Those were the words I dreaded to hear but knew would come one day. The call came last January 22, 2002 around 12:30 pm (PST) where I live in Abbotsford, British Columbia (Canada) from my Mom in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I said "hello" and then immediately questioned why she was calling in the middle of the day. That was rarely done in our family. Looking back now, I knew in the back of my mind that something was wrong. She started to break down and told me that my Dad, Bob Larence, who was 70 years old had died earlier that morning. I was shocked! It was the first death in our family. We talked about it for a few minutes and from what I could gather, it seemed it must be a heart attack. I guess because of the shock I didn't shed a tear or break down. She asked me if I would go tell my sister, Peggy who lives across the street from me. With a heavy heart I walked over and told my sister there was some bad news and Dad was dead. We both had the same reaction and just could not believe it and sat and talked about this shocking news for awhile, shedding a few tears. Our other sister Cindy, was visiting family in Edmonton at the time, and it took a number of hours to get hold of her. We quickly made plans to fly home to Winnipeg as soon as possible.
Of course we really weren't sure what had happened to him yet. He hardly ever complained of sickness or pain throughout his life. He rarely saw a doctor unless there was a reason. He was retired from a successful family bath tub refinishing business for the past five years or so. He would visit the shop in Winnipeg daily and run small errands for them as needed. He was said to have mentioned a sore back a few years earlier and went to the doctor, but nothing came of it. He thought by taking Dodd's kidney pills it would help but could no longer find them for sale. It wasn't until a few days after he died, before his funeral that the medical examiner called with the report. I took the call and quickly wrote down "ruptured right common iliac aneurysm." I had no idea what that meant. Luckily our Mom had the internet and my sister quickly searched those words and came up with some answers and this wonderful site. We have learned a lot in the past year. Since receiving the medical examiners paper report we found out that the ruptured iliac artery was 6 cm in diameter! And he also had an abdominal aortic aneurysm that was 4 cm in diameter and 9 cm in length! (A walking time bomb I would say).
A few days before he died, he was sitting at the funeral of a dear friend of his who passed away with cancer, unbeknownst to him that he would be next. The last day of his life started out as normal as any other on a cold and sunny winter morning in Winnipeg. He and my Mom lived in the same neighborhood for over 45 years. He made a wake up call to my brother Hugh, who worked at the tub refinishing business. Learning that his granddaughter Amanda, had forgotten her boots, he went out and drove her and her brother Kyle, to school so her feet wouldn't get wet. He stopped in at the shop and ran a few errands for them and then dropped off another granddaughter Shawna, who was returning his truck. She told him he looked spiffy in his new jacket that day. On the way home he went by the post office to get the extra postage needed to send me a birthday card and dropped it in the mailbox. A quick stop at the store for bread and milk and then came home and brought in the mail. As he put his glasses, watch and change in their familiar dish on the TV, my Mom opened a card and picture from another granddaughter Becky, in BC and Dad admired his great grandson Devon, who was two. The phone rang and it was his nephew Justin, so Dad took the call and settled into his favorite spot on the couch. My Mom got ready to go out and run her errands and said, "I’ll see you later." From what we gather, he finished his conversation and as usual enjoyed smoking his (last) cigarette.
A couple hours later my Mom returned and came in and put her bags in the house and noticed he was in the bathroom. She went outside to shovel the walk and upon returning noticed that he was still in the bathroom and thought that quite odd. She called him a few times and realized that something was terribly wrong. She hesitated to open the door herself and called my sister Barb, at work. She raced over there and together they opened the door and found him. He was just sitting on the toilet, his eyes shut and head tilted back. His thumbs were still in his pockets. There appeared to be no struggle to get up, his feet had not moved out of position. They called 911 and he was taken to the emergency and worked on for a short time and pronounced dead at 1:56 pm(CST). My sister and brother and then my Mom said their last goodbyes and left the hospital wondering what had happened, all the time thinking it must have been a heart attack!
From speaking with the medical examiner, I figure when the aneurysm burst he probably felt pressure in the abdomen and thought he should go to the bathroom. The medical examiner also said he probably had no pain because as it burst all the blood was pumping into his abdomen and he was getting weak (and probably a little light headed) and lost consciousness and just drifted off. For him that was indeed the perfect way to die. He did not like hospitals and would not have made a good patient. He did not want to endure his life in a wheel chair or have people fussing over him on recovery from surgery. He had the fear of dying of cancer and hoped not to suffer that way. But he did not live a healthy lifestyle. He drank alcohol, and smoked most of his life. He didn't exercise and also suffered from high blood pressure about a year before. His doctor prescribed pills for it. My Mom said he took a few, and then didn't bother when he thought they didn't do any good. Just like him!
When we planned his funeral, we made a video montage of his life set to some of his favorite country music. My sisters and I and our husbands all took part in the program and spoke of him and his life. He played the guitar most of his life and sang country music. Mostly Hank Williams and George Jones. We also showed a video of him playing and singing at their annual Christmas Eve party. Many people came to us after and expressed their appreciation for such a beautiful way to remember him. He made a small cassette tape of himself singing a number of years back and we made it into a CD and around 70 members of family and friends bought them to remember him. He would have loved that!!!!
I guess it’s normal to think about the what ifs and wonder why. I know it could have been a lot worse. The aneurysm could have burst while he was out running his errands, maybe with his grand daughters and he could have had a car accident in the process. It could have burst while my Mom was out in BC visiting my sisters and I... She was scheduled to fly out to see us on the 30th of January (the date of his funeral!). The timing could not have been better! He could have been on life support or in pain or what have you (in my reading of this site). I know this might sound morbid, but I am grateful for the way it did happen. I don't think he would have wanted to know ahead of time when that could be. I don’t have any regrets about it, except that he was only 70, but when is it the perfect time?
I feel that my Dad lived the life he wanted and enjoyed for what it was. He had a good wife who made a wonderful home and stood by him. He was blessed with five children whom he saw grow to manhood(1) and womanhood(4). He had 20 grandchildren who loved him. He also had 3(at the time) great grandsons whom he unfortunately never met. He was blessed to have his mother, who was 99 with him the entire journey. He had 8 brothers and sisters and numerous nieces and nephews, most of all who lived in and around the Winnipeg area. When I think of all that, as sad and as difficult as the past year has been, I know in my heart that it was the best way. I am okay with it all now.
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