• CELEBRATING BUFFALO TOGETHER
    #totallybuffalo

    CELEBRATING BUFFALO TOGETHER
    #TOTALLY BUFFALO

 

My dad passed away, but Alzheimer’s did NOT win. Philip Friona won.

It is pretty much impossible to be a blogger and not blog about losing my father.

I’ve shared his story; his battle with Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia over the past three and a half years.

It’s difficult to write this update, difficult to live this update, difficult to even think about it.

Although it is impossible to put into words – what my dad has meant to me, I wanted to write – because, it’s what I do. Sometimes I write for myself, words nobody will ever read, and sometimes I write for others.

This is a bit of both.

I’ve often heard from people who have lost a loved one – that they fear people will forget about them.

I do not have that fear. I don’t think anyone will forget my dad. In his 80 years, he left an indelible mark on just about everyone he met.

As my husband puts it, “He was quite a character.” This picture with the hat on – was taken in February at his 80th birthday party.

My dad has been fiercely battling Alzheimer’s Disease –  the monster of a disease – for a while. He had ups and downs. He’s known us one day, not a clue who we were the next. It’s a merciless disease.

He’s a fighter, but he was tired.

He passed away on September 20th at 8:10 p.m.

His heart failed and he left this earth peacefully with his family by his side. My sisters and brother and some of our children (not my little ones) surrounded him and shared stories. It was three days of waiting, watching, and praying.

I arrived in Florida on Monday – and my dad was pretty much out of it. He wasn’t waking up. He wasn’t speaking; wasn’t doing much of anything.

He was tired.

At one point, with me standing over him talking to him, he opened his eyes. Oh my God, I was so happy. I told him I loved him and he surprised me by speaking, “I love you too, Mary.”  This is crucially important for two reasons. First of all,  it is a gift to hear that one last time – a gift to be reminded of his love, although I would never need any reminders of that. Secondly, he basically told Alzheimer’s to take a hike, that he knew me in the end – that he knew all of us in the end. All four of us.

Another gift.

My sister Paula took care of dad for the most part. She lived close by and always made sure he was okay.

 

He will NOT be defined by that horrific disease.. It was only 3 and a half years of his life. That’s what…  3.75% of his entire life. Nothing. It is nothing. The other 96.25% he was on top of the world.

I don’t want a sad, sappy blog about death. I’d rather focus on the incredible life he lived and provided for us.

But, I will say this –

I can’t even begin to say enough about Hospice. They are angels from above. The doctors, nurses, staff, and volunteers for Hospice were nothing short of amazing. They not only took incredible care of our father, they also helped my family and I really prepare for what was to come. They were sweet, caring, smart, lovely, and compassionate. I will be forever grateful.

I had an amazing relationship with my father. Before Alzheimer’s took over, we would talk on the phone two, three even four times a day – every single day. Every day. We talked. I loved talking to my dad. He was funny, gave incredible advice, always made me feel special and always let me know that he was just a phone call away.

Two things were most important to my pops – His Country and his family.

He taught me so much in life.

My father raised us. He was a single dad before that was a thing… He did everything for the four of us. I know that wasn’t easy; that he sacrificed a great deal for us. I’ll appreciate that forever. That’s me in the Mickey Mouse shirt – sure looks like four very happy kids to me – and a happy dad, too.

I’m a better mom because of my dad. I know how important it is to create memories as a family. He was big on family. We did everything together.  From vacations to dinners to the movies – we traveled as a pack and it was the best.  My big girls, Maria and Alexa had a very special relationship with their Papa. We spent a great deal of time with him and it meant the world to my girls.

Emma got to spend a good amount of time with him and loves him so much. I’m sad that Ella won’t have that chance, she’s spent plenty of time with him, but he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease before she was born, so it’s different.

But as it turns out – the only grandchild that didn’t really get to know him is the only one who looks just like him. His spitting image. That is an incredible gift.

I hope what people take away most from my dad’s life is how important family is.

He took us to Puerto Rice to ride horses in the Rain Forest, we went to NYC during the holidays, Bahamas for New Years Eve, the Islands for birthdays, and we watched the sun set together in Key West. I could go on and on. He made life an adventure. That is what he’s left us with and NOTHING is more important.

I hope that is what people take away from this. The significance of memories. Because I can tell you this for certain:  In the end – those memories are all you have. While in Hospice those last few days, nights too, that’s what was most important.

  

We shared those memories with my dad. We laughed. We cried. We laughed and cried some more. But we never ran out of memories.

