Heather’s Pop-pop Has Passed Away

Albert V. Cabal, 1913 – 2009

My Mother and Al a few years ago

My Mother and Al a few years ago

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.

One of dozens of pictures of Heather riding the lawnmower with her Pop-pop at his home in Port Charlotte, FL

One of dozens of pictures of Heather riding the lawnmower with her Pop-pop at his home in Port Charlotte, FL. This one is from 1987.

Heather and her Pop-pop in the late 80's.

Heather and her Pop-pop in the late 80's.

Heather and her Pop-pop watching TV, July 1985. Notice the Florida tans.

Heather and her Pop-pop watching TV, July 1985. Notice the Florida tans.


16 thoughts on “Heather’s Pop-pop Has Passed Away

  1. Kim Z says:

    Preston, I am very sorry for your loss.. This was a wonderful post and what great pictures of Heather and Al.. That is so nice that he loved her so much- you can see it.. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you and your family… How is your mother doing?

  2. chip frey says:

    pres, sorry to hear about al… wow im shocked- it was good the pictures you showed the way i remember them both— and always will.chip

  3. Cindy says:

    Preston –

    Sorry to hear about your loss. My heart goes out to you and your family. Death is never easy, I was holding my sister-in-law’s hand when she passed 16 yrs ago. It’s hard, but you have to believe that he’s in a better place now, where there’s no pain, etc. He’ll always be around with you, Heather, your mom, as long as you carry him in your heart, he’ll always be with you. Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.

  4. Oh, Preston. I’m so sorry for your loss and that of your family’s. I have to say I was happy to read that he never had to go the nursing home route and that your mother was able to care for him to the end. What a gift that was.

    Prayers to all of you,

  5. Marti says:

    Preston, you look so much like your Mom! How wonderful it was that she was there when he passed. That is true romance at its best! You write from the heart, so glad I know you. Love and peace to you and your family.

  6. Preston – I am so sorry for your loss. I’m glad you and Heather were able to be there with your mother. The pictures are wonderful, it looks like you all have a lot of beautifula memories of Al.

  7. wellthenhowaboutthisone says:

    I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. But you paid Al a beautiful tribute here, with your lovely post and all the photos. I remember when my dad passed away 7 years ago, one of the things that really comforted me was going thru all our photos and displaying them in a collage at his funeral.

    JD at I Do Things

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