Albert V. Cabal, 1913 – 2009
Heather’s Pop-pop, my stepfather, my mother’s husband for the past 33 years, passed away quietly at home with his family around him on Thursday, August 6, 2009. During the past month, Al’s condition had rapidly declined and his last weeks were spent bed ridden, barely able to eat and swallow.
I have posted previously about my mother’s struggles to care for him at home. Al went from walking with a cane, to walking with a walker, to needing a wheel chair, to being bed ridden, all within a course of 3 or 4 years. But my mother was determined to care for him at home. After living 93 full years, she provided him the opportunity to pass away in the comfort of his home, far away from the usually harsh, impersonal, and sterile conditions of hospitals and nursing homes. Free from the tests, and tubes, and the prodding of doctors, Al passed away with two soft gasps and the squinting of his eyes while my mother held his hand.
My mother had called me at work to tell me she thought he wasn’t going to last very long. I called Heather to let her know I was coming to get her and take her to Grandmom’s. It’s a 25 minute drive home and another 25 minute drive from my house to my Mom’s house. About a minute before we pulled up to her condo, she called to say he had just passed away. We had just missed it…
As we ran into the house, I could see Al laying in his hospital bed in the bedroom. He was covered with a Phillies throw. My mother was holding his hand to her face and crying. I could hear her through her sobs, “Al, please come back to me.” His daughter (from a previous marriage) was on the other side of him and a hospice nurse stood near the foot of the bed.
The sight of my mother sobbing into Al’s hand was perhaps the most heart-wrenching personal sight I have ever experienced. I paused for a moment as a felt a lump in my throat and a tightness in my chest. Heather flew past me and stopped for just a second at the sight of her Pop-pop. She began to cry and my mother stood up throwing her arms around her and crying as well.
I looked down at Al on the bed. His eyes were tightly closed and his mouth hung open recalling his last gasps for breath. His cheeks was sunken and he looked so much older than from just the day before. I didn’t realize it but I was crying, too — crying for my Mother’s loss, crying that my daughter will no longer have a Pop-pop, and crying because over the years I had come to love and respect this man who married my Mother.
In my 49 years of life of this earth, this was the closest I had come to witnessing death first hand. Oh, I’ve been to plenty of funerals and I’ve seen plenty of dead bodies, but never so close and so personal as this. In just a matter of seconds, Al had left us. No big bang. No thrashing. Just a small gasp or two and he was gone.
Al was cremated. My Mother didn’t want him embalmed nor did she want to wait for a ceremony. We were able to pull off a little service at 11:00 am on Saturday morning before they whisked him off to Philadelphia to be cremated.
Heather and I had gathered a bunch of photos and she worked on a large collage of pictures that were put on an easel. We threw other photos in frames we had in the house. Before we got to the funeral home, Heather and I ran into Acme and purchased some flowers and vases. At the funeral home, Al was on a table covered with his Phillies throw. We placed the flowers on each side of him and placed the framed pictures on tables around him.
Our family is small and so our service was small and private. After everyone had arrived, all were given the opportunity to stand and express their feelings about Al. Afterwords, his other granddaughter’s husband said a prayer. It was simple and straightforward, just like Al and just what he would have wanted. It was a perfect goodbye to a man who meant so much to us.
Please enjoy the pictures of Heather and her Pop-pop from years gone buy. Al was a man of few words. Strict and straightforward, you always knew where you stood with him and I admired him for that. I always called Al the “Energizer Bunny” because he never stopped working and doing things. Al was also a wonderful Pop-pop to Heather. No matter what she wanted, no matter where they went, he was happy to oblige and never once complained. As you can see from these pictures, he was a loving and doting Pop-pop.