Going home.

I can not talk about the problems of light vs dark without discussing the pain of loss. I have been in very dark places before and I felt hopelessness, yet I found hope again. I have suffered a broken heart, yet that mended. I felt the empty feeling of abandonment, yet I found I was not alone. Now, I find myself with what can only be described as a dark, large, gaping hole in my heart.

On September 6, 2019 a great man was called home. Oliver Glenn Holmes left his earthly home and set his soul free. He rejoined his loving wife, Mary Eileen Holmes in a place where they are both free from pain.

The morning of September 6, as he sat with a smile on his face, dressed head to foot in his hospital bed he looked over at me and said “I want to go home”. I looked at his face that I loved so much, as I smiled back at him, “I know Dad, I’m working on it”. He just smiled even bigger, and started to sing what I now know is a Johnny Cash song. It took me about a week to find the exact song he sang as he sat in his hospital bed waiting for discharge. I have replayed that moment over and over in my head ten thousand times. I can hear his voice perfectly, like a record player on repeat over and over again.

He is the Dad I did not ask for but the one I needed. He danced with me on my wedding day, and said to me “You have offically become my daughter”.

September 28, 2002

“I Want To Go Home”

Johnny Cash – I want to go home

We sailed on the ship John B, my grandfather and me
Around Nassau town we did roam
Drinking all night, got into a fight
Well, I feel so homesick I wanna go home

So hoist up the John B sail, see how the mainsail sets
Call for the captain ashore, let me go home
Let me go home, why don’t you let me go home?
Well, I feel so homesick I wanna go home

The first mate, he got drunk, broke up the people’s trunk
Constable had to come and take him away
Sheriff John Stone, why don’t you leave me alone?
Well, I feel so homesick I wanna go home

Then the cook, he caught the fits, threw out all of my grits
Then he took and ate up all of my corn
Let me go home, why don’t you let me go home?
Well, this is the worst trip since I have been born

So hoist up the John B sail, see how the mainsail sets
Call for the captain ashore, let me go home
Let me go home, why don’t you let me go home?
Well, I feel so homesick I wanna go home

You see, he was only in the hospital because he had a diabetic ulcer on his foot that required IV antibiotics. He was feeling great that morning, and his foot looked amazing. I was able to “Break him out” of the hospital after 4 days and nights. His nursing staff was sad to see him leave. “Mr. Holmes always has a smile on his face”; “He is my favorite patient”; “I am not assigined to you today, but I wanted to stop in and say hello, and good morning / good night” are some of things I heard as I spend everyday with him, often several hours a day so he was not alone. I realized now that he was not alone, he had wonderful caring people treating him like he was a king, He did not have to ask for anything, not that he did.

I got him settled back into his home, back into his bedroom. He had the look of complete relaxation on his face, a sense of releif. The first thing he did was talk to his little kitty Raven “Hello Kitty-puss, did you miss pop”. I got him set up for the day, reminding him Steve is here if you need anything. He will change your bandage this afternoon. The wound care nurse worked with him, he can do it.

“Ok, Honey. I want to thank you for all you do for me. You go home and turn you phone off, get some sleep” love you too”.

Oliver Glenn Holmes, 9/6/2019 approx 11:40 am

I kissed him on the top of his head like I did thousands of times before, and said “Dad I’ll see you in the morning after I get off work. You call me if you start to feel bad, or your foot starts to hurt, or you need me. I love you” He looked at me and said “Ok, Honey. I want to thank you for all you do for me. You go home and turn your phone off, get some sleep love you too”. I looked at him and smiled, and kissed him again one last time on forehead and said “Turn my phone off?, Never, you can always call and count on me. I’ll go to the store in the morning at get your groceries”. With a big smile on his face that reached all the way up to his eyes as it so often did, he looked strait into my eyes and said, “Ok Honey. I know I can always count on you, I trust you. You have everything you need, I’ll be OK, I love you”. The last words I’ll ever hear from that very ‘adorable, cute man’ as I would so often call him. 

What would I have said if I knew that was going to be our last conversation? I have been asking myself this over the past two weeks. I would have told him, thank you for the past 25 years of being the most amazing Dad to me. I would have told home that I enjoyed our talks, the times we sat with nothing to say. I would tell him how much I loved him and how scared I was, knowing the job I would need to do would be one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done.

I would have told him, just how much he meant to me, and how appreciative I was of all he did. I would have taken so many pictures with him. As I looked for pictures of him, I now realize that i have little to no pictures with him.

I did not say any of those things. I went into talk to Steve giving him a quick update, and that I would see him in the morning, I would get a list from Dad and go to Safeway. Steve knew that he could call me anytime and I would be there in a moments notice. I though about sleeping at the house, in the bed that Dad had just bought for Steve and I. The bed that was not a week old, that Dad knew would mean, his Buddy Steve would be spending time with him again on the weekends, and I now had a place to come when the weather got bad and I could not drive home. I just knew I had very few hours before I needed to be up, and being home was my best option. 

I spoke with Steve after I woke up around 330 pm. Asked how he and Dad were? Is he doing ok? Is he getting up ok to go to the bathroom? How is his foot? How is your head doing (knowing he had a headache that morning). All was fine in the Holmes household. I was good to relax and get ready for work. 

“I trust you. You now have everything you need”.

The words I never understood, that he said to me so many times over the last 15 months.

How could I not understand his meaning.

The call that broke my heart. The call that punched a hole in the middle of my heart came around 638pm.

