ten years since the death of my dad

Ten years ago today, June 6th, I said goodbye to my dad for the last time. It’s really hard to believe that ten full years have passed since I last held his hands and looked to him for advice and guidance. So much has happened without him here: the birth of my two daughters, a few career changes, a new house, a new car and even a stint on a game show.

I had wanted to have the Dead Dads Club book and website ready to launch today but the past few months have been so busy I simply ran out of time. I am still aiming for Father’s Day or the end of June, so stay tuned. Both projects are going extremely well, they are just taking a bit longer than anticipated. I am currently looking for submissions for the website so if you know anyone who has lost her father please feel free to send them my contact information (mary [at] mamamaryshow [dot] com).

I’m headed down to Ft. Rosecrans today, my dad’s final resting place. I will be listening to Ragtime music and fondly remembering the brilliant, one-of-a-kind, gentle-giant of a man that was my dad. Below is the post I wrote a few years ago about the day he died; my initiation day into “the club.”



On June 6th, 2001, around 10:00am, I walked into my parent’s dining room turned dying room to check my dad’s morphine drip. The hospice nurse had left just shortly prior, so he smelled nice and clean, and his four remaining hairs were slicked back with some sort of shiny, brilliantine hair gel. My sister Diana was with me as we had become quite a good team in changing out his pick lines and various tubings.

I’m not sure which one of us noticed first–I think maybe it was simultaneous–he was cold. lifeless. stiff.

Though he had been comatose for a few days, this was different. In place of our dad, was a body. An empty shell. We looked up at each other and knew. I ran to the kitchen to get my mom and family members and then upstairs to get my sister who thought she had enough time to take a shower.

“Jenny–it’s time.”

We had been waiting for this moment for days, weeks. And then it was there.

We gathered around him, praying, hugging, weeping, and unknowingly, letting the tense muscles in our shoulders that had been living up at our ears for weeks finally fall, because it was over.

And then the second phase of my life began–the phase without my dad.

I don’t remember too much about the rest of the day except for sitting outside my house in my car, listening to one of his favorite songs, The Roberto Clemente Waltz, at the highest possible decibel, on repeat for at least an hour. I cried the ugly cry, banged my fists on the steering wheel, and cursed the gods that be, just like in the movies. Only it wasn’t a movie.

The rest of the day was filled with phone calls to friends, empty gazes at the city skyline he helped build, hugs, tears, and hiding in an upstairs room when the coroner arrived to avoid seeing “the bag.”

That night, I sat quietly alone in my own home, away from the family and the aftermath. Though I was beyond exhausted, I didn’t want to go to sleep. Every night for the preceding four months I had gone to bed wondering if my dad would be alive in the morning. I didn’t have to wonder anymore.

Oh, how I wanted to wonder.

Through my swollen, bloodstained eyes, I wrote the following letter:


I will miss you. I will miss:

  • Your smile, your laugh, your presence
  • Your cards of encouragement and the bouquets of flowers on opening night
  • Hearing your laughter in the theatre before I have even said the punchline
  • Watching BallyKissAngel with you in your den; catching your eye and laughing at Liam and Donal’s latest hijinx.
  • Calling you for advice
  • Hearing you yell “Vangie” as it echoes throughout the house
  • Trying to pick out the perfect book for you that you haven’t already read
  • Your strength
  • Your blue eyes
  • Your love of music and hearing you say “Oh, listen to this part.”

I love you, Dad–my hero, my guiding eagle, my lightpost.

Thank you. I will miss you.

June 6th, 2001



  1. 1
    Sarah Yang says:

    Your dad was a great man Mary. He is and will always be with you. I’m thinking of you both today. I love you!

  2. 2
    Laurie Houston says:

    My Dear Sister Mary,
    My heart is heavy today also and I know this is a rough day for you. I love you! Richard Alexander Burt would be so proud of you for all that you have accomplished and the goals that you have ahead of you.
    May you find peace today in the good memories and knowing that you were a daughter that he was so proud of.
    I will be at our new home today at noon to pick out some window coverings. If you would like to stop by since it is in the area, I would love to see you and the girls and show you our new home.
    I was so proud of you yesterday. Your time 2:33 was excellent. Thank you for always supporting me and TNT/LLS.
    Love and hugs coming your way!

