From the Publisher: Father’s Day without my Dad
This coming Sunday is Father’s Day and for the first time in my life, my Dad won’t be here to celebrate his special day with us – his children, grandkids and great grandkids.
My late Father, Tommy Arviso Sr., passed away on April 1st at Rehoboth Hospital.
It was a breezy and cool Wednesday evening when he took his last breath. My Dad died of natural causes. He was 84 years old but I always believed that he was going to live forever.
On April 6, along with my sister and brothers, and our kids and grandsons, we laid my Dad to rest on a quiet sunny Monday morning. There were just a few of us who were allowed to gather and bury my Dad. I know that he was happy and proud of the way we conducted our family ceremony for him and then placed his body and heavy shiny coffin into Mother Earth.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are many restrictions that have been put in place throughout society with the intent of keeping people safe and healthy. There are restrictions everywhere now especially at the hospitals, mortuaries and at the cemeteries, too.
The one thing that really hurt us as a family was that we were not allowed to sit by and take care of my Dad in the final days of his life. When he was first admitted, we took turns each day sitting with him in his hospital room, encouraging him to get better. But shortly thereafter, two persons who tested positive for the coronavirus were admitted, and the whole third floor of Rehoboth Hospital went under strict quarantine and we couldn’t be with our Dad any more.
We were left to wonder and worry about his physical and mental condition. My sister, my brothers and I made frequent calls to the hospital doctors and nurses on duty to check on my Dad. The Rehoboth Hospital staff treated us with respect and most of them understood the hurt and stress that we were feeling, so they were willing to communicate with us through the telephone.
All of this happened right before the number of coronavirus positive cases and deaths really escalated in the Gallup-McKinley County area. Rehoboth Hospital and the Gallup Indian Medical Center began restricting access to their facilities and absolutely no visitors were allowed.
As a result, we were left on the outside hoping and praying that our father was going to get well and come home. This was a time where I felt really helpless and frustrated. We all wanted to see my Dad, talk to him and hug him like we had done countless times before. This time, I could not do that. None of us could.
Eventually my Dad’s condition worsened and he was moved into the Intensive Care Unit where he was sedated and put into a deep sleep. Again, we were not allowed to visit or be with him and that put us all into an even more depressive and fearful state. But we continued to hope and pray and for a brief wonderful moment, our prayers were answered.
Dr. Patel was my Dad’s physician at Rehoboth Hospital and in addition to being a great doctor he was a caring and compassionate man. He personally met with us after my Dad was admitted into the ICU and he agreed to let us visit with him individually for a short period of time. We all had to wear personal protective equipment and follow strict rules but that was fine.
My sister, brothers and I got to see our father again and that was all that counted. We had no idea if that would be the last time we would see our father alive so that short time we each spent with him was forever precious.
Three days later, in my Dad’s final hours, Dr. Patel arranged for one of us to spend some time with my Dad in ICU. That was a sad and difficult moment because my sister and my brothers all wanted to see him, too, but that could not happen. We decided that I would go on behalf of our family to be with our Dad.
Before entering the ICU, I put on PPEs just like the physicians and nurses wore and I was instructed on what I could and could not do. I went into my Dad’s room where I was able to talk to him, hug him and tell him how much we all loved and respected him. I spent the last 30 minutes of my Dad’s life standing next to him, holding his hand, rubbing his arm and shoulder, and fixing his hair.
Later from the ICU, I called my sister Emily and my brother Tim who were both still in the hospital parking lot, waiting for me. Our youngest brother Terry had gone home. He didn’t want to be hanging around the hospital any more.
After we cried and consoled each other, we started discussing a mortuary and burial plans. We later held family meetings online through the Internet and Zoom. We communicated through cell phones and email. We did this in order to keep our dear family and friends safe and healthy.
Rollie Mortuary in Gallup only allowed five people to attend the final viewing of my Dad so my sister and brothers, my oldest daughter Tara and my nephew Kyler spent about 40 minutes praying and talking to my Dad before his coffin was closed and locked forever.
Rollie’s instituted the five-person rule to keep people safe including their customers and company employees. Large gatherings to remember and celebrate the passing of loved ones were no longer allowed anywhere.
I was at the cemetery with my son Aron, my daughter Tamara and my grandson Jesus, and we waited for the Rollie Mortuary hearse to arrive. Once it did, we unloaded my Dad’s coffin and lay it near the open grave. Rollie’s representative gave us three long green straps to help lower the coffin. He then drove away and left us alone as part of Rollie’s safety precautions. We were on our own now to bury my Dad.
We were originally instructed that we could only have five people at the cemetery at one time during the burial for the sake of being safe. We eventually had seven guys that helped to lower my Dad’s coffin into the grave and bury him.
We were all close family and we did the best we could to give my Dad the greatest funeral ceremony ever. We prayed together, we played music, we cried and we laughed. I know my Dad was smiling and feeling proud.
I am sharing this story with you today because I know that so many other people have had similar experiences with the passing of their family members and friends during this coronavirus pandemic. Because of the virus, there are many restrictions in place that make losing a loved one so much harder to accept and deal with.
I was blessed and fortunate that I was able to be near my Dad when he took his last breath. But I know that there are many others who could not physically be next to their loved ones while they were sick in the hospital, when they suffered and died.
There are people who literally have died all alone, due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions. This deadly disease has brought on so many uncontrollable hardships and it is the innocent who suffer the most.
You cannot help your loved ones while they are sick in the hospital, you can’t have a formal church ceremony or funeral with people in attendance, and you can only have a few family members present when you lay your loved one to rest. This whole situation is quite sad and can be really annoying, too.
Of course, you could ignore the restrictions and go do your own thing, but then you run the risk of hurting your family and friends, and possibly losing them. The risks are too great to ignore.
To all those families and people who have lost a loved one in the past few months and have had to deal with the troubling circumstances brought on by the coronavirus, I send you special blessings and prayers. You and your loved one deserved so much better.
For all of the fathers and grandfathers still here on Mother Earth, and to their families and friends, please have a wonderful Happy Father’s Day. Enjoy your time with one another, love one another and remember to be safe.
To my hero and friend, Tommy Arviso Sr., I send to you and Mom up in Heaven, our true family love and blessings.
This Sunday will not be the same without you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day from your loving family. We love you and we really do miss you.