“Cheryle! Dad is DEAD! He is cold! I did compressions! He is not moving or breathing! He is gone!” was the scared, panicking, and grief stricken voice that was coming through the car speakers of my phone. As, I drove to work. “?What? Call MIKE now get him home, I’m on my way to you now!”

I called my person, the one who would help to kick my brain into high gear. The comfort on the other end of the phone, the voice to pull me from shock, disbelief, and grief. “Jessica, where are you? I need you, Dad is gone, Steve is alone with him in the house. I don’t know what to do? I am 20 minuets away driving to work” Jessica’s voice came back clear and precise “What!! Ok calm down, call 911”. You see she was at work taking care of her own patients. 

The 20 minute drive felt like it took 20 hours. Making necessary calls as i drove. Tears ran down my face, uncontrollable sobs, tearing from me. My emergency flashers turned on, and a sense of focus as I made my way to them.

When I arrived at Dads home, the street was filled with what seemed to be the entire firehouse from West Annapolis Company 40, police cars, family and loved ones standing outside. 

I remember every detail, every face, every word that was said to me. Every call I made looking for someone to tell me, I was still asleep having a nightmare I would wake from. I could not believe what was happening. The scene unfolded in front of my eyes paramedics coming and going, police officers in and out. Comforting hugs, being held so tight trying to keep me from falling apart. Really they were trying to hold me back together. Words of comfort whispered into my ear. 

Flashes came back to me like a movie, replaying in my mind. “Here, hold on to this, keep it safe for me. Put it in a safe box, you will need it, when I am gone”.

November 2018

“Here, Cheryle, this is everything you will need. I trust you”.

What did you know, we did not?

late spring 2018. The large brown file folder I never wanted to open. Suspecting what it was, not wanting to face it.

I did not want to believe it! I could not would not! Until I looked and saw the look on the face of long time family friend, a man who Dad trusted with his life, Vol. Fire Chief Vice. I knew it was real and he was gone. 

I fell strait to the ground on my knees. The gaping hole in my heart grew bigger, hurt more, became more empty that it had ever been. 

The pain of losing a parent is the worst pain a person could ever feel. I can only compare it to when I almost lost my Steve just 4 years ago. 

I was told things like “you have to be strong” “They need you” “It is up to you now to hold them together and take care of them”. “He loved you, so very much” “Ollie told me, how much he appreciated you, and loved you as his daughter not just a daughter-in-law”. I knew exactly who needed me, who I needed to strong for but who was going to be strong for me? Who did I need?

“You have everything you need. I know I can count on you”. I would look at him and say “We are not pulling the trigger just yet, so settle down”. This was a conversation we had many times over the past two years. Each time he just looked at me and smiled.

He knew something, none of us did.

I hugged my grief stricken husband, as he sobbed on my shoulder. I hugged my brother-by-marriage as he arrived to the house, disbelief on his face. I hugged and appreciated seeing the face of my two best friends as they came to comfort me, support me and hold me together. Having the comfort of Courtney, who dropped everything to be with me until her sister could arrive. Sharing my grief, as I did with her when she lost her Poppy a few years ago. 

I knew that the next week was going to be the hard. I called the appropriate people. Made the appropriate arraignments. Family notifications and pulled the strength I knew I needed to get them through this.

I called upon my other strength, the only other person who could help comfort me, calm me and would move heaven and earth to be with me. His voice, so calming reached through the speaker of my phone and immediately calmed me, you see I called the West coast. “I’m booking a flight to you”. I knew I did not have to ask, I knew that I would not need to wait long, because as we say to each other “California is not that far away when you are needed”.  My mom was figuring out how to come and be with me. How could she leave my grandmother who also needed her so desperately too? “Do you want your, mom, to drive over now?” came the voice of my other support and best friend, Leighann. “No, I don’t want her driving in the dark. I love her and know she would be here in an instant”. How could I ask her to do that, and drive in the dark, what if something was to happen, I could not lose two parents in one night. My mom who has been there for me so many times, who loved me without judgment. I knew as soon as I heard her voice, I would break. I would not be able to hold myself together any longer. If there was ever a time, I needed her it was now, but I also knew that if I did that I could not do the things I needed to do, and push my heartache and grief aside. I needed to compartmentalize my feelings and deal with the matter at hand. My husband and Brothers counted on me.

Jessica, the one who I knew in an instant would be at my side without question, went into the house with me. She knew I could not do it alone. She knew that I needed to do it, to make it real. I needed to do this, i had to do it.

I walked down the hall as I did so many times before. He was there. Lying on the floor in his room, covered with a sheet. The room was so quiet and still. I wanted to fall on the floor and die right next to him. I wanted to run over and tell him to wake up. But, I knew I could not. I simply looked at him, “you said you wanted to go home, I thought you meant THIS home (as I pointed at the house), not home-HOME (as I pointed up). DAMN you, why did you leave me”? The tears came back again like an avalanche of grief.

Grief does things to your body and mind. In the 2 weeks since he left, I have lost about 20 lbs, every time I try to eat, I simply have no appetite. I get sick and lose all interest in food or drink. 

When does the grief end?

Going home…Part I

2 thoughts on “Going home.

  1. My thoughts & prayers have been with u & Steve ever since I heard about him loosing his dad. U r a strong & loving person cheyrle, God will carry all of u through this sad time. This article makes me sad, I don’t understand all of it, but I’m always there for u if u need me, love CAROL

  2. Cheryle, I had just reread your posting about your journey with Steve. Life is kinda bad for me right now and have no one to talk to. My problems are of my own making but having female problems again has brought me down. Thanks for listening. I know you and Steve are finding comfort in each other, just know I am thinking of you two.

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