I Come to the Garden Alone

Hi my friends.  It's with a heavy heart that I let you know my Dad passed away last Monday on May 1st at home. After all the visiting hours and funeral, I'm still having trouble believing he is gone.  I was at home with my Mom when he passed early in the morning at around 5:30.  I had woken up at 4:30 to sit with him and was alarmed at how his breathing had changed. He was almost gasping for breath and it was labored.  I told my Mom we should call Chrissy, my middle sister, who was about 15 minutes away and to text my Aunt Wanda but my Mom told me his breathing would get raspy and oftentimes there is like a "death rattle."  My mom went into the bedroom to rest and I waited until about 5 a.m. to send my Aunt a text message saying that my Dad's breathing was getting labored but not raspy or anything. I went back to playing hymns for my Dad on the iPad.  He hadn't been even able to talk for a few days.  The last time he had talked was on Saturday when we woke him up enough to brush his teeth.  He coughed up all of this terrible phlegm with a bit of blood in it and was so weak he just feel back asleep.  I don't even remember the last thing he said. I think despite the morphine, he could understand us a bit but couldn't speak at all; it reminded me of the "Diving Bell and the Butterfly" movie where the man has to blink after he has a massive stroke to communicate.  
Anyways, the worst part is that I played my Dad "There is a Redeemer" and then went to the bathroom really quickly and to call my hubby since he was going to the dentist very early.  I talked to him for 7 minutes and then I came back to my Dad and he was gone.  I felt so bad I hadn't been there. It was so heartbreaking, I felt like I had left my Dad to die alone. I ran in the bedroom to get my Mom and said "I think Dad's gone, hurry." And he was.  I just kept thinking my Dad was dying and I was on the f*cking cellphone. I made my Mom check at least 10 times to make sure he was gone. And as for the visiting hours and funeral.  They provided little closure since it was  a reminder of just how few people actually came to visit my Dad when he was at home for 2 months on his deathbed.  My sister, Lisa, said "Dad didn't realize how many friends he had."  I don't believe it though, friends come to visit you before you die and tell you they love and care for you, not after at your funeral.  It is too easy to come when someone is at their funeral and you do nothing to help them when they need it the most.  

So now I am in the "I wish" stage.  I wish I could go back and do everything differently, starting with urging my Dad to get an MRI 7 years ago so we could conquer this beast.  I wish I wasn't such a brat when I was little. I wish I could have taken my Dad to Montana to go fishing. I wish I was more patient with my Dad these last 2 years.  All I can do though is take these hard lessons I've learned in all of this and honor my Dad's strength and courage he's showed these last 2 years.  My parent's pastor said that my Dad had the most courage he'd ever seen anyone have in his 30 years of being a pastor.  He faced death in the most honorable way and 2 weeks ago he told me that he realized there was a God the first time he read about trees and he thought they were so beautiful and complex that there had to be a God.  

I want to say thank you to Susan J, John, and everyone here who has said an encouraging word to me and my family.  I would share some posts with my Dad from here and it always touched him so much.  Obviously, it really helped me along the way too.  I told my Dad I would never stop fighting for him.  Families do not deserve to be torn apart because of pancreatic cancer and I will do everything I can to help make a change for this disease.  And cancer awareness in general;  I think people need a guiding hand not just a doctor or an oncologist in this journey.  I hope I can make him proud still.  I chose this title because it was one of my Dad's favorite hymns, "In the Garden" and my cousin played it beautifully on the guitar at his funeral. 

