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Posted 2016-11-09T14:03:46Z

Thank You All

I wanted to write one last post to thank you all for the amazing support you have given us over the last 10 months, and especially last several days. We could not have made it this far, or continue to proceed forward, without the amazing support network of friends, family and loved ones that we have. Dad lived an incredibly rich life, and you all are evidence of that. To end this long journey, I wanted to leave you all with the words I shared at Dad's funeral. 

- All my love and gratitude, Linnea

 

Donald Howard Westerberg

March 1, 1948 - November 1, 2016

My Dad was never the kind of person that said things like "it'll be fine, it's all good". Instead, he would say "I’ll find a way to make it work". Dad did not believe in easy way outs. He tackled every step of life, every task, with a work ethic that rivaled none other...this could maybe be attributed to his Midwest upbringing or the fact that he was a boy scout until his late teens, or maybe, he was just simply built differently. From an early age, I understood that my father was not only dependable, but unrelenting in the pursuit of giving his family anything we could ever need. My father embodied the meaning of grit and hard work. A true North Omaha, hardscrabble Swede, he believed in the ethic my Grandfather instilled him, "when the going gets tough, the tough gets going". I often find it unfathomable, how much my father gave me. But then I think about how he did it, and I’m even more grateful. Dad was never given anything he had, what he gave us…he earned it all, with hard work and planning. He didn't buy his dream home when he and mom moved out of the Church house back in the 70s. They bought a plot of land and cleared it themselves, every weekend for a year. Then they built a house from a kit dad ordered, and slowly, over 25 years, added to it and the yard to create the dream house they originally envisioned.
        Dad didn't believe relaxation was "owed" to him, even on weekends. Friday nights he would come home and do the budget, after working 12-14 hour days. Saturday morning, he would be up early, doing a dump run and then working in the yard. He instilled in us the idea that good enough, was never good, enough. And even if you work hard, you may fail, but you don’t give up. Despite the long days he worked, he always made it a point to ask us about our days, to proof-read papers for us or help us with math homework when he got home late at night and was eating his dinner. When I was in high school, and wanted to drive, it was Dad that took me up to the high school and had me practice learning how to drive a stick shift on his Toyota pickup. Then on a snow day, during a blizzard, it was Dad who had me drive up to Jack’s market in Washington Depot, under the guise of “I think we need something yummy for dinner”, to make sure I knew how to drive safely, even in a white out. I’m sure I gave Dad whiplash, if not an ulcer (clutching did not come easily to me), but he never faltered with his patience, nor did he let me give up, even when I wanted to. Dad let me make the mistakes, whether that meant stalling a vehicle on a hill and rolling backward a bit, or not knowing what I wanted to do after college and moving home for a year, he let me feel the strain of uncertainty, and with gentle guidance, and a lot of love, he always helped me find my way out of whatever problem I faced.
Throughout my life, my father taught me many lessons. Like him, I love to plan. Neither of us could take a trip without consulting trip advisor multiple times or creating a spreadsheet with a clear outline of which restaurants we were eating at and when. We also don’t understand how anyone could book a flight for a vacation less than 10 months ahead or get to the airport with less than 2 hours before a flight. However, as often as Dad said "it's important to plan”, he would frequently follow it up with “but without flexibility, you will get nowhere in life". I remember a fishing trip to the Winnipeg River in Canada about 10 years ago, a place we often went in the summer, and a place Dad had gone since childhood. He had planned our trip down to every last detail (like whether Walleye were biting better with minnows or leaches), but he could have never planned that on a trip into town to get Pizza for dinner, someone (Grandpa) would have locked the keys inside our minivan. The only way back to our cabin was in a metal boat and a thunderstorm was fast approaching. Dad had a plan in place for getting the keys out before most of us had even gotten past our initial panic.  Not once did he place blame or get angry, he just accepted what had happened and figured out a solution. The way back to the cabin was no less stressful, with one member of our party passing out in the back of the minivan, then riding through the dark, in the rain, in a boat back to the island we stayed on. Yet it was only once we were back, safely, that Dad sat down, poured himself a Dewar’s and let out a pretty big sigh, did I realize that maybe he had been a bit stressed.
When Dad was first diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis 9 years ago, he handled the situation similarly. Instead of asking why, or wallowing in upset and anger, Dad was proactive. He continued to live his life, adjusting with flexibility and composure. Dad refused to let someone else take care of his lawn, for example, but he needed oxygen to even exert minimal energy. So he went to Walmart, found a backpack that had a holes for headphones at the top, and rigged up the tubing so he could wear his oxygen while still doing his beloved yardwork. Dad ran his life with meticulous care, he would not let a disease run him. Even while in the hospital, he did not give up on his true passion – caring about and helping others. He knew every nurse, doctor, tech and cleaning person’s name that came into his room. He became like a mentor to the two chaplains that came to visit him and offered online dating profile advice to his favorite nurses. He knew how many children each person had and where they were from. He did not give up on living a life of purpose, even when I’m sure it felt impossible.

