Beginnings and Endings

The Nose called.

“Talk to Dad- here he is.”

He`d been sick.

“Hey Dad- I`ll be there on the 23rd. Just dropping our stuff in Montreal first.”

His voice had changed since he`d gotten sick- a sickness of unknown origin. Maybe when men get old their voices change again.

“I don`t know why you girls are so worked up. I`ll be here. Take care of your family.”

That`s all I needed to hear. He let me off the hook. The Clampitts were pulling up the stakes. The movers were scheduled to arrive in two weeks. The Offspring had exams soon.  The 23rd was only a month away. He didn`t sound that sick. Spouse had gone ahead to Montreal 6 months ago. Dad needed to wait until after the move to get really sick.

But the Nose didn`t sound right. I know her as my sister, but the woman on the phone sounded like her day job- a physician. Someone who deals with very ill people every day- the emergency room, the critical care unit- places where patients can`t talk. Guarded, efficient, ensuring I said hello.

I called back.

“How sick is he? Like not going to make it until I get there?”

“I don`t know. Maybe not.”

A 14 hour flight, no one to look after the kids, a giant earthquake- all these obstacles jumped to the forefront. And so did all the angels in my life who flew in to take over at a moment`s notice. The Social Chairman, the Philipina. Women who quietly came in and took over.

It took 24 hours to get on a plane even though I booked it immediately as soon as I got off the phone.

The Offspring were threatened. “Be good or suffer greatly when I return.”

Then bribed. “Be good and I`ll reward you when I return.”

Then guilted. “Be good or I will never trust you again.”

Next came the lists. They both stood silently. Nodding. Not real sure how to manage this strange woman formerly known as their mother.

I couldn`t quite get out the door. So instead I burst in to tears.

Offspring #1 came over, putting his arms around me like a father.

“Mom- go- it will be ok. It`s all going to be ok. Don`t worry. Just go be with Grandpa.” My son was growing up. He walked me to the door. Opened it. Shut it. Locked it.

Facing 14 hours on the air plane then another hour in the rental car, I made myself comfortable with 2 NyQuil and ear plugs. The plane was dark. Having done this a few times, there`s a certain Zen to it once you get the hang of it.

“Hello Love”. My dad said in my ear. His usual greeting. Happy. Smiling. His warm breath blowing my hair. I jolted awake. The plane was dark. Everyone was asleep.

I knew he was gone. He`d passed by to say goodbye since I hadn`t made it in time.

So I wasn`t surprised when my sisters were unexpectedly at the airport ready to give me the bad news.

He had already told me good-bye.



So folks. That`s where I`ve been this summer. Grieving, moving, and in general not feeling very funny. However, looking back, there is humor in it all and I will start to share what has been amusing in the next week or so. A few close outs on Japan and then I will officially close out that chapter and open the new one on Canada. Chit chat soon!

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56 Responses to Beginnings and Endings

  1. I’m so sorry Emily. I can honestly say I know how your feel. I didn’t see my Dad before he passed in December, but he’s let me know he’s around numerous times since then. I hope the transition isn’t too painful and that Canada turns out to be a wonderful new adventure.


    • Thanks Lisa. It`s so good to see you again. I appreciate you sharing. We`re settling in and finding all the good food. Now for a warm coat….


    • Mia Parker says:

      Well said, Lisa (above)….I think this new chapter in your lives will be another exciting adventure for you all. Very sorry you didn’t get to see your dear, sweet dad one last time before he passed, so just hold on to all those great memories! I love you and your sisters and always wish you all much happiness, Em! P.S. I LOVE the photo above of you and Dr. Smith! 🙂


  2. Garay, Arpa says:

    Hey Emily,
    So sorry to hear about your dad. Hope you’re doing well and are settling in with the family. PA isn’t too far so if you need time away from the t’s (Tom and the teenagers), I’ve got 3 under 4 waiting for you… Of course that may make you run back north as fast as possible!


  3. 2summers says:

    Im so sorry, Emily. But I’m glad he said goodbye. I know exactly what you mean.


    • Thanks H. I know you understand too well. In the meantime, so happy to see your success at Instagram on the blog! I think you are doing JBurg a wonderful service with your coverage. So glad to see it.


  4. How painful this all must have been, Emily. I was 19 when my dad died. It’s excruciating, actually–still sometimes–but only sometimes. I’m so sorry you lost him. I know what an ungodly stressful time this all must have been. Can’t wait for your Canada posts to begin–but only when you are ready. Take care and be good to yourself.

    Hugs from Ecuador,


    • Thanks K- I have to say that I`ve loved living vicariously through you and Sara. What a great adventure- what a brave and wonderful pair you are. Thanks for the thoughts (And for the shout out in your last post). I think of ya`ll often and just LOVED the last update post- we are after all blogging pals and interested to see exactly what is going on!


