It’s Hard to Say Goodbye

Dad collage

I don’t think we are ever prepared for the death of a loved one. It is a loss so profound, it cuts a hole in our center, our core and our heart. It leaves us unbalanced, wounded and bleeding. We mourn the ones who die before us and struggle to imagine life without them.

dad and mom

Our family has been hit with three deaths in seven months. I knew Danny’s family before I discovered the Lindau boys had an older brother. Our parents were very close friends and our families often celebrated holidays together. Danny’s brother, his mother, (one month ago), and now my father have left us.

dad mom patty and me

My Father the Madman.

You can’t prepare for it. No matter if it is a slow goodbye or a shock, the finality is something hard to comprehend until it happens. I have imagined it and nothing comes close. I thought I wouldn’t be able to function, but instead I’ve been in hyperdrive. I think I’m still in shock.

mom and dad1

The Secret to Living a Long and Happy Life

But I have found a few things that help. Gathering with family to share memories is the first step in healing. The night my dad died, I made an autumn supper for my husband and children who live in Denver. We laughed and cried over the loss of my dad. He was a great man and could be very funny.

Kelly's first christmas 001 (2)

The Nightmare Before Christmas

dad and the gang

Trippin’ Through Dublin – A Photo Essay

The other way to deal with extreme stress is to get busy. Do housework, laundry, cook, clean, any mindless task or normal activity. I washed windows when I got the news. I cried while finishing. After cleaning up, I cooked our family dinner. Exhausted and reeling, it was worth the effort.

dad in the studio 1

A Passionate Lifetime.

Writing has become a part of my daily routine, so the next morning, I wrote his obituary. I had thought I would regret not preparing it ahead of time, but discovered a healing process in recalling the high points in his life. Talking with my family to review the details gave me comfort too.

dad and Joe


Having blogged many times about my dad, I enjoyed perusing my articles for this post. I have included the links to a few of those essays. He was quite a guy.

Dad at the drawing board

The Land of Happy People and Cheese – A Photo Essay.

He had been in the nursing home since April and suffered a grand mal seizure last week. When he revived, he joked with the nurses. The doctors said it was a miracle. There have been many miracles over the years. We had compared him to the cat with nine lives even though he used about fifteen of them.

Christmas with dad

Traditions in Transition

Up and down over the last few days, my brother and mom were hopeful he would be released from the hospital on Sunday. In the afternoon, Joe asked my dad if he would like some chocolate ice cream, his favorite. Dad ate a full cup and then held my mom’s hand.

“Let’s take a walk and get out of here,” he said to her.

“No Ed. You have to stay here so you can rest up and get better,” said mom.

My dad was quiet for a moment. He took my mom’s hand again and said, “I’m alright.”

A few seconds later he said, “I’m ready,” and he passed away.

He had one exhausted guardian angel. The two of them probably shared a shot of Irish whiskey that night.


Deconstructing the Avant Guard: Ed McCartan’s Art Retrospective

Memories of my dad could fill volumes, but the Wisconsin State Journal has its limit. Here’s the full obituary I wrote for him. A shorter version will appear in the newspaper on Sunday.


Edward (Ed), George McCartan passed away with family members by his side on Sunday, October 18th after a long battle with heart disease.

Born on February 22, 1926 in the town of  Lake Five, Wisconsin near the Holy Hill area, Ed grew up taking care of the cows and chickens, and occasionally led their horse to plow the fields on the family farm. He remembered when electricity was installed.

He attended Hillside Grade School and graduated from Menomonee Falls High School in 1945. Then Ed drove his Harley Davidson into Milwaukee to the Layton School of Art where he mastered a wide variety of art techniques and sign lettering. Ed also attended the Chicago Institute of Art for one year. For fun on the weekends, he would take apart a car engine and put it back together. Ed liked to keep busy.

He served in the U.S. armed forces for seven years and was honorably discharged in 1952. He contracted rheumatic fever while serving and sustained damage to his heart.

He married the love of his life, Mary Jean May, in 1957, and they moved to Madison where they had three children: Susie, Patty, and Joe.

