25 February 2009

Trying Times - First my Daddy - Billy

My biggest fear was to lose both my parents and my dog in the same month. And, unfortunately, that's exactly what happened.

My Mom, Pete & I were about to bake our Christmas cookies - they are very special and we hadn't baked them for years! We had already made the dough and were just going to roll them and bake.

My Mom called and said, "You'd better get over here, Daddy's not breathing." We ran over - after coaxing Turbo back indoors, and she was almost right. He had a very slight breath. I leaned over to kiss him and a tiny tear slipped from his right eye and he was gone. We had already called 911 and a ton of young and older firemen and paramedics arrived. Daddy was a firefighter for over 60 years and well respected and loved. Lucky me, I get the spill-over from him and his friends take care of me, too!

It was like a dream, one of my best friends was gone! At once I was sad and comforted that he was over his suffering - he had lots of stuff wrong at the end. But he looked so peaceful with a little grin (as usual), and all his boys and his family around him.

There was a wonderful funeral with a parade of fire trucks (including his own).

There was a gentleman playing Amazing Grace on his bagpipes and a ton of people even came to the graveside service.

For the last year or so of his life, Daddy used a walker - which he hated - and which he refused to use properly - always leaning back and wobbly saying, "I'm going down!" - but he rarely did. At the graveside, much to Mary Beth's dismay, his urn tumbled down and the whole crowd laughed - how he would have chuckled himself. Mary Beth, director of Rabe's Funeral Home in Donora, did a wonderful job. My Mom and I would have never made it through without her and her wonderful son, Tyler.

My Dad, Karl William Schempp, Jr., was a World War II Calvary veteran and he was the last surviving rescue worker from the infamous Donora Smog, which led to the creation of the EPA and has given way to clean air worldwide. He has been interviewed by the BBC, CNN and has been quoted in the Smithsonian magazine and more.

In the meantime, Pete had to be rushed to the hospital for pneumonia - he was sick and in and out of the hospital for over 2 months! Finally, he's feeling better just now!