  5. says:

    Ah — you’ve been on my mind, seriously so, wondering where you are and if you’re alright. Now I know. I’m so sorry about your dad. I never met him since Patti and I became friends in 1973 when I first sobered up and she was barely on that new road herself. I kept up with him periodically though — and remember well when she told me he’d tangled with a bit of the bottle himself and found himself back on track again. So there’s an odd pride in knowing a fellow survivor type, even if we never met. Let me tell you about losing a parent. Lost my own dad in 1994 — he was only 77 and I am now close to 72. Then my mother died in 1999 at 79. Way too young in my humble opinion! The thing is they’re never really gone — I talk to my mother pretty much every day and every time I see yet another idiotic bit of ‘contemporary architecture’ in this town, my architect dad and I have a good laugh and mutual shake of the head. I still pick up the phone to call my mother — she loved the Westminster Dog Show so we have a standing date to discuss each group and our personal favorites. I’m sure you’ve found the same experiences. I used to wish they could see me now — and then I realized they probably do. So I ‘dress myself up’ as my mother always said and get on with the day. On a slightly different note — once you get settled in glorious Montreal and have a minute to yourself (perhaps sometime in 2018 or so), do put a group of mysteries on your list as must reads. A Canadian writer, Louise Penny, has one of the finest voices I’ve ever heard. She’s created a Montreal-based series with memorable characters who grow with each new book. They become folks to care about. And she’s given us Three Pines, a fictional town nearby that I’d move to this afternoon if given the chance. They’re best read in order, available from Amazon, first one is Still Life. Can’t wait to hear about your new digs — how’s your French? Hugs from here, Barbara T.


    • Thanks Barbara! That is so true. I find myself doing the exact same things! I think I`ve downloaded that author- I need to check and see. It`s a detective series right? Can`t wait to get out there and start discovering the city! Now that the kids are FINALLY in school I`m free to start wandering!


  6. Dannette Cook says:

    Love You,
    And miss him terribly. They just don’t make “um like him anymore.
    Going tonight to listen to jazz in the lobby of a swanky but staid old hotel (just like Dad). Have a drink, and think about the old man that will be there playing piano. Wondering whose Dad he is and if he has another life curing cancer. I bet he will play one of Dad’s favorites and I will also hear “hello Love” in my ear, turn around and expect to see his grey top behind the keys.

    (Then when I start to cry, my husband will wonder what happened to our Romantic Weekend Getaway!!!)
    D- the nose


  7. Yousei Hime says:

    I lost my father January of 2002. It was years before I did not think of him daily, even more than once a day.

    I am sorry for your loss but glad you were able to be with your extended family during that time. Best to you all as life brings these other changes. Thank you for all you have shared.


    • Thanks Yousei- it`s a common experience to most people isn`t it? My Dad was a Canadian- I find it so strange that at the time of his death we were actually moving to his home. Reminders of him are everywhere.


  8. Beautifully written. I’m weeping as I type as I imagine you did while writing this lovely goodbye to your Dad. How wonderful people are when you need help.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you as you grieve.


  9. I posted a comment but don’t see it on your blog.
    My deepest sympathies to you and your family.


  10. Bob says:

    My sincerest condolences, it’s strange the things that happen when a loved one passes on. But comforting in a way to let us know that they are never truly gone as long as they remain in our heart.

    Much love.


  11. Nagzilla says:

    Peace to you in your loss, but glad you were able to say goodbye in your own way.


  12. Sharin Harbeck says:

    Aw, Emily, I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ve been thinking of you guys alot lately and just last night I was thinking “wow, its been a while since the last “hey from Japan” post, I wonder how the Cannell’s are doing???”. I stopped by your blog and nothing new was posted, so I thought about dropping Tom a random “hey how ya doing, we miss you at AOC” email….but put it out of my mind and went to sleep. Now I come downstairs and find this latest, sad post. Your post brought a tear to my eye. Our parents have a way of saying goodbye before they go. For my dad, I truly believe that he came to see me as a cat…its a long weird story, but I truly believe it and it gives me peace. My mom was a final phone call. I hope you can find the same peace that I have been able to find in the loss of my parents and know your dad will always be with you.


  13. Dana says:

    So so sorry to hear this, Emily. That said, I’m happy you were able to have one last goodbye with your dad– both over the phone and in spirit on the plane. Thinking of you and your family! xo


  14. Treasure your goodbye my friend, it was personal and forever and at a time when you are making huge changes yourself. Someday in the far future you will give your children your own goodbye as the best thing is that they live their lives and no matter where they are you will connect. I know those moments well.
    Now one question… do you know French? If not I think we will have some wonderful posts to look forward to! Go getum girl!


