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. So sorry to hear about the loss of your father, Susie, along with your FIL and BIL before him. What a difficult time for you all. Back when you posted about your father’s art show at the facility, I told my family about it. I thought it was such a nice story, and they agreed. You’ve shared memories of your father with the world, and that helps him live on in many ways.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m sorry to learn that your dear dad has bought his rainbow, Susie. But, I’m happy that he lived a full life and that you and he were close. The down side to being close is that it makes it harder to say goodbye. As someone who became an orphan last year, grieving the loss of a parent is tough, but you get though it. It also helps immensely to share your loss with your siblings. I feel closer to mine than ever now.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are right. It is harder the closer you are. My dad was my cheerleader.
      I have to tell you that when reading the comments the first time with tears streaming down my face, yours cracked me up. I had to show my sister while we sat on the plane. 🙂
      Thanks for being there, V!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That is so true. It is a part of life and there is no preparing for it. My heart and gut feels like they’ve been through a meat grinder. They will heal and the memories will help the process.
      Thanks, Phil.


  3. Big hug, Susie, and I’m keeping you and your family in my heart and meditations. What a great guy your father was–thanks for sharing him with us all!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am so sorry for your loss Susie, I remember those pictures throughout your post the ones of him painting, of you and him (with the red hat) and that Mad men post. Beautiful family pics and good stories. Sending you hugs, strength, and sunshine all the way from California.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So beautifully written Susie! So sorry for your loss. You had an amazing Dad and were so fortunate God picked him to be with you❤️ I remember so many good memories at your house. A happy house is where all the kids are! You all were blessed. Love to you, Patty, Joe and your Mom.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Very sincere condolences to you, Susie, and to all of your family, and especially to your mom. You know I love to spread humor, but this is not one of those occasions. The grief is inescapable at the passing of someone we love, but I know they would want us to find the joy that was also a part of their life too. And I’m sure he found that humor in your knowing him the way you did by your stating, “He had one exhausted guardian angel, The two of them probably shared a shot of Irish Whiskey that night.” If my children can see me in that same light at the end, I will truly live on in their memory as one happy man, as no doubt your father does in yours.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He was a super happy man. That kept coming up during the funeral services and with friends and family. He was one in a million living in the moment and seeing the good in everyone he met.
      Thanks so much, Attic man.


  7. Oh Susie! A million hugs to you as you move through these losses. What a blessing to find comfort in memories and you wrote such a beautiful tribute to him. He sounds like an incredible man and I have no doubt he’s very proud of you! And the story of his last moments is so sweet and moving – sometimes it’s time. Sending lots of light your way! xo Liz

    Liked by 1 person

  8. So sorry to hear about your loss. Your dad has always sounded like an amazing person.

    My dad is 82 and I know that the day I won’t have him to turn to is coming, but I don’t think I’ll ever really be ready to say good-bye.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Before he died, I had a feeling it was coming and Googled, “How to prepare for the death of a loved one.” I read several articles. Basically, there is no way to prepare. The finality of it can’t be imagined. I have a vivid imagination and wasn’t even close. The only thing someone can prepare is by “finishing business.” I didn’t have any unfinished business. My dad and I were best friends. I would think it would be difficult if harsh words were spoken before a death.
      Thanks so much, Cassandra.


    1. Thanks so much, Diana!
      I agree with you and read this before I left for the funeral. There is a piece of artwork I wanted him to create. Now that it’s too late, I’ll create it knowing a part of him is in me. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I tip my hat in the sky for you, sir, for a life well-lived. You’re up there past your wonderfully painted billboards and even higher than those pigs with wings you loved to recite from ‘Alice.’ Susie, thank you for skillfully and lovingly creating this tribute for your dad. Bless you all. Condolences from my dear wife Karen and I for your huge loss.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I was 49 when my dad died. I was fortunate to be able to spend his last hour with him. He was tense and uptight (he’d been in a coma for 18 days), but as I held his hand and talked to him, reassuring him that Jesus had a place for him, he visibly relaxed. At the end, the blips on his monitor just got shallower and shallower until they finally flatlined. I’ve always been glad I had that experience.

    Twenty-three years later, my mother is still with us, at least physically. She doesn’t have much memory and just sits in a chair or lies in her bed at her assisted living home all day. Her quality of life is so totally gone, my sister and I both pray for God to take her on to a better place, but I’m sure when she actually does go I’ll feel a deep loss. She’s been the one person who was always there for me no matter what.

    Anyhow, I know what losing a parent is like, and I hope and pray you’re finding comfort.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s really hard to lose the people we love the most. There is no one who will take that place. You’re right that when they are sick like your mom and my dad, that dying is the door to a better place. We still mourn the loss no matter what the situation. I feel like my gut has been through the meat grinder, but it is slowly mending.
      Thanks so much, David. I’ll say a prayer for your mom.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Since my mother is the only one left one either side of my family – including aunts and uncles – and her mind is no longer there, we have no one left to ask questions about family. That is more of a loss than people may realize.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I feel your loss, Susie, and can only hope that your time of sadness will pass quickly, and leave you with only the happiest memories of your father. Thoughts and prayers are with you in this difficult time. Big hug.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. So sorry for your loss, Susie. My Mum died, very suddenly, just two months ago and I know how difficult a time it is, individually and for families. Your words resonate. All best wishes for you and your family from New Zealand!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Matthew!
      I’m so sorry about you mother. I had no idea. It is hard when losing those who know us and love us best.
      This was coming for a long while and yet it is still a shock. I don’t want to believe I won’t be able to talk to my dad again. It does get a bit easier every day.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m so sorry to hear that. You may find yourself in shock for months to come. I know I worked like a mad woman for a couple of months after my dad died (after a long illness). That’s the only thing that really helped soften the blow at all – stay busy, work into exhaustion, and hopefully not dream when you sleep. It took about two years before life started to feel normal again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so sorry to hear about your dad too. Two years doesn’t surprise me. I mentioned to Danny that maybe it was better that the three deaths were close together. We can mourn them and then throw ourselves into living a full life again.
      I’m with you. Work hard, play hard! I didn’t think I’d blog for a while, but it makes me happy to write. 🙂


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