a favorite post of mine). Even in pictures, your dad had the most appealing sparkle in his eyes - like he was just about to let the rest of us in on the joke. I can see that same sparkle in Max and Sabrina, too.

    I'm so sorry, Ellen. Please give yourself time to grieve and be extra nice to yourself. Lots of love to you and your family.
    -Julia

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  66. So sorry for your life. So happy that your father got to know Max. Sending lots of hugs.

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  67. Ellen, I am so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute to your dad this post is; it sounds like he was an incredible himan being and a wonderful father. Sending you loving thoughts and condolences.

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  68. I'm very sorry for your loss. Your Dad sounds like he was a wonderful man.

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  69. Ellen, I am so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute - he sounds like a wonderful man! Praying for your family.

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  70. Oh Ellen, I am so very sorry. The photo of him is so beautiful, with his sparkly eyes, and I'm just so very sad for you. Love, love, love, Emily

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  71. Oh Ellen, I am so sorry. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. My deepest sympathies and we're thinking about you tons. Love, Cooper

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  72. Ellen, I'm so sorry. I know the hurt your heart and whole body must be feeling right now and I ache that you have to feel it.

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  73. What a wonderful tribute to your father. I'm so sorry for your loss and your family's loss.

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  74. Ellen, I'm so very sorry. Your dad sounds like a wonderful man.

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  75. So sorry for your loss, Ellen.

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  76. I'm so sorry. We're never prepared for that call that's so hard to receive.

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  77. Sorry, and I thank your dad for your gift of words. He sounds like a wonderful man and a huge blessing to you.

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  78. damnit Ellen, I'm sorry. I have a similar situation in my life that hasn't yet reached that point and I dread the day I get that call. Hugs x infinity to you.

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  79. Sorry to read of your loss. Seating with you as you rest.
    It's hard to loose your dad.

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  80. Very sorry to hear about your Dad Ellen. At least you were able to see him right up to the end. That is something you will always have.

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  81. What an amazing man your father was! Thank you for sharing that with all of us. Even if you had spent the entire day with your father, it probably wouldn't have felt like enough. You father knew you loved him, and he knows you love him now. You two are bound together forever.

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  82. Ellen, I am so sorry for your loss. Much love to you and your family. There is nothing like losing a parent. Nothing.
    Hugs to you, be good to yourself.

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  83. Ellen,
    I'm just so sad for you. It took me four tries to read your whole post. It's clear you loved your Dad very much. My heart aches for you. I'll write very soon... but for now please know I wish I could hug you. Thank God you have Max to kiss away your tears.
    xoxo
    kate.

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  84. I'm sorry for your loss, and got goosebumps when I read that Max covered your face in kisses to comfort you.

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  85. Oh my goodness have cried all the way through that! ellen i am so so sorry for your loss but oh yes your dad would be so proud of your blog and your standing for our special special community, we are proud of you as well. so precious max kissing you and your dad posting you cuttings with info again so wonderful! the apple hasnt fallen far from the tree in you and take it from another mum who recieved the dad call in the night, his voice will live on forever in you, i have made decisions based on my dads advice after he left me as i still hear his words all the time. love and hugs honey xxxxx

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  86. Ellen, that was a beautiful tribute to your Dad - I was fortunate to have known him and he was quite an interesting man. He loved his family.

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  87. I'm so sorry for your loss. I lost my dad last April. My thoughts are with you.

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  88. Really sorry , family is the most important thing in the world , he sounds like a wonderful dad

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  89. Ellen, I am so so so so so sorry. It sounds like he was a great guy. That picture you have of him wearing the toque with the pot leaf and thinking its a maple leaf is so FUNNY...extra because I'm from Canada...
    May you find peace in this hard time

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  90. Oh Ellen, there are no words. I know how I felt when I got the call about my own father 2 1/2 years ago. Your tribute is beautiful and I am more than certain he would be most proud of your blog. Your love for and how proud you are of your father definitely shows. Amazing how Max understands without saying any words, you know exactly what he was saying.

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  91. So sorry to hear about your dad. He sounds like a wonderful man. My thoughts are with you.

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  92. Im sorry for your family's loss, Ellen, and I'm grateful that you took time to share about your dad with us!

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  93. I am so sorry for your loss. Your Dad sounds like an amazing man. Sending out positive thoughts to you and your family.

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  94. Ellen, I am very sorry for your loss. Your dad sounds like he was a wonderful man.

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  95. I'm very sorry to hear about your father's passing. No words can take away the pain, but do know there are so many of us in the blogosphere thinking of you and wishing you peace, comfort, and love.

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  96. I am truly saddened to hear about your dad. My mom also has Parkinson's and is having trouble swallowing as well. She is in weak health. I know how you feel. My heart goes out to you.

    What a lovely post to remember him by. He sounds like a wonderful man.

    (Not sure if this was received - said there was an error so I sent it again!)

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  97. ((((((HUGS)))))))) to you and your family, Ellen. My prayers are with you.

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  98. Ellen, so very sorry for your loss. Your post is a beautiful tribute.

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  99. I'm so sorry for your loss. Saying extra prayers tonight for you.

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  100. So sorry for your loss, I lost my Dad 12 years ago. It's a loss you never get over, but the passage of time makes it possible to think of them and feel the joy of memory, not always the aching pain of loss. Bless you on this journey.

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  101. Ellen, I am so sorry. Love to you and your family at this very, very hard and sad time. xoxox

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  102. I'm so sorry for your loss...

    I had that call a few months ago. It hurts so much.

    Big hugs for you and your familly.