However, he would not have been able to do this without his remarkable partner, my mother. As long as Dad had the drive, mom would make it work. This manifested itself in many ways, like when he could no longer go without oxygen full-time, and couldn’t drive himself anymore, Mom retired and took Dad to work every morning, went back at lunch to heat up a home cooked meal she had made, and then came back at night to drive him back home. Yes, Dad was the one working 12+ hour days while on 6 liters of supplemental oxygen, but it wouldn’t have been possible without Mom. The last 10 months, Dad suffered, but mom was there to comfort, care for him and make it doable. She would be with him by 8 am, whether she was staying 30 minutes away with us in White Plains, or 2 hours (sometimes 3 with traffic) when she would take her occasional trips home to Roxbury. When he couldn’t eat because of painful blisters in his mouth, a side effect of a medication, it was mom who would make frequent trips to the grocery store to get him ice cream, then feed it to him, or stay up late cooking him his favorite soft foods he could eat – pennywise steak, sloppy jo, sweet potato puree. The nurses often joked she deserved a paycheck, but I don’t think they were actually joking. I have never seen a level of devotion greater than that of the one Mom had to Dad had to each other. Dad never gave up, he fought to the bitter end, and I think it was a testament to his love for her and us. He wanted to be alive as long as he possibly could be. And yet Dad would not have made it so far, or so long, without my mother. Dad rarely complained and yet he endured so much during his recovery - being woken through the night for pills, horrendous side effects from medicine, terrifying trips to the ICU and numerous infections...and yet when our favorite chaplain came in once and asked him "Don, how does all of this, the clear injustice of what you've had to deal with, make you feel", he said "it is what God has chosen for me so my only choice is to accept it and move forward". When it came to my wedding this summer, despite his struggles the past year, nothing got in his way of giving John-Michael and me a wedding more perfect than we could have ever dreamed of. He worked tirelessly at rehab for two and a half months to get strong enough to be present that day, and on top of it, married us. Some have said it was a miracle, but once again, it was Dad’s hard work.

My father would often say “I am a simple man, who enjoys simple pleasures and a simple life”. Yet, there was nothing simple or easy about the life Dad lived. Dad worked for everything, gave his all to his family, and fought with superhuman faith and strength through his disease and difficult transplant recovery. While my favorite memories with my Dad may be considered simple to some, like sitting on the porch with him in the summer, listening to the News from Lake Wobegon and having appetizers, or going to family skate every Sunday at the Gunnery when we were growing up, the impact on my life, and I know on others, is not simple. The love and respect I will always feel for him is deep and all-consuming. The lessons he taught me, how he prepared me for life, was not simple or easy. He said to us right before he passed, “I hope all of you can live a life as good as me, but no one will live a better one”. In return, Dad I would like to say “I hope I can be as good a parent, a person, as you, but it would be impossible to be a better one”. 

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Comments (14)

  • Patricia Fraley
    Patricia Fraley

    Beautiful. You are truly blessed.

    3 years ago · Reply
  • Jacqueline Pikulski
    Jacqueline Pikulski

    Beautiful

    3 years ago · Reply
  • Patricia Lowe
    Patricia Lowe

    Thank you Linnea. What a wonderful family and am proud to be so blessed to have you all in my life. Love and prayers. Pat Lowe

    3 years ago · Reply
  • Amanda Salera
    Amanda Salera

    Linnea, this was beautifully stated. Your family has been in my thoughts and prayers. It was such an honor to work with your father at Bethel Health Care. He will always have a special place in my heart and I will remember your family's love and commitment to eachother forever. -Amanda, OT

    3 years ago · Reply
  • Barbara greene
    Barbara greene

    This was beautiful and poignant at the service and even more so as I can take the time to read it slowly. You were so lucky to have had your dad for as long as you did, as he instilled in all of you some amazing values and life lessons during his brief time here. He will be sorely missed by everyone whose life he touched on a regular basis. Thank you for sharing him with all of us with all the highs and lows. All of you did an amazing job making sure these past 10 months, in particular, were as good as they good be. It was a long good-bye, but it gave your dad and all of you time for closure, final wishes and expressions of love. That was important. A piece of your life may be missing now, but you have been given a strong foundation and you will be just fine and continue to make your dad proud!

    3 years ago · Reply
  • David Peters
    David Peters

    Thank you - May God bless you!

    3 years ago · Reply
  • Janice Steers
    Janice Steers

    Vvv thank you Linnea for sharing so much of Don's life with us. We are blessed to have him in our lives.

    3 years ago · Reply
  • jan francis
    jan francis

    Linnea, you captured your fathers essence and he would have loved it. The Francis family misses him although we seldom saw him in the last few years. It was knowing he was there that kept him part of our family. Love and hugs to you and yor mother and Peter.

    3 years ago · Reply
  • Darlene Greer
    Darlene Greer

    Linnea & Bonnie & Peter Thank you so much for the live stream of the funeral for Don. What a testament to his dedication of life to ministry and counseling, to his family who so were so richly blessed with his faith, hope, and love. We love you all. Blessings and peace. Love, Darlene & Dave Greer

    3 years ago · Reply
  • Patti
    Patti

    Just a wonderful testament to a life well lived. The impact he had on you is amazing and will be with you the rest of your life. Dad was smiling down on you and giving great approval for your thoughtful words. Although I left NHS many years ago, Bonnie was a good friend and I remember her stories of Don and how driven he was. It was clear how much he loved his family. I will miss his yearly summary at Christmas time. Thank you for sharing Dad's journey. I wish you a life well lived and filled with love and grandbabies for Bonnie to fuss over. I am impressed with the deep love you have for your wonderful parents.

