My stepfather, John H. S., died on May 2, 2022 at ll:20 p.m.

I’ve always known him as my ‘dad’ though, and will continue to do so. I didn’t become aware that he was my stepfather until I was seventeen and, years later, in my mid-thirties, I sought and found my biological father. All of this is another amazing tale, which I wrote about as a short story in Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey.

I want to admit right now that I did not have a fuzzy-warm relationship with my dad—not even close. He was man whose heart had a wound in which anger raged forth and it had affected me deeply. I know he loved me, but it took many years of spiritual and psychological work to heal from the effects that he had on my life.

He had lung cancer, complicated by four years of painful back problems. His health had declined rapidly in early November of last year, and he was admitted into the hospital. Honestly, the family didn’t know if he would make it. Then, right before Thanksgiving, my brother, Glenn, died unexpectedly. To say I was taken by surprise was an understatement.

A few weeks before Christmas, John H. S., was released from the hospital after being there for nearly six weeks. I sat around the kitchen table with other family members when he arrived back home. It was the first time I had seen him since he went into the hospital; the sight of my big, strong, imposing father hooked up to an oxygen tank and reduced to a shriveled, wheelchair-bound man, took my breath away. The transformation was painful to witness, and my heart went out to him. Sitting at the table, he said, “I feel like I came out of a tomb.”

For the next five months, my mom took care of him, along with the help of nurses, home health aides and physical therapists. I stopped by as much as I could, because I knew that any day he could leave us. A few weeks before he died, I hugged him. It was hard to watch him suffer like he was. Secretly, I wondered how I would feel after he was gone. How much would I miss him?

Taking the family on extended camping trips all across the country was the best thing my dad did for our family. From tents, to pop-up campers, and cabins at K.O.A’s, local campsites, or National Parks, in canyons, deserts, forests and beaches—we did it all! And the experiences I had on these trips will be something I will always treasure. One of my favorite states that I had visited was South Dakota, because I got to go on a horse ride after bugging my parents for weeks on end! I wrote a post about this particular trip in The Eleventh Hour.

Over the years, I have learned to view others in my life as teachers of lessons that I charted for my Soul growth, especially the difficult ones. It has made it much easier for me to forgive others, including myself, and to move on. My father taught me the lessons of power, boundaries, self-worth, and self-respect. He was also an accomplished artist and a high school art teacher; he would bring home lots of art supplies for me to use. He also believed in doing what you love. He certainly enjoyed my love of baking, especially desserts, which he gobbled up.

I last visited him on Sunday evening. I brought over a homemade cinnamon coffee cake. He hadn’t been eating much at all, but he did eat the cake. It was the last thing he ate. On the following Monday morning, my Mom had called to let me know my dad went into the hospital for hospice.

It was a sunny day, so I took a walk in a field nearby. I needed to be out in nature. The field was covered in bright, yellow buttercups. As I gathered up some flowers, intending to put them in a vase, the tears came. I prayed to God and asked if He could help my dad in anyway that was best for him, and to please end his suffering. My dad left this life at 11:20 p.m. the same day.

Buttercups are a symbol for self-worth and the power of words, as well as happiness and joy. For me, the buttercup will now be a symbol for my dad. In time, I will realize more of what he meant to me, but I do miss him. And I do love him. He was a strong presence in my life and I can feel the loss of that presence already.





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Shelley Shayner

Also known as the Artistic Mystic, Shelley is a published author, an award-winning artist, and an intuitive. She has written and illustrated children’s books, adult non-fiction books, and journals. She has a B.A. in Illustration and there is always a painting in progress on her easel; her favorite subject matter is animals, nature, or some kind of fantasy. Shelley is also a spiritual advisor, a Reiki master, and a dream expert. She teaches workshops on Spirit Animals, Dreams, and Art.

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