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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

My Father Passes from Death… to Life

Today my father passed away.

I don’t yet have all of the details, but according to an attendant at his nursing home, he woke up this morning, fine, happy… and then had a fatal heart attack.  With a no-revive clause in place, the doctors made him comfortable as he peacefully slipped away.

He was a remarkable man who lived about 14 years longer than my mother.  Having remarried 12 years ago to another Russian woman, she was the one who called with the news.  Haltingly, in chokes and sobs, she recounted to me in Russian that he had died.

I stretched for words to express my condolences in a language we never actually spoke growing up, so anxious were my parents for us to have a normal upbringing and not be known as immigrants.  In a fitting turn of events, in the last years of his life, my father often spoke solely in Russian.  His wife spoke little English, as well as our children who came home with no English.  Somehow, I was expected to make the transition, as well.

My father grew up in a Russian-American household, his father dying when my dad was only five years old.  My grandmother tried to raise the two boys on her own in what was then a predominantly Russian ghetto of New York City, and would later become known as Harlem.  Dad never spoke English until his first day of school, when he and his twin got into trouble perpetually… because they couldn’t understand a word being said.

The two of them served in the Navy just as World War II was ending.  He began a steady career and met my mother while on a business trip to another city.  Her brother invited him home for dinner, offering hospitality to another Russian, new to the city.  The rest was history.

Dad was an excellent father—steady, dependable, a good provider.  There were things that naturally irritated us growing up, but overall, he was a cut above.  I remember visiting our grandparents in Boston before they retired to Miami.  Dad’s twin would fly in from Europe, where he had a wife and one child, a daughter one day older than me.

The two men would dress in identical suits as we all dressed for dinner in those days.  They would play a game, “I’m your daddy.  No, I’m your daddy!” trying to make us guess which one was which.  We finally learned that my father’s hair was wavier.

As the years passed, my dad’s life became a type of point-counterpoint, comparison-and-contrast with the rest of his family.  All devout atheists, they had seen enough of suffering to last several lifetimes.  They had no time for God, and had pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, having left all when they fled during the Russian Revolution.

My father and mother, on the other hand, were believers.  I remember sitting on his lap at a young age as he read Bible stories to my brother and me.  His faith set him apart, as his brother’s marriage unravelled, not all that common in those days, he remarried and ignored his earlier wife and daughter.  I recall e-mailing her in Europe, telling her that her father had died of cancer, an alcoholic of sorts, estranged now from his second wife, his later grown sons following in his footsteps.  My cousin had attempted contact repeatedly with her father, yet had been rebuffed for years.

And now it was my father.  He had been speaking of his demise for the past year.  Not that he was in bad health, just slowing down.  It was becoming more difficult to walk.  We saw him last autumn.  They said he had a deteriorating heart, but there was really no sign of it.  He and my husband sat in the backyard garden, a tented pavilion in the midst of lush plants and flowers cultivated by his wife.

A heart attack.  He revived and they called my brother who was “close by”, only 12 hours’ distant, compared to us, much farther.  He insisted that they call an ambulance and take my father to the hospital where, technically, he died three times.  Once revived, his kidneys shut down and he started dialysis at age 85.

My brother flew to him and spent a good, solid day with him.  I considered doing the same, but we had enjoyed a great talk on his birthday in early July.  All was well.  He knew we loved him and were praying for him.  The kids sent drawings and a card, and we sent flowers with our own wishes.

After two weeks, he was moved to a nursing rehabilitation center.  There, they took him to Monday, Wednesday, Friday dialysis at another facility.  I could tell he felt weak on the rare occasions that we were able to speak with him.

Today, Benedetto had the task of telling the children that their beloved Dyedushka of blessed memory, their Skyping companion, teaser extraordinaire, complimenting the boys on their muscles and the girls on their beauty, encouraging them to take their studies seriously and bring the dogs up to the camera so he could talk with the big babies… he would be no more.  At least they had seen it coming, and we lived most weeks in close communication prior to that.

I will always remember him as a man of faith and good humor.  After dinner growing up, he would often hold our full-sized dachshund in his lap and joke around.  We went on vacations every year and focused on things that mattered—such as famly, faith, and community service.  What a wonderful heritage to pass on to my own children.

