Opa Went to Heaven Today — Remembering My Papa

by Dagmar Bleasdale on August 13, 2011

I don’t know where to start. I just knew I wanted to edit all the picture I have been meaning to edit since coming back from Germany a month ago.

So I did. Some pictures made me smile and then I’d have to stop and dry the flood if tears and hold my mouth closed because I just can’t believe this is really happening and I don’t know if I want to scream or cry more.

My head hurts from crying. But I just want to get through this blog post. I want to post those special pictures. I want you all to know my wonderful Papa. I want the whole world to know how much I love him.

Don took Landon to my mother-in-law’s house so I could be alone.

It was exactly a month ago when I was in Germany with Landon to celebrate my Papa’s 85. birthday.

I already blogged about the first 10 days of our trip to Germany that lead up to his birthday, and the next blog post was going to be about his 85. birthday — the big celebration of that big day with our little family and many of my parents’ friends.

It’s almost as if those pictures I shot that day waited to be looked at and edited today.

I feel so blessed to have those pictures and videos.

A few hours ago I received a phone call and I heard my brother’s voice on the other end, far away. He never calls.

“Dagmar, I have bad news.”

My dad died today, suddenly, from an undetected heart defect, in a hospital in the town in Germany he was born in 85 years and one month ago.

I never before heard myself cry out in that deep voice. Those sounds came from somewhere I had never felt or expressed before.

This morning he was at home with my mom and told her he wasn’t feeling right. My mom wasn’t with him when he passed away, she had been assured she would be called when his test would be done, but the nurse said he was never in pain. I pray to God that’s the truth. He passed away while my mom was on her way back to the hospital with the bag for his overnight stay.

I’m numb. I’m in shock. I’m writing all this and I know it’s true, but I want to be able to will it to not be true.

My dad was the most gentle, self-less, generous, brave, proud, honorable man I know.

When I moved to America, I first lived at an illegally run hostel in Los Angeles, and a week after I got there I received a package. My dad had boxed up his most prized possession — a teddy bear he had had since childhood that was the only thing that had survived the war. It arrived with a note that said: “Your Papa thought you shouldn’t be alone in this big, far-away country…”

That’s the kind of man my dad was. He was a man of few words, but this act of kindness was his way of showing me how much he loved and missed me. That teddy bear has been with me now for 18 years here in the U.S and is right now sitting in our bedroom. Oh, the stories it could tell!

He was generous while also being very smart with money. He was an architect and loved numbers. He worked for the same company for over 40 years. His little family — my mom, my brother and I — was everything to him. He came home for lunch to be with us every workday and would take a nap with our little dog in his arms before heading back.

He wouldn’t let us chew gum growing up because he thought that looked just awful, and he was a stickler when it came to manners and grammar. He didn’t like to eat chicken or fish, so we never had it growing up. He taught my brother and me to swim at a young age and we only found out years later that he was a terrible swimmer and would just stand in the pool :)

He was terrified that something would happen to us so we had to swear to never get on a motorcycle. We never have. I’m going to make L swear the same thing.

He couldn’t stand that I move to America, so far away, but he always supported me. He knew I was happy here and that was more important to him than his desire to have me live next door.

When I wanted to study in Los Angeles, he and my mom paid the huge bills for community college and UCLA. He beamed with pride when he saw me give the Valedictorian speech at Pasadena City College.

No one will ever know what kind of horror he went through as a 17-year-old boy in World War II. Bombs exploded around him and he was the only one left standing — all the other boys he had been grouped together with days before as cannon fodder at the end of the war were injured or died.

He was smart. He was shot in the finger and put a coin under the bandage so it would get infected, which got him to the war hospital and on the last train out of where he was. When he realized it was going in the wrong direction and not heading back to Germany, he jumped off the train and with a lot of luck (a drunken officer gave him papers to go back to his home town), he knocked on his parent’s door a few days before the end of the war. He said everyone else on that train was never heard from again.

I don’t know much more because my dad didn’t want to talk about his war experiences. And I must say I never pressured him for more information as a way to honor his wishes.

But I know that he had survivor guilt every day for the rest of his life. And that he never had anyone to talk to about that. And that he never expected to get to be 85 years old. And that he wasn’t afraid of death.

