Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Until you lose a parent, you have no idea how difficult it is to say everything you want to say about them. And I know I cannot and will not and don't have to. Because nothing was left unsaid between my dad and me. We have always shared a very deep dad/daughter bond, and it was a constant in both our lives. Dad knew how I felt about him as a father. I have no regrets of unsaid feelings or words.

My last conversation with him, 6 days before he died, was precious. He said things to me that felt "final" and since nothing about his health had changed, I asked him why he was saying these things. He said, "I think the end is near." 

He knew.

And so our final phone conversation was one I will forever cherish. Only my husband knows what he said and it will remain that way forever. When things took a drastic turn 5 days later, my family held the phone up to Dad's ear so I could say my goodbye to him. His eyes were open and they said he smiled afterwards. He knew it was me. He heard my words. That was one of the hardest moments of my life. Telling your pop goodbye forever. The pain was searing. But he deserved my final words of thanks for being such an amazing dad and my reassurance that he could "go" anytime he needed to.

My dad was a man of few words, but had a strong and impressionable presence in his family's life. He was a husband and father, a Poppy-Ed, doctor, photographer, brother and uncle, reader, fisherman, woodsman, hunter, game player, and all-around intelligent and wise man. He was the best-read man I've ever known.

Dad (Poppy-Ed) with his newest great-granddaughter Hazel Pat. 
He adored his 7 grandkids and 6 great-grands.
Dad was as precise as a human could be. He was a meticulous manager of his expenses and he kept every single tax statement and W-2 form he ever received. He kept up his checkbook with military precision and would stew if Mom forgot to register a check she took from the checkbook. Which was often. (I have suggested to my son never to share a checking account with a spouse. Dick and I never even considered merging our checkbooks. He saw no sense in it either. I think God created husbands and wives to share many things, but not checking accounts!)

Dad was honest as the day is long. If there is anything honest in me, it is because I am Ed's daughter. The sense of honesty was so instilled in me that when, after the first year of Dick's and my clinic's opening, we owed one-cent to the IRS, I insisted we write the check for that amount and send it off to Ogden, Utah. Dad would have done that. Because of him, I give back incorrect over-payments that of course would be delightful to keep, and give honest feedback when asked.

Dick said about Dad the day he died, "Some men are known for their strong handshakes. Eddie had strong hugs. When he hugged you, he really hugged you." I love that, and it is so true. Dad was a hugger and a kisser and never held either back.

I'll never forget the one trip we took alone together. He and mom were headed out to Salt Lake City for a medical conference, and just before they left, Mom broke her leg and could not go. He asked me to go with him and we had a wonderful 3 days together. After his daily meetings, we explored the Wasatch Mountains and ate in interesting restaurants, toured the Mormon Tabernacle, and simply enjoyed being together. Such a great memory.

Was my dad perfect? Heck no. Like anybody else, he could be short-tempered, judgmental or cranky. But in his imperfections, he was the perfect shepherd of our family. He was the right dad, the right husband. He was God's perfect choice for us.

Dad was an extraordinary doctor and one well-loved by his patients. He practiced in the days before "bean counters" told physicians how to practice their craft, and thus, he was known to take a quart of chicken soup in payment for an office visit when that was the right choice, and made many-per-week house calls to needy patients. He was a wonderful listener and hugger with his patients.

One of the words that kept being written about Dad in cards we received was that he was always a gentleman. Yes, he was. We see less of that in today's world.

I called him Sonny often. I have no remembrance of exactly when and why the nickname started, but Dad gave me all the letters he had saved from me during college, and some are addressed to Sonny Boy and Pat Hieb, so it has been a long time!! It was just a little special something that we shared.

I realize that as I sit here, I have hundreds of memories vying for space, and it strikes me as absurd that I am even attempting to write about them. There is no amount of space that would be great enough.The memories are alive and they are piercing right now, but they are sweet, so sweet. 

In my mind's eye I see family vacations where the oft-said, "If I have to stop this car and turn around......." defined his discipline of fighting children in the back seat. I remember duck shorts and posed pictures and our springer spaniel Maggie curled up in bed next to him. I see him skating on the Pipestem River, on the roofs of all our homes, cleaning out the eaves, and bringing the gramas over to our house for Sunday dinners. I see him singing Ho Ho Kravi Do to my newborn son in the hospital and coming to my cabin to put up tongue and groove boards in my bunk house. I see him walleye fishing and I see him driving in his Envoy down to Texas in the winters. I see him in every decade of my life, larger than life in his own inimitable quiet way, guiding, encouraging, loving.

I do not know how to go through the rest of my life fatherless. I have loved him and needed him for my entire life. I do not know what the color of this new path will turn out to be. I miss him so much. Waves of longing for him wash over me two or three times each day, and I know this is normal, but knowing it is normal does not lessen the longing. It will always be unresolved. Death ends a life but not a relationship. The only thing that makes it tolerable is knowing that I will see him again for eternity.

I will end here with my eulogy to my dad:

Like my father, I am a writer and not a speaker. I will say more about my dad on my blog because these spoken words do not come easily.

When I was little, the Kulm relatives called me Little Eddie. Apparently I looked very Hiebish as a toddler.

Today I am the child who bears most of my dad's characteristics:
-his short left leg
-his introverted personality
-his preference to reading any book over going to any party
-his anal precision keeping a checkbook
-his need for a clean car
-his attempt to live out the motto "less is more"

But I have more in me than Dad's passion for great novels and his distaste for messy car interiors.

He is in the bone of my spine, keeping me pointed true north.

He is in my blood, coursing through me with life-giving support and encouragement.

His voice is in my head, whispering ever-present wisdom.

My dad is in every beat of my heart.

This Little Eddie was loved by her dad more than any girl deserved to be loved, and he blessed my life beyond measure.

Edwin O. Hieb
Forever in our hearts


Cole said...

I'm crying tears of joy that you were blessed with the amazing Father you had and sadness for your longing for more time with him. As you said, you'll have it one day in a place of absolute perfection.

Praying for you, Mary, and sending my love. XOXO

Anonymous said...

I am sooo sorry to hear of your loss Mary. Your dad was a great guy