    3 years ago · Reply
  • gretchen getsinger
    gretchen getsinger

    Dear Linnea, I appreciate all your posts from these past ten months. It's been a great comfort to me to be part of this circle of love, faith, healing and prayer for your family and for your dad and I thank you for keeping us all in touch and informed as to what was going on. I'm a long-time client of your dad's and the simplest thing I can say is that he's helped me enormously throughout the years starting with the trust I felt in him when I first met him 36 years ago. One of our first bonds was a mutual love of Lake Woebegone and Garrison Keillor. I have a treasure-trove of memories of strength, hope and experience on which to draw in all the help your dad gave me and is still giving me in memory. I'm deeply grateful for all his help as counselor, Spiritual Guide, therapist and friend. I miss him as I knew him on this earthly plane, am grateful he hasn't left us in his transitioned and spiritual state. Your dad told me about his illness in Jan 2009. I'd gone to see him that morning with the thought that since my latest crisis was past that maybe, in order to save money, it was time for me to stop seeing him. I forgot all about that when he told me about his illness and how he felt and how he planned to deal with it. One of the things he told me was that he planned to work up to his very last moment, whenever that should occur. Since that is my plan for myself, I told him that I'd like to continue working with him. Instead of a year or 2, it turned out to be so much more and I'm eternally grateful that I kept going to see him every other Wed for the next 8 years. I learned so much from him. I'm glad for him that he worked up to his last moments on earth and I think that his energy is still hard at work within all of us who know him. The crisis that preceded Don telling me about his illness was the loss of my brother and 2 other people I cared for. It was a lot of loss and grief all at once and a hard time to go through. Somewhere in the midst of all that healing, your dad stopped whatever conversation we were having and asked me if I'd ever heard of the movie Napoleon Dynamite. I hadn't and he suggested I spend an evening snuggled up and watching it complete with some kind of comfort food. I took his advice. There was a scene in the movie that was completely ridiculous -- so funny I howled with laughter, so funny I snorted ice cream out my nose, so funny, I laughed until I hurt. I've always appreciated how one's outlook can be changed by a change in perspective and how laughter is a healing medicine and will never forget your dad -- on so many levels of Being -- or Napoleon Dynamite! I wasn't able to go to your dad's funeral and am grateful for the miracle of live-stream and that I got to be there via Internet. Your dad's best friend from childhood talked about Don's great sense of humor which is something I appreciated in him these past many years in our work together, the appreciation of Napoleon Dynamite a tiny example. This afternoon I'm going grocery shopping and plan on buying a quart of my favorite vanilla ice cream to eat while I watch Napoleon Dynamite later on this evening. I pray you find comfort and peace in your memories, and yes, howls of laughter and tears of joy, in your healing. Most Sincerely,

    3 years ago · Reply
  • Cindy Eastman
    Cindy Eastman

    Linnea and family: I am so sad to learn of Don's passing. For me, he was the therapist who worked down the hall from my office at North Church 20 years ago, until last year when he became my husband's and my therapist. But for only a brief time, as soon after we began working with him, he was scheduled for his transplant. We will always remember Don as a no-nonsense, thoughtful and caring man who helped us get to the place we've always wanted to be. Over the last 10 months, I kept thinking I wanted to let him know how well we were doing but then I'd forget. I will always regret not thanking him. Even though I knew him for years, I didn't know the man you described in this heartfelt post. He reminds me of my Dad, a planning, stubborn Swede. I wish you all peace and comforting times ahead as you mourn your loss. Please know my husband and I feel his loss deeply, too. Sincerely, Cindy & Angelo

    3 years ago · Reply
  • Brian Diana
    Brian Diana

    So terribly sorry. Don was a great man who helped me immensely. May he rest in eternal peace.

    2 years ago · Reply
  • Stacey Beedge
    Stacey Beedge

    I was diagnosed with polymyositis in 2002 and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) by a lung biopsy in 2007. I have been on prednisone at various dosages from the beginning along with various immune suppressant medications. I began taking tacrolimus in 2008 and have held off any progression of more scarring. I had shortness of breath and coughing. I was relatively active but I learned to pace myself. I have the best medical team that all work together.. As the disease progressed all medication stopped working, i was introduced to Health herbal clinic in South Africa who have successful herbal treatment to Pulmonary fibrosis and other lungs diseases. I spoke to few people who used the treatment here in USA and they all gave a positive response, so i immediately purchased the Pulmonary fibrosis herbal remedy and commenced usage, i used the herbal supplement for only 9 weeks, all symptoms gradually faded away, herbs are truly gift from God. contact this herbal clinic via their email healthherbalclinic @ gmail. com or visit www. healthherbalclinic. weebly. com

    2 years ago · Reply