Becoming one of the original  “Mad Men,” Ed went to work as Art Director at Vivid, Naegele, and then Hansen Outdoor Advertising. He hand painted billboards twenty-five feet off the ground and fifty feet wide in oils and enamels sometimes working off a swing stage several stories off the ground. He created the American Family Insurance logo as well as many others in use today.  Then he launched McCartan Advertising in 1975 and produced signs, logos, brochures and a wide variety of other artwork for decades.

Ed was very active in the community and was a member of the Madison Rotary Club, Our Lady Queen of Peace Council and The Knights of Columbus. For twenty years, he hand painted banners for the Downtown Madison Parade. He chaired the event one year and was featured as a “Know Your Madisonian,” in the Wisconsin State Journal in 1984.

Mary and Ed bought a Victorian home in Evansville, Wisconsin where Ed slowly retired, but never stopped working. They worked side-by-side renovating the one-hundred-year-old home. He painted many murals on its walls and continued to sketch after moving into the Evansville Manor Nursing Home this spring.

He was a religious man and very reverent in his faith. After finding his family Bible a year ago, he rendered drawings from its photographs.

From childhood, Ed recorded his life in drawings and paintings. Many years ago Ed showed his work at the Art Fair on the Square. Being a humble man and enjoying the act of creating artwork, he never displayed his work again until Mercy Hospice hosted a retrospective of his life’s work at the Evansville Manor. Fifty paintings were displayed along with tables filled with only a sampling of sketches spanning his eighty-nine years.

Ed was quick with a smile and often had a new joke to tell. If there is one word to describe him, it would be “happy.” The world is a much better place having Ed in it. He will be dearly missed by all who knew him.

He is survived by his loving wife, Mary, of 58 years, his daughter Susie (Danny) Lindau and their children, Kelly and Courtney, daughter, Patty, son Joe, his sister, Eileen Gilgenbach, brother-in-law Ted Kieliszewski, nephew Patrick (Linda) Zielinski, and many other nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his brother, John and sister, Mary Joan (Kieliszewski).

Visitation will be held at St. Paul Catholic Church in Evansville on Tuesday, October 27 at 10:00 AM. followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 11:00 with the Knights of Columbus Honor Guard and full military honors.

The family would like to thank Mercy Hospice, Evansville Manor, and the VA Hospital for the wonderful care Ed received.

Dad and me

My Dad’s favorite poem was by Lewis Carroll from Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There – 1872. He recited it often.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

I love you Dad! We will miss you dearly.

155 thoughts on “It’s Hard to Say Goodbye

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          1. My dad was fine the night before but got up Sunday morning and he was having a heart attack. From the time that he told mom he was having one until he was gone was less than 45 minutes. We just had his funeral Thursday of last week and he was cremated after. I have his urn ordered and have 4 pendants ordered for me, mom and my two girls and the pendants are urns.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. “With over 3 million women battling breast cancer today, everywhere you turn there is a mother, daughter, sister, or friend who has been affected by breast cancer”.
              Betsey Johnson

              You not only conquered breast cancer, but you are also the mother, daughter, sister, and friend your Father was so proud of. May he rest in peace. Sending massive amounts of hugs and love.

              Liked by 3 people

  1. Oh, Susie, you have my sympathy. When I saw your email, I had this sad feeling it was about your father. I’ll pray for you and your family today and in the days to come.


  2. That is such a wonderful tribute to your dad, both the words and the photos. It sounds like he made so much of his life. And it really is a gift to be able to die at peace and holding the hand of someone you love. Condolences to you and your family as you grieve your loss – I hope the memories and the many tangible gifts he left behind will bring you some comfort. Thank you for sharing this!


    1. Thank you so much. You’re right. It really was a gift for my mom and brother to be by his side. It had been a rough roller coaster ride for the last year and we are grateful knowing that he is at peace.


  3. Losing our loved ones, regardless of their age, is heartbreaking. I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your Dad. He sounds like an incredible person & one that has left his mark in this world. I wish you a peaceful heart in the days to come.