  3. 3
    Sherri says:

    Mary, I read all except for the part of your letter to your Dad. My eyes are swelling with tears as I so relate to this as I just went through it last month with my father. Same scenario pretty much. Agony!

    The wounds are still so fresh and since I have to go back to work, (I’m home on my lunch hour) I don’t want to be in tears, so I’ll be back to finish that part later.

    All my best.

  4. 4
    Sugar Jones says:

    Every November 2nd, I wake up knowing that I can’t call my dad. I can’t argue with him about politics. I can’t talk about the next time I’m going to go for a visit. He can’t bore me with his lectures. We had a strained relationship, but he was my dad…

    and I miss him.

  5. 5

    Such a beautiful post, Mary. So beautiful.

    Hugs to you today, my friend. xo

  6. 6
    shauna says:

    hi mary.
    i follow you and think you are super cute and funny.
    i lost my mom about 8 years ago and understand, in a way, your loss.
    you will never stop being a fatherless daughter, it will be a part of you forever.
    and although you’d never wish for the pain and heart ache that you must deal with, it has and WILL make you stronger.
    God bless you today.

  7. 7
    beckie webster says:

    He was a great guy and you are definately his daughter.

  8. 8
    T. says:

    What a beautiful post Mary.
    I send you a big hug…
    In memory of Mr. Burt
    with much love,

  9. 9
    MomZombie says:

    So moving. I have tears in my eyes.

  10. 10

    I love you, Mar. My heart is with you today. xo

  11. 11
    Angie says:

    So, so sorry for your lost and boy can I relate on lots of levels here. My sister and I have tossed around a few ideas for posts that would be a nice tribute to our Dad who we lost 13 years ago (Feb. 12, 1998) but just haven’t done it yet. This post gave me chills as I was reading about your experience … the morphine drip, the iv tubes, the hospital bed in the middle of our living room all came flooding back to me.

    Cancer took our Dad at age 46 and I miss him everyday. The milestones of our lives that we haven’t had him for have been especially tough (weddings, children) but I do always feel his presence.

    Your tribute to your Dad was beautiful – thank you so much for sharing and keeping the memory of your Dad alive!

  12. 12
    La Jolla Mom says:

    Aw Mary, loved this. Hugs.

  13. 13
    La Jolla Mom says:

    Meant that it is a beautiful tribute. The above did not come out right.

  14. 14
    mariana says:

    That was so beautiful, your father would definitely be proud of you. I love you so much and you’re always in my heart..

  15. 15
    Beverley says:

    How did I end up on here? Serendipity?I have no idea. Now that I am here though perhaps I should say something. I have a website which is free to use from Friday 10th June 2011. It’s called ‘The Life Tree’ – A Library of Lives. My inspiration for the site was my dad. He died in 1992 when I was 33 years old. I still chat to him as I know the sound advice I would get back – isn’t that silly? I have two children and three grandchildren who never met him and with all the technology we have available these days I felt it was a pity that his story would never be told. I also knew a bit about my grandparents lives, as I saw them, through the eyes of a child. When we trace a family tree all we find is birth, death and occupation. I wanted my children and grandchildren to be able to find more. The site makes me feel that although I have lost my dad, a part of him remains. It’s just a short biography about him but future generations will have detail about him which I don’t have about my great grandparents and I think that’s valuable. Love Beverley x

    • Mary says:

      So glad you found my site Beverly. Congratulations on starting your new site and doing something positive with the grief. I will definitely check it out. And if you are interested in writing a story for the Dead Dads Club website that I am hoping to launch soon, please let me know. Thanks so much for commenting and reaching out! –Mary

  16. 16

    What a precious tribute, Mary. I know he’s smiling in pride over you. You are a blessing to his legacy.


  17. 17
    Laura F says:

    I am so scared for that day. And I will go through it twice with my 2 dads; both equally loved. I will surely look to you for support when the time comes…..Thank you for this beautiful post.

  18. 18

    […] received the call, from my best friend, the “I have cancer” call. Prior to that I had witnessed my dad and a sister both succumb to cancer, so cancer is not a foreign word to me. However, I have […]

  19. 19
    Sara says:

    Hi, it’s nice to know I’m not alone.Its coming up to 10 years since my dad died . I still miss him, I always will.I have been crying a lot lately , I can’t believe 10 years has passed . I look forward to reuniting with him one day. I know he is watching over me .

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