Opening up to closure

Even when expected, the loss of a loved one comes as a surprise and takes time to accept

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Columnists

October 22, 2021 - 3:58 PM

Nancy McEndree sits with her late father’s cowboy hat and boots. Even though he was 99 and in ailing health, accepting his death has been more of a process than McEndree realized.

LAHARPE — It’s always a privilege here at The Register to help families deal with telling the news of loved ones who have passed.

It seems most deaths come suddenly, even though we think we’re prepared. For me, anytime a friend loses a parent it awakens the memory of losing mine. Such was the case earlier this week when Lori Moran came to the office with the news of her father, Melvin Baker, age 92, having died on Sunday.  

It’s just never easy. And when pricked, the pain lies just below the surface. 

For too long I’ve been meaning to reach out to Nancy McEndree, whose father, Elmer McEndree, died on Aug. 20.  

So, after visiting with Lori, I gave Nancy a call, figuring a respectable amount of time had passed so that I could plumb her emotions about how to deal with loss. 

Nancy’s dad was 99, so you could hardly call his death “untimely.” 

By the calendar, that is. But on Nancy’s kitchen counter sat her dad’s tattered cowboy hat and, on the floor, his boots. A picture of the two of them was in arm’s reach. She has yet to go through his belongings in his house down the road.  

“I’m just not ready,” she said.

Closure is a concept that takes immeasurable time, person to person.

For Nancy, looking through photo albums and encounters with her dad’s friends and relatives have brought not only memories, but also new information.

“At the visitation, an uncle told me of when he and Dad followed the wheat harvest all the way into Canada,” she said. “I’m still learning about him.”

Nancy shows a photo of her and her dad.

EVER SINCE he fell and broke his hip six years ago, Mr. McEndree was in an assisted living facility followed by a three-year stint in a nursing home. In addition to his declining health, dementia began to set in.  

He didn’t always recognize Nancy when she came to visit. 

“As long as I used the name ‘George,’ my nickname, he’d recognize me,” she said. “He never called me Nancy.” 

The dementia also changed his personality. “He became even more bullheaded,” she said, adding, “I didn’t think that was possible.” 

The pandemic made visiting difficult.  

“He couldn’t hear me on the telephone when I called. And seeing me through a window was useless,” she said of the measures used to protect patients from the coronavirus. 

Despite all the signs that Mr. McEndree’s death was imminent, Nancy said she experienced shock at the news.  

“I can’t remember anything from that day. My thinking skills seemed to have stopped.” 

As the only one of four children still living, it fell to Nancy to take care of her father during the end of his life as well as his funeral.  

TO COPE with the loss and its inherent stress, Nancy, age 73 and a very self-aware person, knew to take things slowly and tap into the support of others. 

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