He visited the cemeteries in France of his fallen comrades several times in the last 10 years. Instead of gifts, he always asked for donations for the nonprofit that takes care of graves of German soldiers. And this year he told my mom that he needed to go one more time — he had promised his mom he would find the grave of his fallen uncles.

My mom said she just couldn’t bear to do another one of those tours of just cemeteries and all that sadness day after day. I understand. She told her sister, and my aunt’s gift for his birthday was that she would drive my mom and dad to France to make that wish come true.

She could not have given my dad a more welcome gift — he was so touched, he couldn’t talk after reading her card. I have that moment on video. We were all in tears; words were not necessary. We all knew this meant the world to him.

They were going to go in a few months. Only a few more months! Why now?!

I’m sick to my stomach. I have to fly back to Germany. I was just there. My mom doesn’t even know where to start. My brother is saying he will stay with my mom for a month or so. For how long will I go back? Who will take care of Landon? Are we all going — Don, Landon and I? What about all my work? I just want to see my mom, brother, aunt, and niece; I don’t want to see all the other people there.

I was up until 5 in the morning working on something super important that has to get in the mail, and all of a sudden that doesn’t seem important anymore.

So here are some pictures of my dear dad and the thoughts that went through my head when I was editing them. But first a video: this is so typical, my dad didn’t say a word but loved to make people laugh:

Opening presents in pajamas, a family tradition after he woke up to us singing the Happy Birthday song:

I had brought a few of L’s preschool crafts as a birthday gift, and the hat was perfect for my dad!

Going straight for the chocolate, of course :)

My dad and mom laughing after he gets certificates for his favorite, cheap breakfast place (breakfast for 2 Euros) from my niece. Such a great idea – my mom and dad would go there twice a week.

This is a picture of my dad when he was younger that hangs in our garden house. He loved to eat, can you tell? :)

My dad’s favorite cake: whipped cream cake with nuts and marzipan.

Always the first one at the table :)

My mom is such a wonderful hostess, she always decorates everything so lovely.

One of my favorite pictures of the birthday party: my beautiful Mama and strapping Papa at the restaurant.

Surrounded by love — this is just half of the people that were at his birthday party.

And I got some rare photos of my Dad with Landon, his only grandchild, that I will cherish forever:


Saying good-bye for the last time.

Oh, how I wish you could have spend more time with your Opa, Landon.

Papa, I love you so much! I will miss you so. Thank you for always letting us know how much you loved Mama and Oliver and me, even without many words.

You might have loved sleeping even more than eating. May you rest in peace, Papa. I know you are watching over me.

{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

Paula August 13, 2012 at 11:16 AM

What a beautiful tribute to your father. I know this past year must have been hard for you. {{HUGS}}

Reply

Jana from Germany August 29, 2011 at 6:23 PM

Hallo Dagmar,
Ich hoffe du kannst bald beim Gedanken an deinen Papa lachen und kannst Landon all die schönen Geschichten erzählen. Und wenn dein Sohn irgendwann in die weite Welt zieht, dann schickst du ihm vielleicht ein Packet mit einem Teddy und einer Nachricht, dass seine Mama und sein Opa dachten, er ist sonst zu allein.
Grüsse aus Süddeutschland.
Jana

Reply

Jill @BabyRabies August 29, 2011 at 3:44 PM

Dagmar, I’m so sorry I’m just now reading this. I wish I could give you a big hug! I’m sorry for your loss. This was a lovely tribute. He seemed like an amazing, honorable man. I hope you make it back from Germany soon.

Reply

Dagmar August 29, 2011 at 3:51 PM

Thank you, Jill!

Reply

Lisa August 28, 2011 at 7:39 PM

God bless you and your family. Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos and his story. He sounds like an amazing human being. Praying for you to have strength during this time.
Lisa from Pennsylvania

Reply

Erika @NAMAmmaSTE August 24, 2011 at 4:00 PM

I’m so sorry Dagmar. I’m writing this through tears. My heart goes out to you and Landon.

Reply

Gabriel August 19, 2011 at 2:35 AM

I’m very, very sorry for your loss. This was a very touching, heartwarming tribute to your Dad. He must have been an incredible man. Well, he still is!