  15. Sorry to hear about your Dad. He will be around, somewhere, watching, helping and ready to lend a hand at a moments notice. Mine has be gone for 19 years now and he still turns up at the most unexpected moments. Good luck with your move and will look out for your insights on Canada.


  16. feltsocute says:

    This wasn’t a post I wanted to “like” but rather just tell you how beautifully you wrote and that I’m so sorry for your loss. May your Dad’s memory always be a blessing to you. And I look forward to your funny again.


  17. They do have a way of coming to you no matter where you are, if only to let you know they love you. I couldn’t post a comment after reading this the first time because my eyes were blurred with tears. I’m so sorry for your loss. Here’s hoping that your move to Canada goes well, and it heralds a happy new chapter in your life.


  18. Piper Bayard says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. It sounds like he loved you very much. Many prayers.


  19. maya0615 says:

    I am sorry to here about your father. I lost my mother in April and it was 2 months ago before my wedding.She looked happy when I introduced my husband to her and I am sure that she was relieved to meet a man who takes care of own daughter with expectation and she was gone.
    It was sad but I also wanted to let her go because he’d fought her disease for over ten years. While she was fighting , I was in Toronto Canada . Then she was fine but if she was not, I might have gone back to my hometown( Yamaguchi prefecture, Japan ) to meet her like you did.
    Even she was done, she always stays in my heart. It sounds strange it’s indeed!
    Thinking of you and your family!


  20. Heidi Sanford says:

    Charmie, you are one amazing person! To be able to write about your sweet Daddy is a huge step forward in the grieving process. I am so blessed to call you and your family true friends.
    I am always here for you.
    The Social Chairman!!!


  21. Sorry to read about your dad’s passing Emily. How lovely that he came to say good bye to you even though you couldn’t be there in person. That is a gift.
    Glad to hear that you’ve negotiated your move and can’t wait to read your first dispatch from Montreal. Please tell me that you’ve eaten poutine. I want a full report so we can compare notes.


    • Thanks so much JC. I still haven`t gotten up the nerve to eat it yet. It looks so disgusting. I have a rec on the place to try it- and that place is crtainly not Costco where it looks like someone barfed on the fries.


  22. cindy price says:

    I’m so sorry!!! I do know how you feel…Daddy’s are so special to us and I know he loved you so much too!!!!! I will be praying for you during this hectic time you must be going through. I love you!!!!!!


  23. Laurie Phillips Grantham says:

    I have secretly been following your posts for most of your time in Japan. You have made me laugh so hard and today, well, you made me cry with joy for the feeling you conveyed for your father. Memories are the stories to last a lifetime.
    Coincidentally, I just spent the last three days with some of our old AGD friends to celebrate our 50th birthdays. I’m sure you can appreciate the laughter generated from our stories… Jeannie Speegle, Dee Jeffcoat, Liz Lamar, Nanne McDonald, Wendy Williams. We kidnapped Allison Bridges for a little bit too.
    I’ll stay tuned for the Montreal experience!
    Warmest regards,
    Laurie Phillips Grantham


  24. Marc Healy says:

    My sincere condolences on your loss Emily. Thank you for sharing your story.


  25. YTSL says:

    Hi Emily —

    I love your Japan entries and will miss them after you leave. Thank you also for sharing your thoughts about, and love for, your father via this entry. Please take care and good luck in all your future undertakings.


  26. This is a very brave and heartfelt post. It reminds me of one of the saddest moments in my life, but I really admire you for sharing your experience. I’m a new reader, but I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.


  27. kathrinjapan says:

    Oh Em.
    I went through the same thing losing my mom while I was in Tokyo.
    I’m so sad for you. What else is there to say?
    My condolences,


  28. So sorry , your post brought tears to my eyes. I lost my father 4 yrs ago. I hope writing this was healing for you. i know its not easy to write, but the story you told in this post and how you chose to tell it was very moving. Look forward to following your move to Canada. I was there this summer and enjoyed Ontario And Montreal Quebec immensely….


  29. sweffling says:

    What a moving post. I am so sorry for your loss. But also envious in a way as my father did not know how to have any kind of relationship with his daughters so I have no idea what it is to really have a dad. I hope the pain diminishes with time just leaving wonderful memories: his final ‘goodbye’ to you was so very special, something really to cherish. Take care.


  30. May you find peace and comfort in the love and memories. ❤


  31. I’m new here but I wanted to stop and say anyway – I’m sorry to hear of the passing of your father. This is a very emotional post – I can hear how much you felt it.


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