  4. Beautifully written Susie, thank you for sharing the memories. Condolences to you and your family.
    I lost my wife (Susan) 14 years ago to cancer at a very young age of 43. I miss her and wonder what things would be like if she had kicked the Cancer…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is so sad, Glenn. I hate cancer. It sucks.
      We all have an expiration date it seems. We have to keep on living full lives and stay in the moment. That is what my dad did best.
      Thanks so much.


  5. Oh Susie, my heart aches for your losses. Grieving for three loved ones in such a short period of time must be incredibly difficult.

    I so enjoyed the post you did of your dear father’s art display and could see the love and pride you felt for him. What an incredibly accomplished and talented man he was! I pray that your family may find peace and comfort in the many happy memories you share.

    Sending you many hugs and prayers. xoxoxo


    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am so sorry, Susie. Nothing prepares you for the death of your father. The ground is jerked from under you.
    We came to know your amazing dad from your posts. Smiles, humor, and brilliantly creative. (You two are a lot alike) His passing was a lot like my dad’s. There’s no words. Just one foot in front of the other and find your way. I went outside. Maybe you’re taking that walk with your mom. HUGS and cheers for a life well lived.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Phil. It has been hard. Coming back for three more services has helped me. I have to say that going to the inurnment today has been a big step back into the hole for my mom, but we will be by her side at that ceremony today.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What a beautiful tribute, Susie. He sounds like a wonderful man! I am so, so sorry that you had to say goodbye to him (and the other people in your life that you’ve recently lost). I can only imagine how hard this is. Lots of hugs and prayers, and thanks so much for sharing a little bit of him with us. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love that the one word to describe him is “happy”. What a dear, sweet man who no doubt loved you immensely. I’m typing this through tears. I’m so sorry, Susie. Please take time to care for yourself as you grieve. (Big hug)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Darla. The hardest part is the length of time between the funeral and inurnment. We are leaving in twenty minutes.. It will be like another funeral. Then Danny’s mom’s memorial service is tomorrow. We’ll be back in Boulder, ready to celebrate birthday week starting next Wednesday…


  9. What a lovely tribute to your dad and I am so sorry for your loss. The night after my mom passed we shared some sad moments but also found laughter in the memories and a small spelling error on the part of the funeral home. It takes small steps to get through it but those steps do become easier to take with time. My thoughts are with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They spelled my dad’s last name wrong in the obit announcement. Then my mom and I went to the cemetery yesterday and they had marked her as dead. She didn’t see the humor at first. I thought it was hilarious.
      Thanks so much, PP. Two more services to go and I’ll back to my Wild Life.


      1. They spelled my mom’s name as June and not Jane in her obit announcement. Later that night, and after a few glasses of wine, we thought it was the funniest thing and toasted “June” all night long. We still refer to her as June a year and a half later. (And, I hope your mom was able to laugh eventually)


  10. My deepest sympathies to you and your family, Susie. Through the last few years you have introduced all your readers to the lovely relationship you shared with your father. We came to know him as a very special and talented man. Letting go of his physical being will in time be easier as his spiritual presence remains strong within all of you. *hugs* Grief is never easy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Pat! I’m back in Wisconsin again for more services. I’m so glad to be able to support my mom. It has been hard, but getting a little easier every day. I love what you said about spiritual presence. I really believe that, so when I draw or have a creative spurt, will remember my dad and smile.


  11. Your dad sounds like an extraordinary man, so talented and giving. I know you’ll miss him forever but you’ll probably carry him around with you in your heart. At the end of your blog where you said this was one of his favourite poems, I said, “AW!!!” out loud because The Walrus and the Carpenter is one of my favourites too, and I too, often recite it just for fun. My condolences on your huge loss.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Anneli. I am back in Wisconsin for three more services!
      It is getting easier. I think the funeral and saying that final goodbye really helped me wrap my mind around the loss.

      He recited that poem a short time ago. I choked up that time knowing it would probably be the last.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Wonderful tribute to your father with your blessing of amazing words…..I have heard it said of another that they had ‘a word bag that never stopped’, but I think it applies to you also….loved the final dish of chocolate ice cream and last words! May the Lord be with you and your family at this time.

    Liked by 1 person

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