Reply

Devan @ Accustomed Chaos August 18, 2011 at 12:55 PM

Truly a beautiful post. I am so sorry for your loss ((HUGS))

Reply

Sarah August 17, 2011 at 1:18 PM

What a beautiful post about your Papa. I truly am so sorry for your loss.

Reply

Summer Jo Brooks August 16, 2011 at 10:40 PM

Bless you sweet Dagmar… this was such a beautiful blog post. You are SO blessed to have those memories of your earthly father! What a treasure that you were just there and had such a wonderful time with him and that you were able to capture moments of your Papa and your Landon… hmmm… so sweet. My father never got to meet my Colton and it is crushing – I have still not being able to write/talk about it and its been 2 years. Praying for you and your family. God bless you… big hugs!

Reply

Pati @ A Crafty Escape August 16, 2011 at 1:55 PM

My heart hurts for you right now, and I can’t stop the tears. My mom died unexpectedly 3 months ago. I had to run home to Spain while leaving my kids and husband here in the US. To this day I still can’t believe she’s gone. I’m still picking up the pieces and honestly don’t know if I’ll ever be fine. Please know that I am thinking of you, your mom and your brother. Hugs.

Reply

bridget August 15, 2011 at 2:46 PM

beautiful. God bless your family!

Reply

Shelley Rubalcava August 15, 2011 at 11:21 AM

I am so sorry for your loss. There are no words to replace the ache I know is in your heart. Thank you for sharing and opening yourself. I can feel and see the great love you have for him. My grandfather would always correct me when I said Good-bye. He said it is never a good bye but a “see you later”….be well and you are in my prayers. Remember love knows no boundaries…

Reply

Dagmar August 15, 2011 at 11:26 AM

We would be so sad to leave each other every time I would leave Germany after my yearly trip that we always said, “See you tomorrow” to make it easier on us.

Reply

Super Savvy Mommy August 15, 2011 at 10:26 AM

Oh Dagmar, I am so sorry for your loss. How awful it must be to lose your Papa. How lucky that your family was just able to hug and kiss him and spend his birthday with him. What a gift those pictures of he and Landon are! Hope you find the peace your heart deserves in this time of sadness.

Reply

RottenMom August 15, 2011 at 9:28 AM

What a beautiful tribute this is to your Papa. The story of the Teddy Bear is the sweetest thing ever. I am so sorry for your loss. My prayers are with you and your family as you travel back to Germany.

Reply

Laura D August 15, 2011 at 9:03 AM

Dagmar, I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family as you travel back to Germany to be with your family there.

Reply

Cathy August 15, 2011 at 7:34 AM

I’m so sorry Dagmar. Losing a parent is incredibly hard. The last picture of your son and your father brought tears to my eyes.
All his pictures show such a warm and charming personality. You were blessed to have him as your father and he was blessed to have you as a daughter. Thinking about you during this difficult time.

Reply

Jeanine August 15, 2011 at 12:51 AM

Dagmar, I am so sorry. My family is thinking about you at this time as you figure out where your heart and body need to be and all the details that must be worked out to make it happen.

Reply

Rachel August 15, 2011 at 12:13 AM

I’m so sorry for your loss. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts during these hard times. It is wonderful that you have such nice memories to share.

Reply

Cathy August 14, 2011 at 8:49 PM

I’m so sorry for your loss… What a beautiful tribute/post to your father though – I can’t imagine how difficult today has been for you, and will pray for you and your family!

Cathy

Reply

kimberly/tippytoes August 14, 2011 at 11:16 AM

What a beautiful tribute. I’m so sorry he’s gone.

Reply

Pam Dillon August 14, 2011 at 11:09 AM

Sending hugs and prayers and best wishes for you and your family.
I’m really sorry for your loss, but glad you had that precious time with your father and have those beautiful photos — and that video, of your dad and your son, full of love and laughter.

Sincerely, @writewrds

Reply

Kathy Morelli August 14, 2011 at 9:13 AM

Dear dear Dagmar – Crying over here, and sending best wishes to you and your family. So, so sorry to hear about your Dad. I love the pictures and the video. Such a gentle man, he reminds me of my Dad, who died 25 years ago. My Dad would also give you the shirt off his back.
So so sorry you need to go back home for such a sad, sad occasion. I’ll bet you are grateful for that last trip and your son got to know him.
Godsped to you and your family.
God bless you.

