Father’s death brings torrent of emotions


Writers often fear the plague known as writer’s block. It’s a mental block that can leave a writer with no means of putting ideas onto paper even if there’s a stack of notes sitting next to the keyboard on the desk.

I don’t think writer’s block is the problem that plagues me now so much as it is the shock and the pressure I’ve put on myself as I have tried to write this column in my head for the past few weeks.

So here goes nothing.

I’m 30 years old and my dad is dead.

On Aug. 29, my father, Daniel E. Graves, died at age 62 after a two-and-a-half-year-long battle against the blood cancer multiple myeloma.

I knew I had to write this column after many of you have shared your own stories with me as I wrote about my dad’s stem cell transplant, our shared birthday and his treatments over the past few years.

I even wrote about the plan to face my fears and give blood for the first time in a decade to help replenish the supply that my dad was using while in the hospital.

(By the way, the blood donation was a success. I did get a bit woozy and had to be laid back in the chair for a while, but I didn’t pass out, so I considered it as success.)

After my dad’s obituary ran in the Sept. 1 issue of the Hastings Tribune, I even received a card from a reader sharing her condolences.

So while I knew I had to write this column, I just haven’t been able to put into words what I’m thinking or feeling.

For now, it’s more the emotions than the rational thoughts that fill my head, so that’s what I’m going with.

The first emotion my mom, my brother and I verbally expressed after my dad took his last breath was that it was over and that he wasn’t sick anymore. That realization was an amazing relief for all of us.

Now as the minutes, hours, days and weeks have gone by since that fateful night, other emotions have crept into my head, one of those being anger.

No, I’m not angry at God or the doctors or the fates.

I’m angry at the disease and what it has taken from me, my family and the world. The disease took a man who was in the prime of his life.

He was sharing the decades and centuries of knowledge in farming passed down through the generations with my brother, who recently went back to the farm full time.

My mom and dad recently bought a dream vacation home in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and my dad planned to share it with his family and friends.

There is the shiny new Harley Davidson motorcycle that wasn’t even two years old that my dad was still adding more bells and whistles to in an effort to create the dream ride.

With my dad now gone from this earth, we are left with those material things and the dreams that he will never be able to fulfill.

My 24-year-old brother now has the burden on his shoulders of running a farm and supporting a family with only the small bit of knowledge that Dad could share with him in his short time back on the farm.

My mom has said several times how selfish she feels for wanting him here, knowing in the end how uncomfortable he was as he fought the disease.

Now that same woman is left without her best friend and struggling to find her way in this new and uncertain world.

All of that leaves me with more pain than anger as I watch my family struggle.

I know some people will say that I shouldn’t be so angry if I know my dad is in a better place without the disease. And it’s true, I do know he is.

I am happy that my dad is in a place where he and the other great farmers we have lost recently are all helping God with the greatest harvest of all.

I’m glad that God was able to take my dad away from the disease that was ravaging his body.

I’m just angry that there could be such a disease that would destroy the body of the strongest and smartest man I know.

I’m sad that he’ll never meet his grandchildren, see his son get married or enjoy retirement with my mom.

While the anger, the pain and the sadness won’t go away anytime soon, I know that there are the happy memories of my dad before the disease that will help keep me going.

My mom, my brother, my husband and I will become closer as a new family unit, and we will continue on in honor of my dad.


Shay Burk

Veteran Tribune reporter Shay Burk writes whatever is swirling around her mind each week. Read her columns on Tuesdays for her humorous thoughts on everyday life.

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