His obituary is here:  http://vanmatres.com/2017/05/woolstrum-duane-phillip/ 

3 people sent you a prayer.
5 people sent you a hug.
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My condolences Karen. I will be thinking of you and your family this evening at prayer time and will pray for the pain in your hearts. In my faith, we do not pray for the deceased because they are now with God and no longer need prayer. But your Dad was covered in my Survivor's prayer every day. And he was a survivor for almost two years. Ca did not win; he did. Do not feel guilty about not being at his side at the moment he left; he was not alone. Everyone he ever knew and loved was with him to show him the way. I will always believe this. God bless.
John, Karen like this comment
That is a very beautiful song. There is a reason that things happen the way they do and when they do although we generally do not understand a lot of it. God Bless You and Yours.
Carol likes this comment
Karen, I haven't been on here since my dad died 7 months ago. Just typing that makes me cry. But for some reason when my email notification came through that you posted, in my busy day with 3 kids I decided to stop and read it in its entirety. I felt like I was reading my own story. Those last days are unforgettable. I would love to tell you they leave your mind but here I am 7 months later and I feel like I can remember every second. As much as those days hurt me I would give anything to be back in them because that would mean he wasn't gone. Please find me on Facebook as I never go on here. I'm here for you! I hope you are okay!
Carol, Karen like this comment
Jenna, sorry to hear about you losing your Dad as well as Karen. I was with my wife at the hospital for a week when my Mother-In-Law passed away after a stroke. You do remember every minute, but I also remember the very special things that happened too. As Marcia said, we will pray for you and your family. Karen, I'll send you a long-winded message, if you want to check there for more. We remember all who have 'fought the good fight' and who suffer no more. MGBY, John
Laura likes this comment
Hi Jenna, I am sorry you lost your Dad too. I just realized today that I will never get another hug from my Dad and started crying again. John is right, you have to set the timer for 15 minutes and cry. I don't know about you but I'm pretty good at keeping it together for the day...but then I come home and the missing starts.
I am also in turmoil because I always want to do something NOW to fight cancer. What can I do though? I have a French degree, a Speech-Language Pathology background and work in Marketing! LOL I want to be a researcher damnit! Like today! So I bumble around trying to give those that don't have a voice anymore a voice. I am thinking of you. I actually got off of Facebook about a month ago. It's been refreshing! And I have more personal interactions
You're dad didn't die alone. He was with his Redeemer.
This letter, sharing your thoughts, is wonderful. It is SO normal to be mired in the "I wish" stage. But, you have done SO much to show your dad how much he meant to you. You WERE THERE!! I agree 100% with everything you shared...regarding helping when/where theyvneed it)

Anyway, hugs to you and to talk of your family. BTW, when breathing changes, even if you don't hear the "rattle" (fluids collecting.... Plus, the morphine helps to ease their breathing a LOT) death is imminent. In my experience.
Xoxo. Blessings
After a year, I too remember all the details of my mother's battle with pancreatic cancer and her passing. You are in such a battle mode of fight that each moment is etched into your memory. Do not let feelings of quilt of not being there for his last breath trouble you, as your presence throughout his fight along with supporting him during his last days showed how much you loved him.
I read your father's obituary and was pleased to see that a request for donations be made to pancreatic cancer action network. They are a wonderful organization that puts monies to work on real research. They were so helpful to me when my Mom was diagnosed. You are so right in that families need a guiding hand throughout cancer treatment and afterwards. It is a battle like no other.
Prayers to you and your family for comfort during your loss.
John likes this comment
Karen, you were there. You told your dad so many times that he was loved. The exact moment does not matter...he knew. And he will be proud of you as you go forward. HUGS
Karen, I've read this post several times over the past two days - and I simply can't think about anything else. It's been such a privilege to share our journeys with this monstrous disease, and - as ever - I find myself wondering how I got so lucky that my man is still here after more than seven years while your Dad and so many others have succumbed. I am so sad for you and your family, and wish there was some way I could make you feel better about stepping away from your Dad for a few minutes at the end. Think of it this way: perhaps he was shielding you, and waited until your Mom and you were both out of the room to take his final breath. That may well have been his final act of love for all of you.....Thank you for supporting us through thick and thin, and I know you'll continue to be a part of the pancreatic cancer community and continue the fight for a cure. Your Dad must have been so proud of your energy, light and enthusiasm. 💜💪🏽
John, Neal like this comment
Karen, did you want me to set up a memorial for your dad?
I am not sure why I never saw this before now but I just wanted to extend my condolences
So sorry.
Hi Karen. I am sorry to hear about your Dad's illness and your loss of him so soon. I take to heart what you said about all the wishes we could have for do-overs. I hope you've been able to find peace, eventually, in the garden. Your Dad sounds like a loving, gentle soul.
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Karen's Dad

May 1, 2017

Vital Info


May 5, 2015

Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania 16403

May 1, 2017

Cancer Info

Pancreas Cancer


April 17, 2015

Stage 3

2.1 - 3.0 cm


I hate the pancreas! Who thinks about the pancreas??

Cherish every moment of your life and being around your loved ones. Have patience in all you do especially with your family (sometimes we are the least patient with them because we know eventually they will forgive us!)

Eat your own cruciferous veggies! They can help prevent pancreatic cancer.

Not to organs, arteries are involved: hepatic and celiac axis

Field and Stream gift certificates for my Dad!

Primary: Erie Regional Cancer Center Surgery consultation: Hillman Cancer Center Surgery: John Hopkins Baltimore

Walk your puppies. Dogs give me a happiness that humans cannot. If you have dogs you understand. If you don't, you have been missing out.

Take a deep breath and if you can't take a deep breath, find something to laugh about!

Prior to stent: extreme nausea, fatigue, weight loss (15 lbs), back pain, jaundice, loss of appetite (unable to finish meals), abdominal pain, needing to take several anti-acids daily Present: back pain, feeling easily full, abdominal pain, increased appetite for potato pancakes!!!!!!

Extreme fatigue, some dry heaving, hair loss, neutropenia


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