Reply

Maya August 13, 2011 at 11:26 PM

I am so sorry for your loss. :-( You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers, and I hope over the coming weeks and months you’re able to feel some times of peace and his love for you.

Reply

Liz August 13, 2011 at 10:38 PM

Bawling my eyes out.
I am so sorry for your loss.
Take it one moment at a time.

Reply

Annie @ PhD in Parenting August 13, 2011 at 10:37 PM

I’m so sorry for your loss, Dagmar.

Such beautiful pictures and memories. That last picture of your dad with Landon made me cry. :(

Reply

Mattine@themodernparent August 13, 2011 at 6:24 PM

What a beautiful tribute to an obviously beautiful man. I am so sorry for your loss but so pleased you have those beautiful photos and videos.

Reply

Cheri D August 13, 2011 at 5:57 PM

Dagmar,
I am so sorry for your loss. So glad you got to visit with him on your trip and got so many wonderful photos. You and your family are in my thoughts & prayers.

Reply

Amy Mac August 13, 2011 at 4:33 PM

I’m so sorry for your loss! I said a prayer for you.

Reply

Laura August 13, 2011 at 4:15 PM

I am so so so so so very sory for your loss. You and your whole family will be in my prayers!

Reply

Beth August 13, 2011 at 2:41 PM

I’m so sorry for your loss. Your Opa was obviously an amazing man and raised a wonderful daughter. Your post brought tears to my eyes. I’m sure he was proud of you each and every day.

My thoughts are with you and everyone in your family.

Reply

Mama Kat August 13, 2011 at 2:35 PM

Thinking of you Dagmar! It’s a gift indeed that you have these pictures of your family together. So special, and I’m so sorry you have to go through this.

Reply

Angela (Toucan Scraps) August 13, 2011 at 12:58 PM

braveo Dagmar, that was amazingly brave of you to do that.

Thinking of you all at this time.
from Angela

Reply

Debralee August 13, 2011 at 12:02 PM

That was amazing. He surely was a wonderful man. I started to well up with tears. This is a wonderful tribute to a great man obviously. Thank you for sharing it.

Debralee Mede

Reply

Rosey August 13, 2011 at 8:55 AM

The video would not play for me, but your words and your photos were a very touching tribute.

Reply

Dagmar August 13, 2011 at 10:58 AM

I fixed the video and it should play now.

Reply

Nati August 13, 2011 at 7:37 AM

Liebe Dagmar,
es tut mir wirklich unglaublich leid, über den Verlust Deines Papas zu lesen.
Dein Tribute an Deinen Papa ist wunderschön geworden und es spricht die Liebe zu ihm aus Dir.
Ich wünsche Dir und Deiner Familie ganz ganz viel Kraft und Stärke in der schweren Zeit.
Nati

Reply

Verena August 13, 2011 at 6:48 AM

Meine liebe Dagmar, ich schreibe jetzt einfach auf deutsch. Ich bin ganz geschockt, dass Dein Papa gestorben ist. Du glaubst gar nicht wie leid mir das tut und wie sehr ich mit Dir fühle!!! (Meine Kinder haben mich gerade gefragt, warum ich Tränen in den Augen habe.) Wie gut es doch war, dass Du gerade in Deutschland warst und ein letztes Mal Deinen Papa sehen konntest und diese schönen Fotos als Erinnerung hast! Ich weiß wie es Dir jetzt gerade geht und ich hoffe, dass Du bald eine innere Ruhe verspüren kannst und Dein Herz leichter sein wird. Es tut mir wahnsinnig leid! Deinem Papa wird es jetzt mit Sicherheit gut gehen und vielleicht wird er auch seine Kameraden wiedersehen. Ich denke ganz doll an Dich! Ihr alle und damit meine ich Dich und Deine Familie seid in meinen Gebeten. Ich kann es verstehen, dass Du nur Deine Familie sehen möchtest und sonst niemanden. Das würde mir genauso gehen! Fühl Dich ganz doll umarmt von mir und ich hoffe, dass wir zwei vielleicht das nächste Jahr die Gelegenheit haben uns persönlich kennenzulernen!
Alles Liebe,
Verena xoxo

Reply

Jennifer August 13, 2011 at 3:01 AM

Oh Dagmar, my heart aches for you – I’m so sorry for your loss! Thank you for sharing your family photos with us, for sharing memories of your Dad. Thinking and praying for you and your family! (((HUGS))))

Reply

Sarah @ OneStarryNight August 13, 2011 at 1:06 AM

I am so sorry for the loss of your father, for your son’s grandfather, he seemed like a warm and caring man!