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  103. My condolences. Dads leave a life void that simply cannot be filled. Mine's been gone for almost 12 years now. He loved my Tucker unconditionally, although he didn't know what to do with it most of the time.

    Here's to warm memories...

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  104. May God comfort and keep you and your family during this difficult time. Thinking of you.

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  105. Ellen,

    I'm so sorry for your loss. My condolences.

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  106. I'm so sorry for the loss of your father. He sounded like a wonderful caring Dad and Grandpa and all around great guy. Please know that I am thinking of you and your family as you go through this. Im crying along with you. {{{HUGS}}}
    Sarah O.
    Mom to Abby

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  107. Hi,

    My condolences go out to you and your family. I know what it's like to lose a dearly loved parent. Both of my parents are gone so I know what the void feels like.

    May God bless you with His peace,

    Rebecca G.

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  108. I am so sorry, Ellen. My condolences to you and the whole family.

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  109. I'm so sad to hear of your loss. Your words celebrate your father so beautifully. Sending much love and thoughts to you and your family.

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  110. I'm so sorry Ellen. Thank you for sharing about your dad though - it's great to keep his memory alive that way. He sounds like he was an amazing man and reading about him made me smile. (((((HUGS)))))

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  111. I'm so very sorry for your loss.

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  112. I am so sorry for your loss. Your Dad sounds like a very special man. My heart goes out to you. I know how hard it is to lose your Dad.

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  113. Ellen,
    I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing this lovely story and some of the good memories. He sounds like a wonderful Dad, Grandpa and Husband, and I am sure he was so much more than that.

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  114. I'm very sorry, Ellen. I hope your memories of your wonderful Dad bring you and your mother and your family some measure of comfort.

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  115. Good thoughts to you and your family, Ellen.

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  116. I was standing in CVS thinking, "How would I write about loss like Ellen's?" I knew you'd write something beautiful and I was right. Dave's breakfast made me cry. You're so fortunate to have such a great family. Let us know if you need anything.

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  117. I'm so sorry for your loss. Your dad sounds like an amazing man. I'm sure he was just as proud of you as he was for Max. Hope you took his Google advice.

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  118. Ellen: just wanted to say how sorry I am. Your father sounds lovable and amazing. I am thinking of you and your family, and wishing you peace.

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  119. Oh Ellen, I am so sorry for your loss. I can relate, as I lost my grandmother last week. She was much like my mother. What wonderful memories you have, wonderful stories. Big, big hugs!

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  120. I'm so sorry for the loss of your father. My grandfather has Parkinson's along with having a couple of strokes over the years. It is hard to watch. What a wonderful tribute to your dad, I feel like I almost knew him :) It sounds like he was a wonderful man, who raised a wonderful daughter, and you have some wonderful memories of him. His legacy will live through you, and Max. Sending you prayers during this difficult time and the days ahead as you say goodbye to your father.

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  121. Steve & I are so sorry for your loss. You will never lose the memories of your dad and those memories will dry your tears and make you smile soon. You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers. <3

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  122. So sorry for your families loss, he sounded like such an interesting man, much ahead of his time. He had the greatest gift of all- to have loved & to have been loved.
    Prayers to your family..

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  123. I know how you feel, Ellen. Even a year & a half after his death, I miss my dad every day. I wish you peace in your grief.

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  124. Your dad sounds a lot like my dad michelle is right he will live on through u and his Grandkids.I hope he rests in peace.

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  125. Oh Ellen, I am so sorry for your loss. From a lurker who is inspired and takes courage everyday from your blog.

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  126. May your father's memory come to be an abiding blessing.

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  127. I'm so sorry to hear this. Virtual hugs for you, Ellen.

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  128. Ellen, this is a beautiful post about your dad, as was the tribute you gave him on his last birthday. He will always be with you and when Max and Sabrina do something that you want to tell him about, think of him and be grateful that you had him in your life. He was a blessing.

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  129. Thinking of you and your whole family this week. We love you.

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  130. So glad that in that moment you had someone to shower you with kisses and that your memories are so robust. Wishing you a gentle passage through this early grief.

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  131. It is clear, from knowing you Ellen, that your Dad was a wonderful man who passed on many gifts to everyone he touched.

    HUGS to you and your family.

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  132. I'm so happy that you had such an amazing man as your father, and I am so sorry for your loss. This journal has been here for me when I've needed to hear something positive (or just something I can commiserate with). I hope that all the positive, caring thoughts that your many readers are sending to you now will help you heal.

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  133. I'm sorry for your loss. Your dad sounds like an amazing man!

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  134. I am so glad you were able to have such an amazing father. I am so sorry for you and your family's pain at this time.

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  135. My heart is with you, I'm so sorry for your loss, my friend.

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  136. I'm so sorry for your loss. My prayers are with you during this difficult time.

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  137. My heart goes out to you and your family, Ellen. He must have been a great guy, because he surely did a great job with you.

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  138. I loooove the baby photos of Max! <3

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  139. Oh Ellen, I'm so very sorry for your loss. Sending you much love and virtual hugs.

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  140. Ellen, I'm so sorry for your loss. Our thoughts are with you and your family.

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  141. Keeping you and your family in my thoughts, Ellen. So sorry to hear about your loss.

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  142. Oh Ellen,
    We are so deeply sorry. We just learned now through this post. Our thoughts are with you, Dave, Max and Sabrina.
    All of our love,
    Jackie and Andy

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  143. I am very sorry to hear this. Many hugs from me to you and your family

    -Patricia

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Thanks for sharing!