My Daddy

Friday, November 29, 2013

This morning I was up early to nurse the babies.  Andrew took Elizabeth once she was done, and as I put a reluctant Mary Claire in the swing I heard my sister saying, "Yes." from the guest room. 

I giggled.  She must be talking in her sleep!  This will be a GREAT story to tell when it's not 4:30 AM!

Then she came out of the guest room. 

"That was Mama.  Daddy's not breathing and his heart isn't beating.  She's waiting for the first responders.  I'm going to go over there."

Always wonderful with words in situations like this, I responded, "...Happy Thanksgiving?"

I wasn't convinced it was real.  Clearly they could resuscitate him, right?

He'd been sick for so many many years - almost every illness one can imagine that isn't life-threatening, he seemed to be on a quest to collect just about as many chronic illnesses as he could possibly be diagnosed with in a lifetime.  It had gotten to the point where we imagined he'd live to be 100, moaning and groaning all the way...

The family in 1988
I staggered down the stairs, blinking back tears.  He was 55 years old.  He had been feeling a little worse than usual the day before, which is why he didn't make it for Thanksgiving dinner.  But we had just seen him a couple weeks ago at the twins' birthday party.  And he was always feeling sick - could this possibly be real?

I got back in bed when Elizabeth woke up and lay there praying, not sure whether to pray for his recovery or for the repose of his soul...  Andrew's phone started buzzing and I had a feeling it would be the latter.

My daddy was dead.

Thanksgiving 2012

We used to joke (and will probably continue to joke) about his unwavering loyalty.

His judgment, to us, seemed so ridiculously flawed.  To him, his wife was the most beautiful woman in the world.  His daughters were far and away the most gorgeous girls anyone could ever have laid eyes on.  Any concert my sister or I ever sang in would end with him, possibly crying, telling us we were the best singer on the stage, better than any of those other kids, and they were all probably jealous of how stunning and talented and smart all his children were.

We laughed that it was just because he was crazy.  But maybe somehow his love for us, brimming brimming brimming overflowing, clouded his vision and transformed us into the most perfect of children, the most flawless spouse. 

He and my mom were teenagers when they met.

He an awkward 17-year-old high schooler, her a seasoned 19-year-old college student.  He completely fabricated a story about recorder players and the neck straps they needed in order to play correctly.  Somehow that won her over...

They wrote each other long, long letters for years until finally (although everyone said they were far too young), they were married at the ripe old ages of 21 and 23.  They looked about 15.

He hated to dance.
  I didn't love it either.  I didn't relish the thought of awkwardly slow dancing with my father for an agonizingly long 3.5 minutes during that father-daughter dance at my wedding. 
So we danced to "Everything is Rosie" from Bye Bye Birdie, vamping the whole time.  We did the tango.  He spun me and dipped me.  We were embarrassingly bad, I'm sure, but we were both laughing so hard that tears were streaming down our faces!
He was so very silly, and that was one of my absolute favorite things about him.  I don't think there has ever been another daddy who was as silly with his babies as my daddy.  The made-up songs, all rhyming and scanning perfectly, the ridiculous nicknames, the completely impossible stories (all told with a completely straight face so we never knew whether he was actually joking about that extremely detailed biography he had just told us about a person who never really existed)...
My high school graduation, 2004
My daddy was always the strongest man in the room.
My parents were married young and had babies young, so they were always the youngest parents wherever we were.  When all the other dads had gone soft, my daddy was volunteering to help set up for the elementary school fun fair, muscles bulging through his tiny little tank tops. 
As the years went on and he too, grew soft, he insisted that his stomach was actually solid muscle.  So solid, in fact, that he chose to show it off by wearing underarmour shirts as his regular stay-at-home-dad uniform. 
None of us ever did have the heart to tell him (a licensed medical professional, by the way...) that it was just fat.  Nobody accrues that much muscle solely on their belly.
 My parents moved away from their home of nearly 20 years in order to be out in the country, where they could both get away from the grind of the DC area.  They were so happy out there, but it came at a cost.  My mom had recently changed careers, and quit her wonderful new teaching job in order to find a job in their new town. 

But there were no jobs. 

