The plan was: we move to California, we get the house ready, and then we open our doors to family and friends for visits. Simple. Easy. That was the plan.
The plan wasn't supposed to be: Pack up your life, your kids, your dog, and lose your father. But that is what happened.
Two weeks before we were set to leave for the Bay Area, my dad's heart started acting up again. Having had Congestive Heart Failure for 13 years now, I didn't think much of it. "This is just routine," I thought to myself. He had to get an ablation every few years. Yes, it was an uncomfortable surgery for him, but he always bounced back in a few days following the procedure. This time was different. One of the many needles he had poked in his arms, caused a blood clot, so huge that it started at his elbow and went all the way to his heart. A blood clot on top of a blood clot, which required more surgery to remove. Then there was an aneurysm near the entry site of the ablation surgery. One thing after another, after another. TWELVE days later, my daddy got to go home.
That next morning, the kids and I went to go check on him again, and help him acclimate back to home life. I helped him organize his pills that he had to take. So many pills. He hated it. He didn't want to die, but he said, "This is no way to live." I could see the frustration on his face. My daddy loved life, and all the people in his world, and he wanted to live for all of us. His mind wished he was more physically able than his body actually allowed him to be.
I am so grateful that, the Sunday before we left, my brother and sister-in-law opened their home for us to say our "see-you-laters" to my side of the family. My dad didn't have much energy, but he came. He felt pretty miserable, and I reminded him what his doctor said. For every day he was in the hospital, it was going to take 5 days to recover. That's 60 days. He was on Day 4 at this point, and had a long way to go.
I sat with him, and held my hand in his. I was immediately transported back to being a little girl. I always felt so safe in my daddy's hands - so big, soft, warm. They provided such comfort to me. Something in me pushed me to tell him everything that was in my heart that night. I looked him in the eyes, and told him how much I loved him. How much I was going to miss him. I told him to take it easy, and take his time to recover, so that he could come visit us in California. We had plans to drop him off at City Lights Bookstore in the city all day, and then once he had his fill of a world of books, we would drive to Carmel for the weekend. That's what he wanted, and that's what he was to be working/resting for. I told him that my kids WORSHIPPED him. That they absolutely adored him. I told him that he was my husband's best friend. That we couldn't wait to see him again. He rallied a bit that night. Long enough for me to snap a few pictures, and hug him so tight several times.
The kids, the dog, and I arrived Tuesday to our new home in Piedmont. Our moving crew showed up Thursday with the boxes. Late Thursday night I got the call that my dad had collapsed. Friday morning I was an anxious mess catching a flight back to Phoenix.
This wasn't how it was supposed to be.
Our biggest fear had come true. That we would leave, and something bad would happen. I know we couldn't control it. But it was absolutely the worst feeling I had ever experienced.
I knew as he lay in "critical condition" that his soul had already left this place. I knew it the second I walked in the ICU. But how do you let your daddy go? How do comfort your mother as she weeps uncontrollably because the love of her life isn't coming home with her this time? How do you have strength for your brother who is always the strong one and is unable to hold it in anymore? What do you say to your 92-year-old grandma who is shaking her head in disbelief, that she was there when he took his first breath, and now his last? How could I comfort my husband who loved my dad so dearly, but was a whole state away? We were in pieces.
In my moment of absolutely ugly, wailing, pleading sobbing, I placed my hand in his again. His warmth comforted me and in my heart, I knew he suffered no more.
He died at 12:15pm on a Saturday, surrounded by family. It was the worst 36 hours of my life.
Just when I thought it couldn't get any harder, I realized I had to tell my children. What was I going to say to my kids? Would they understand what it meant? Of course they wouldn't. Maybe in time. They knew he had a sick heart. They had visited him many times in the hospital. Paloma said, "He's with Papa Ray now, and Jesus." Tears came to Quincy's eyes as he said, "You mean he's not coming back? I won't get to see him again? Why can't he come back? Who's going to watch Godzilla movies with me?" My heart was breaking all over again.
The next few days were an absolute blur. We got through by the grace of God, and with the love that surrounded us by family and friends from all around. (Thank you for your messages, meals, hugs, tears, flowers, etc - it all meant more to my mom and our family than you could ever know.)
His "Celebration of Life" brought people together from all corners of his life, many that I hadn't seen in years. We (my mom, brother, Grandma, Aunt Nancy, Uncle Bill and I) planned it in 2 days. We didn't know who would be able to come with that short notice. But to see those faces in that beautiful church overlooking the mountains... Old and current neighbors, old and new friends, fellow movie-lovers, Natan's and my friends (their spouses, kids, and parents, too), kids my dad coached in little league, and family members who loved my dad so much. There were at least a dozen people there who had never even met my dad, but care for my brother or me so much that they just wanted to be there to support us and learn more about the man who helped mold their friend into the person they are today. It was incredible.
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Thomas Henry Jacobs, 67, of Phoenix, AZ, passed away Saturday, August 8, 2015.
"He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad." (From Scaramouche, by Rafael Sabatini)
Tom was born January 6, 1948, in Lakewood, Ohio, to Ray and Miriam (White) Jacobs. He attended DePauw University in Indiana, and graduated from Michigan State University in 1969. In his youth, baseball was his greatest passion. During school, he was a writer and an actor. His travels to Europe after graduation left him with some of his fondest memories, shaping his love for the arts and history. Shortly after moving to Phoenix in 1973, he met the love of his life. Tom and Alicia Nieto were married in Mexico City in 1974 and shared 41 wonderful years together.
Tom was a poet, journalist, actor, an avid collector of music and books, and a world traveler. He loved raising his children and being surrounded by family, his wolf-huskies, watching movies, harvesting chili peppers, and exploring nature.
Tom is survived by his mother, Miriam, wife, Alicia, son, Natan Jacobs and his wife Larel, daughter Candida Bell and her husband Solon; his sister Nancy Shaffner and her husband Bill of Pittsburgh, PA, four adoring grandchildren, two nieces, and a large extended family. He was preceded in death by his father, Ray, in 2008.
A celebration of life will be held promptly at 4 p.m. Tuesday, August 11, at Shadow Rock United Church of Christ, 12861 N. 8th Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85029. Doors open at 3:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, please send a donation in his honor to the Wolf Conservation Center, the National Park Service, or the Heard Museum. - The guest book will be online until 9/10/2015 - please feel free to leave a message or favorite memory of my dad by clicking here.
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Every day I am reminded of him. The beautiful thunderstorm the night after his service, the dozen of original poems I found in a box at the bottom of my old closet that he had written and never told us about, the random Coca-Cola bottle I grabbed for Solon at the airport that said "Share a Coke with Tommy," the hummingbirds that seem to follow me everywhere I go, the daddy-long-leg spiders that watch over me in the highest corners of the rooms in my new house, the earthquake that jolted me out of bed the morning after I came back to California (very funny, Daddy), the first friend that Quincy met at his new school named Thomas - my dad is everywhere.
And I miss him every day. Every single second of every single day. And I will love him always, and forever.