Sudden Death (20 years ago)


Tony Wiewel with his trademark bow tie.

20 years ago today was my Dad’s last day. Of course, who knows these things at the time?  I surely would have called to say goodbye or I love you or to thank him for about a million things.  He probably would have spent his last day in a different way too if only he knew.

Instead, he went to work like every other day.  Stopped home for lunch like always and snuck in a little nap in the chair before returning to the office.  He and my mom finished off the day at a high school basketball game.  No one had a clue.

My son was working on a high school genealogy project and tried to call him that night to get some birth and death dates for his side of the family. Oh well, he would try again Friday.

Dad and Mom knelt to say their prayers as was their ritual for their 45 years of marriage and I’m sure his falling asleep thoughts had nothing to do with his life being over in a few hours. He walked to the bathroom sometime during the night and that’s where he stepped into eternity.

Sometime around 4:45 AM my phone rang.  No one calls in the middle of the night just to say “Hi.”  I took the next train downstate and the heat didn’t work that night on the Amtrak.  I felt so cold for so many reasons.

My husband and kids drove down the next day and I remember a trip to K-mart to buy funeral clothes for the kids.  We just hadn’t needed them yet. No one had a clue.

My brothers and Mom and I kept reminding ourselves he would have wanted it this way:  fast, no lingering, no nursing home but that didn’t make it any easier for us.

One thing that did make it easier was that we had no regrets.  Dad knew we all loved him and saw him as often as we could.  Oh we had some issues during the coming-of-age years but most of us do. Those were long resolved.

When I returned a few days later I noticed my son’s genealogy poster with my Dad’s death date now filled in. Who knew from the time the assignment was given until the day it was due how much our world would change?

20 years… No one had a clue.  I hope I do.

PS I wrote about my dad once before


2 Responses to “Sudden Death (20 years ago)”

  1. 1 janet shell peterson February 24, 2014 at 3:57 PM

    it’s funny, tish, how our lives have many parallels through the time and miles. i enjoyed reading your essay on your dad’s last day. you have a beautiful way of wording things.
    sunday, december 18, 1977…we had just moved to pittsburgh with our one year old. being so close to christmas, i already had a plane reservation to bring baby nancy back to chicago to visit the folks for new years. in the afternoon, i talked on the phone to my mom, gave her flight details and so on. towards the end of our conversation, my dad got on the “extension” where we briefly chatted. i remember like it was yesterday that i said to him, “i love you daddy.”
    at 11:11 pm, the phone rang, my mom crying and saying, “we lost daddy.” my dad, with only one day of work left before his retirement (and i will use your words here) stepped into eternity. and i was cold and couldn’t stop shaking for days. his sudden passing was the first major shock of my life, and to this day i still miss him. janet

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