She eventually took a job teaching something out of her subject area, was stuck with a lot of really tough kids, and her contract wasn't renewed for the following year.  It has been several years, and she still hasn't been able to find a full-time job out there.  She's always been frugal, so savings has taken her quite a ways.  But the cost of the constant medical appointments, prescriptions, specialists...  It's all taken quite a toll.  And it's been many years since Daddy worked, since he has long been too disabled to hold a job (and yet not disabled enough to qualify for Social Security Disability...) If you can help in any way possible, we would all be eternally grateful.

I always want to help in situations like this and never know what I can do... 
Those obscure offers of, "Let me know what I can do to help!" are so well-meaning, but the grieving and overwhelmed are often not in the position to solicit specific errands. 

Here are some specific ideas for what you can do to help my mom (particularly if you're in the Harrisonburg, Virginia area):

Send a meal (home-cooked or not!)
Send a gift card for a local dining establishment
Come by and wash dishes
Clean the bathroom
Help organize books in the various bookshelves in the house
Clean one of the guest rooms
Do laundry
Make the beds with fresh sheets
Offer to let the dogs out and feed them for a day so that she can leave the house
Invite her over for a meal
Invite her over to play with your kids
Invite her over to snuggle your baby
Offer to list some of their enormous stash of action figures on ebay (true story - anyone an ebay guru?)

Access the site here:  and use the following information to sign up to help:

CALENDAR ID:   167453

Or go here to donate to the funeral fund:

Jonathan Hunter-Kilmer died this morning in his sleep, at the age of 55.  He leaves behind his wife and four living children, as well as five grandchildren.  We appreciate any and all help you are able to give.  Above all else, please pray for the repose of his soul.

If you knew him, would you mind sharing a story in the comments?  I'll see what I can do about opening up anonymous comments, just please sign your story so we know who you are.  I can't promise I'll be able to respond to comments, but I do so appreciate all your love and prayers, and I know the rest of the family does as well.


  1. Rosie, I am so, so sorry. You all will be in our prayers!

  2. I'm so, so sorry for you loss. We will pray for your father's soul and for your whole family,

  3. Oh Rosie, I'm so sorry. Your father sounds like an amazing man. Your family and especially your father will be in our prayers.

  4. Rosie,
    Your father was a man of quit strength. You could look at him and see the initial pain but if you looked deep into his eyes, you could see the foundation of the strength he had in his soul. He listened intently, even when his eyes were shut, and would surprise you with a comment that was never lightly said. His words came from his heart and soul. I'll not forget his smiles of being with his family.

  5. This is a really beautiful tribute, Rosie. Thanks so much. I have just one short story about Jonathan to add tonight, and I'll give you more later.
    When he was three, Jonathan, who had been one of the cutest, most appealing toddlers on the planet, seemed to realize that he was beginning to grow out of that stage. He came to me with an enormous fresh carrot, stuck the tip in his mouth, and began sucking on it. Then he said, "Miriam, do I look cute when I'm sucking on this carrot?" It was kind of weird, but oh my yes, he did look cute!

  6. Rosie, my heart breaks for you and your family. My husband and I are also 55, and we met as teenagers like your parents. I know your mother is going miss him so terribly. Thank God she has kids and grandkids to keep her from getting too lonely.

    We will keep all of you in our prayers and pray for the repose of his soul. I'm just so, so sorry.

  7. I am so sorry. He sounds like such a wonderful father and it's beautiful he shared such a special bond with his family.

    Your father and family will be in my prayers.

  8. Oh, I am so sorry for your loss, Rosie. How awful! Your description of your dad reminds me of my own father, who is of a similar age, ability with children, and... um... stature as yours. I hate to imagine what pain you all must be feeling right now. I'll keep your father, your family, and you in prayer.

  9. Oh Rosie.

    What a beautiful tribute to your daddy. Prayers for you, friend, and for the repose of His sweet soul.

  10. My heart goes out to you. I'm sorry for your loss and will be praying for you and your family for sure!

  11. I'm so sorry Rosie. Your family is in our prayers.

  12. I am so sad for you. I will keep all of you in my prayers.

  13. You wrote a wonderful tribute to your father. He raised you well.

  14. Rosie, I'm so so sorry for your loss. Your dad sounds like the best husband and father. I'll be sure to keep your family in my prayers, especially your mom.

  15. I'm so sorry, Rosie. Praying for your family and for the repose of his soul.

  16. Oh, Rosie! My heart aches for you and your family. What a beautiful post in memory of him. I'm so so sorry - we will be praying for you and talking about how we might help from so far away. God bless and keep you all so very close to His heart...

  17. Rosie I am so so sorry, we will pray for your family and for the repose of your dear daddy's soul.

  18. Oh, Rosie. I am so so sorry. He sounds amazing. We will pray for your daddy and all of you as you grieve. May he be beholding the face of our Lord this very moment.

  19. Thank you for giving us all a small glimpse into how wonderful your dad was. I only really met him a few times, but he was always kind and thoughtful and yes, clearly loved his family deeply. I have always loved hearing the way you, Meg and Timmy talk about him and relate stories about him and your mom. You guys certainly had a unique and wonderful childhood, and one that I don't think any of you would change in the least. Your daddy will be greatly missed.

    On a side note, please let me know if I can help watch some (or all) of your kids for a few hours this week (or any time in the future) if you need to help your mom.

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  21. Oh my, Rosie, I am sorry for your loss! Thank you for sharing these memories. It sounds like your dad was such a wonderful man and could not have been more proud of his beautiful children. Prayers for you, especially during this difficult time.

  22. Rosie, I'm so sorry for your loss. Your father sounds like an amazing man. We will be praying for your family and the repose of your dad's soul.

  23. Dear Rosie, I am so sorry that such a wonderful man was taken from his wife and his family at such a young age. Certainly you can count on my thoughts and prayers. I never had the privilege of meeting him, but such love and joy shines through your tribute that I suspect the first thing he would have done is give me a hug. May he rest in peace. Cathy Lavin

  24. Sweet Rosie, I am so sorry for your loss...your family's loss. You are all in my prayers in a big way. So, so sorry.

  25. Dear Rosie and Meg,
    We are so very sorry for your sudden loss. We plan to send a meal to your Mom. Praying for you, your family and your Dad. God bless, Cindy and Gregg Hurla

  26. Rosie we are so sorry to hear of your loss. His soul and your whole family will be in our prayers.

  27. I am so sorry for your loss, Rosie and family! What a difficult time of year. Praying for you all.

  28. Another anecdote:
    I came home from visiting our sister Rosamond in the mid-west, when her older children were small. I said to Jonathan: "Rosamond's children are breathtakingly beautiful." "Well, I think *my* children are "breathtakingly beautiful," said Jonathan. Of course they were!

  29. I am so sorry, Rosie. Your dad sounds like such a loving father, and so proud of you and your siblings. You are all in our prayers!

  30. Rosie I am so sorry to hear this. I have lost my father too and it is so so hard. He and your whole family are in my prayers, he sounds like an amazing man.

  31. Rosie I am so sorry for your loss. I will be praying for all of you.

  32. I'll tell two stories of Jonathan:
    Jonathan is my little brother, four years younger than me, and the youngest in our huge family. Our grandmother, whom we addressed as "Meme," lived in the house with us, and died when Jonathan was about 7 years old. The night Meme died we all got together around the dining room table after our Mama and Daddy got back from the hospital. We were all pretty darn quiet, but Jonathan kept saying "remember the time..." and telling funny stories about Meme. Then we would all laugh until it hurt, and then cry some more. Eventually, Jonathan said "I guess I should stop telling these stories..." and we laughed some more. Thank you, Jonathan.
    So in that same spirit, I offer this second story...
    When Jonathan was small he watched a lot of television, including "Romper Room." I remember one time he took some pins and threaded them through the calluses on his palms and showed me and Miriam how he could do the "Do be Dance" with his hands opened out in front of him. It was quite funny and cute in a gross kind of way.

  33. Rosie, I am so so very sorry. I will be praying for your dad, your mom, you, and your whole family.

  34. I'm so sorry Rosie. My prayers are with you in your time of grief. God bless you and your family, and prayers for your dad!

  35. I am so sorry Rosie! My heart breaks for your family at this time - We will be praying for your whole family and the repose of your father. He sounds like a man who definitely loved his family.

  36. Oh, Rosie, my condolences. This was such a lovely tribute. You and all your family will be in my prayers.

  37. Rosie, my heart is breaking for you, you'd sibs and your mom. I will be praying and praying and praying for the repose of his soul and for healing in your family. Hugs.

  38. Rosie - I am so very sorry for your loss. Your memories of your dad are so beautiful and will carry you through this difficult time. He is at peace now - no more suffering. I will be praying for you and your family. Our family will offer our rosary tonight for your dad's soul and our mass tomorrow for your family. Hugs from our entire family.

  39. I'm so very sorry for your loss Rosie. Praying for you and yours.

  40. Rosie, I am friend of your Aunt Noelie's. I am so sorry for your loss of your father. The tribute you wrote was beautiful. He sounds like such a great husband and father, and it sounds like you all had a happy life together. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. Laura Keefe Murphy

  41. Rosie, so sorry to hear about your dad. I lost my dad last Aug in a car accident (he was 51, and I was 26) is really hard to lose a parent so young. I'll be thinking and praying for you as you plan the funeral this week and this entire first year as I'm sure it will leave a big hole in your family with him gone. Also, I pray for your mom. A book "uniformity with god's will" by st Alphonsis Ligurio really comforted my mom. It is a short read and she now ordered extra copies and passes it out to people.

  42. Prayers for your dad, your mom and your family.
    So sorry for your loss.

  43. I am very sorry for your loss. Jonathan and I were friends at Portsmouth Abbey, where I remember him telling us that he was related to the poet Joyce Kilmer, and reciting--reluctantly, he was loth to do it--Kilmer's "Trees." More recently we had been corresponding, discussing books, comics, and his health. I will always remember Jonathan--he is in my heart.

  44. Jenn called me at work today with the news
    It is plain to see
    Though it helps to hear
    He Is well Loved
    It comes of having a large family, and all the friends Dads that wonderful acquire.
    I am very sorry for your loss, I'll be by friday with Jenn and the lot

  45. It is wonderful to see all these comments. Thank you!

    Jonathan loved his children and grandchildren very, very much. He was made to be a husband, daddy, and grandaddy, and he rejoiced in his family. He also loved being a registered nurse.

    I'm glad he died in his sleep rather than hooked up to a million tubes and at home rather than in an impersonal hospital bed.

    This is choppy and unedited, but I did want to put it out there. God bless all of you!

    More stories about Jonathan, mostly from his childhood.
    With tears among the laughter!

  47. Oh Rosie, I just logged on after our Thanksgiving travels (sans Internet), and when I saw Meg's status updates and came here to read your post, I could barely hold back the tears. I am so, so sorry to hear of your loss. I will be sending up lots of prayers for your family and for your dad's soul. I hope that the wonderful stories that people are sharing as well as the comfort of our faith bring you some consolation during such a hard time.

    It just occurred to me that I've never heard you or Meg refer to him as anything other than "Daddy," which to me speaks volumes about what a special man he was. Just anyone could be "Dad," but to always be known so endearingly must mean he earned all of that love and affection by being someone wonderful.

  48. This is beautiful Rosie, thank you for opening your heart to us during a time when you probably just want to crawl under the covers and hope it's not real. From experience, I know there's really nothing that can be said, but know that we're praying. So, so hard. My heart goes out to you and your family - may he rest in peace.

  49. I'm so sorry! You and your family are in my prayers.

  50. I'm so sorry for the loss of your father. Prayers for you, and your immediate and extended family.

  51. Oh Rosie! Just reading this after a blogging break. So sorry for your loss, will be keeping you and your family in prayers. This is a beautiful tribute to a blessed life.

  52. I am glad you linked to this in your post. I'm sorry for your loss. I can't imagine losing my Daddy.... Saying some prayers for you.

  53. Aha, now I see you've got a great list of how to help...once again, you are pretty amazing and on the ball.

    I only met your parents once, but their affection for each other was so evident and so sweet.

    We will continue to remember your family in our prayers through Advent and beyond!

  54. I just loved this tribute to your Dad, and I am so sad for your family, especially your mom.

  55. Dear Rosie, I am so sorry to hear of your father's passing. I am praying for you and your family. My father passed when I was 23 and so I understand so much of what you are going through. You wrote such a lovely tribute to your father here, I am sure he would be so proud.

  56. Condolences and prayers on your loss.

    One practical avenue may be Fulfilled By Amazon as a way to sell items on Amazon. Lifehacker has had a few articles on it. For a flat monthly fee you can box up and send Amazon a number of items that they keep and ship as they sell. May not be the option you are looking for, but it is one lower impact way to process thought items to sell.

  57. Thank you for sharing these stories about your dad. I am so sorry that he is gone and wish I had had the chance to know him better.

  58. I just saw this. I am so very sorry for your loss. You will all be in my prayers.


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