  

Philip Friona – February 6, 1937 – September 20, 2017

Rest In Peace, Dad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Friona

Mary Friona

Following my heart with my husband and four daughters. An Emmy Award winning journalist lucky enough to work in television & radio for 20 years - seeing wonderful places, meeting great people and telling their stories.

Comments (21)

  • Avatar

    Bernadette Cosgrove

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    Mary this is beautiful… I can see your Dad reading this with a huge smile on his face & a tear rolling down his cheek.
    This blog gives other families dealing with Alhemizers hope… Hope that in the end Alhemizers does not win, love is the winner.
    Thank You, for sharing as difficult as this had to be, it is so heart warming❤️

    Reply

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    Janice Dwigun

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    I’m very sorry for the loss of your dear father. He sounds like he was the perfect dad in every way. God bless all of you.

    Reply

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    Debi Civisca

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    What a beautiful tribute to your dad. As I always say keep them in your heart and they are always with you. ❤️

    Reply

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    Michael Powers

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    I’m so very sorry to read of your dad’s passing. He sounds like an awesome guy and has an incredible legacy in his children and grandchildren. This is a beautifully written blog and a touching tribute. I know how much my dad means to me. I hope I can approach this eloquence when that time comes.

    Continued condolences & good vibes to you and your family

    Reply

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    Mary Pat Sperrazza

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    What a beautiful tribute! How lucky to have been raised by such an amazing man! May your memories bring you comfort at this difficult time!1

    Reply

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    Teri

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    I love you, that was beautiful ??➕

    Reply

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    Jann MacDonald

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    What a beautiful tribute. You were so incredibly blessed. In time I hope you can start a novel, “How to live life to the fullest”, and share the blessings. A true hero who raised em up. Prayers.

    Reply

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    Melissa Stangroom

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    Mary- I enjoy reading your blog…it makes me feel connected to home, but this is my favorite piece. Such a loving testimony of your father’s dedication to his family. I could feel the love and happiness through your words and chosen pictures. I’m sorry for your loss, but I’m glad to see you are celebrating your blessings and the man who taught you how to be everything you are today.

    Reply

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    Linda Dunkle

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    What a beautiful tribute to your dad.

    Reply

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    Connie

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    Remembering your dad is easy..you will do it everyday…..missing him is a heartache that never goes away

    Reply

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    Luci Casale

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    That was so beautiful as I was reading I cried from the beginning all the way to the end.l remember your father very well and you children were the love of his life. He left a great legacy his children may he rest in peace keeping use all in my heart

    Reply

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    Kathie

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    I’m so sorry for your loss. Parents are such special people in our lives. My Mon is 94 yo and going through the dementia stages. It’s so difficult. Hang in there, Mary. God loves you.

    Reply

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    Gina Bianca

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    That was a beautiful tribute to your father ♥️♥️I’m in tears now, but smiling knowing how strong your family is. You guys are amazing & I know all those amazing memories will help you find your strength on the toughest of days. All my love to the whole fam! Love and peace today and always

    Reply

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    Cindy Forster

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    Mary, what a wonderful heart filled tribute to your Dad. We offer our condolences to your family. So glad you could be there with him and your siblings. Aunt Cindy and Uncle Brian

    Reply

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    Patsy

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    Mary, this brought tears to my eyes. Sorry about you Dads passing, My Dad is in Ridgeview Manor with the same disease, Sad to see him in there does not know me. I feel bad for him because he has his days. Praying for your Family?

    Reply

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    Laura Whittinghill

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    What a loving and beautiful tribute Mary. Although I never met “Pops”, I feel that I knew him through your posts and pictures…and of course, through you. I am glad we had each other to support one another as both our Dad’s fought the beast of Alzheimer’s. Through their vicious battle, we helped create awareness…and are one step closer to meeting the first survivor of Alzheimer’s.
    My deepest and most heartfelt condolences to you and your family. My heart breaks for you again, and again, and again. It truly is, the longest goodbye.
    Love,
    Laura Whittinghill

    Reply

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    Beth Boron

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    Your Dad’s beautiful legacy lives on in you and your girls. So so special. Such a gift. Love you Mary.

    Reply

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    Darlene Brania

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    Your story was beautiful your family Beautiful your Dad amazing man fell in love with ypu on tv amazing person my story similar bur not same illness dad was out God gave us that special open n talk moment so touched Thank you sharing

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Annette Ancona

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    Mary,

    You like your father are incredible. Thank you for sharing his life and yours with us. There are few people that you meet that will affect your life forever. You and Phil will always have an impact on mine.
    Your dad always made every person feel so special and beautiful.
    I’m glad I got to know him. You will continue to honor his legacy along with your brother and sisters of what family, friends and life is all about.
    I love you my dear friend.

    Reply

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