I’ll miss you, Dad.  I’m glad you lived a long life and you are at peace with the Lord….



“For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.” (Psalm 48:14)


“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26)


“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God.”  (Job 19:25, 26)

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16 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Winnie says:

    So sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you in this difficult time.

  2. avatar Shelley says:

    I’m so glad that your family is at peace. Your father sounds like an amazing man. All the best to you all!

  3. avatar hoonew says:

    Oh, Alexandra! I am so sorry. I am glad you shared some stories with us about him, today, and in previous posts. You really made the most of your relationship, despite the distance. How wonderful that the kids had a relationship with him.

  4. avatar Nancy says:

    I’m so sorry about your Dad’s passing. Thanks for sharing his story here – it is a beautiful tribute to him. My prayers are with you and your family. {{{{Hugs}}}}

  5. avatar Linda says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  6. avatar Sarah says:

    Oh Alexandra, I am so sorry to hear of your father’s passing. Hang in there.

  7. avatar Sybil says:

    May his name be written in the Book of Life and may his children and his children’s children and their children and all their children feel his love and know of him.
    I’m so sorry for you loss and will be thinking of you and your family and his current wife.
    Sending love and hugs,

  8. avatar Greg says:

    What a wonderfully written tribute to your father. He sounds like an incredible man. I am so sorry to hear of his passing, but joyful that he is now rejoicing with our Creator. Many prayers for you and your family as you deal with his passing.

    • avatar admin says:

      Thank you, Greg. Yes, we are rejoicing with him. His faith has been successfully passed down through two generations. He will be missed but we all have that legacy.

  9. avatar melin says:

    Hey Friend,

    I am so very sorry to hear that your dad died. Your Daddy.

    What I learned about your dad from this post is that he lived his life on purpose. Most of us have life just “happen to us.” But your dad, consciously or not, had a vision for his life and for his children’s and their children’s life. And he did things that reflected his priorities – stayed loyal to his wife, raised his children to know the Lord (who we can’t help but to fall in love with once we know Him), embraced his role as the head of the household, kept himself as mentally sharp as he could, married well -twice! and feigned good health so as to avoid concerning others since he was wise enough to know our days are numbered at 85.

    Such integrity, too. He knew he wouldn’t live long enough to, let’s say “benefit” in a tangible way from your kids. And yet he poured himself into them as best as he could. Completely and unconditionally, it sounds to me.

    Skyping is a big, big deal at his age. Heck – making small talk is a big deal at his age when you have a tired heart. He built your kids up in the best way he could which happened to be just what kids your age want to hear (big muscles, pretty girls, their pets). Kudos to him for not selfishlly using his time to moralize them. He knew b/w you and your husband you had that stuff covered.

    Your dad sounded as wise as any man I know. All that anybody really remembers about any of us is how we made them feel.

    Your dad made you feel cherished and I can tell from your blogging that he gifted you with a healthy sense of entitlement.

    I’m sure the Lord greeted your dad with a “job well done, my good and faithful servant.”.

    Finally, I can imagine how your mouring will wax and wane.

    Moms and Dads are the bottom line – they ground us.
    They care.
    Now both your mom and dad are both gone.

    I will pray that your kids – fully aware of the sting orphan status can bring – will minister to you in ways that will astound you.
    Just as we tell our former PI kids, it takes time to process our loss and that’s o.k.

    In sympathy,

    • avatar admin says:

      Thanks, Melin, that was sweet of you to take the time to write. That’s what I wondered: am I an orphan now, or is there a certain age limit on that? No real time for mourning right now, I’m sure it will come, just returned back from flying forever, and the family met me in yet another city, on their way somewhere else. The funeral was awesome, not to mention quite a cultural experience. I’ll have to write about it… after a long nap or two! I’m sure Dad would have been very happy. 🙂

      Here’s a blog from almost four years ago when we first started to Skype, lol: http://www.destinationsdreamsanddogs.com/skype-that-smile-off-your-face/. Since that time, the children prepare talking points about their week and it goes much better….

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