Reply

Kristi {at} Live and Love Out Loud August 13, 2011 at 1:00 AM

Dagmar, I am so so sorry to hear about your father’s passing. I wish I the right words to comfort you during such a difficult time, but I truly don’t. Just know that I’m here if you ever need anything and that I’m sending hugs and lifting you and your family up in prayer as you go through such a heartbreakingly unexpected loss. Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful photos and fond memories of your father with us all. It sounds like you were one lucky daughter. Take care, Dagmar.

Reply

Dagmar August 13, 2011 at 1:13 AM

Thanks, Kristi, I was very lucky to have him as a father. And I’m so glad I just got to see him again. What a blessing.

Reply

Christy @morethanmommy August 13, 2011 at 12:21 AM

Your post made me feel like I knew him, too. I’m so sorry for your loss…

Reply

Monika August 13, 2011 at 12:09 AM

Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry to hear about this loss & I can’t help thinking what a blessing it was that you were able to spend this last trip back home with him – for you & especially for Landon. Sending you lots of hugs & prayers to help get you through the days & weeks to come.

Reply

Fadra August 13, 2011 at 12:05 AM

Dagmar – I am so, so sorry. You wrote such a loving tribute to your father. I really get a sense of the man he was. And along with you, I shed tears for your son who won’t have the chance to know his Opa longer. Your pictures are so wonderful and I’m glad you have those memories with you forever.

Reply

MamaBennie August 13, 2011 at 3:50 AM

I am so sorry Dagmar. He seemed like he was a wonderful man. Keeping you and your family in my thoughts.

Reply

Antoinette Romero August 13, 2011 at 3:23 AM

Hello Dagmar,
I wanted to send my condolences to you and your family. I am so sorry to hear about your loss. Sending our love, Antoinette & family

Reply

Dagmar August 13, 2011 at 3:26 AM

Thank you, Antoinette! Landon and I just drove by the old house today to remember it and we talked about you guys! :) Miss you! How are you?

Reply

Cara Riggles August 13, 2011 at 3:08 AM

Oh, Dagmar! I am heartbroken for you. I am so sorry! It is such a blessing that you were recently there and able to see him again, but I’m sure that makes this seem even more shocking. You will be in my thoughts and prayers!

Reply

Jennifer @ Milk & Honey Mommy August 13, 2011 at 2:59 AM

Dagmar,

I’m so sorry for your loss. It is such a blessing that you and your son were able to visit recently. I know both of you will treasure those moments forever. I too will pray for you and your family.

Reply

Sonya - Belly Charms August 13, 2011 at 2:33 AM

I am so, so sorry for your loss. I am so glad that you just got to visit with him so you would have all of these wonderful pictures. The last photo of your Papa and Landon is just precious. I will keep your family in my thoughts and prayers.

Reply

The Slacker Mom August 13, 2011 at 2:32 AM

I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. I can’t imagine what a shock that phone call was. The memories of those 10 days (and many more I’m sure) will be treasured.

Reply

Joan August 13, 2011 at 2:31 AM

Dear Dagmar,

I am so touched and choked up as I just finished reading this post. It is such a heartfelt and touching tribute to your dad. I wish I were still in NY or closer so that I could offer more support as you sort out your next steps. I trust you will find the needed support and get ‘home’ as soon as possible to be with your family at this time.

My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Reply

CristiComes August 13, 2011 at 2:24 AM

Oh Dagmar, I am SO sorry for the loss of your papa. That is just so heartbreaking. I’m really glad you all had the wonderful chance to see him and celebrate his 85th together and make these beautiful memories. I know you’ll hold them close to your heart, but it certainly will not make this unexpected loss any easier. Nothing will. So I’m just sending you hugs and love and hope you can grieve and find peace somehow. I’m thinking of you and your family.

Reply

Julia August 13, 2011 at 2:21 AM

I’m so sorry for your loss. Your pictures are a lovely reminder and I’m glad you were able to be home for his birthday. Take care of yourself.

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 22 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: