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Jessica Lehto - Blog

08 – The funeral

20091208 Posted on Sat, January 07, 2017 20:52:24

Today it’s seven years since we buried you.

Such a cold day. The night before the funeral I slept in the cottage in the company of two of my brothers, and little Lucas the dog. The temperature outside was somewhere around -30 C and the cottage wasn’t very warm either. I remember you once made a joke about people not having decency enough to pass away during the warmer seasons… Again with the irony.

(the cottage, 17.30 in the afternoon)

(two photos to show that the temperature inside the cottage wasn’t amazing upon arriving… it got better during the night though)

I don’t really remember the funeral itself very clearly. It was painful and surreal. Some music I had made and other music my second oldest brother had made were played on CD. I couldn’t bear to sing myself on that harsh day. I know you would’ve understood.

One thing I very well remember though, is something happening a few moments before the funeral started. Your brother entered the church. Approached the place where the coffin was, stood there a little while, and then he very gently stroke the surface of your wooden coffin. This brief moment I will remember forever.

Us siblings and one of our cousins carried you in this coffin to your grave, and there we laid you to rest.

Never in my entire life have I carried something heavier.


And by that I think I will leave this subject. Just a few more things that have been on my mind.

Death is final in many ways but it shouldn’t be for the ones left behind. We should live, embrace life, do all these things we want to do before our time, too, is up. I am striving to do this.

Still it pains me that there’s so much you’ll never know. You never got to know that your little girl one day got married. You never got to meet my husband, my best friend, my rock. You never got to know that we’re crazy enough to surround ourselves with six furry friends that the both of us love, and I really missed the possibility of picking up the phone getting hold of you when one of these furry little ones went blind. I missed not being able to tell you about it when I suddenly found this job that I enjoy so much. I miss not having you around during each and every day, and sometimes, when something more important happens in life, that feeling gets so much stronger.

It’s been seven years. Seven years during each of which I’ve missed you tremendously. But life is good. Your daughter has a lot to be happy about, and I know that you, too, would be happy for me.

07 – The day after

20091208 Posted on Sat, November 12, 2016 19:17:06

(About a year later I’m back. I suppose it’s this time of the year when these thoughts are so much more present.)

After 1 or 2 luxurious hours of sleep I woke up to my first day without a father. A strange feeling – constant, but also hard to grasp – spent the day with me.

A lot needed to be done during this day. Lots of packing since the house had to be put up for sale. No more would there be a childhood home to return to.

Cleaning out the garage was the worst thing we had to do, my brothers and I. Here, dad had built so much – the hobbyhorses for me and my sister, the dollhouse for my sister, among so many other things. As children my sister and I played endless hours with these items in particular – the hobbyhorses were so well exercised that during a couple of summers, a “riding” track was visible on our front lawn.

And then there was also the miniature railroad my father started building when my older brothers were small and that he had still wanted to finish eventually. Eventually never came. This object was too large for anyone of us to bring home, so it was picked apart instead.

There are so many things to deal with once somebody dies. What do you even do with all the stuff the person left behind? What use a book in Finnish would have to me, a language I don’t understand, doesn’t make much sense but it felt important to keep some of his things around. Little pieces of what once had been his life felt so valuable. Some years later I did throw it away, I guess it had served its purpose by then.

I’m still keeping his shirt around though, the one he forgot at my place during his last visit – I did not discover that shirt until some months after his passing. The feeling when I found it. First not recognizing or understanding, then seeing the little hole in the fabric right by the shoulder, remembering how mum had commented on how he hadn’t so far agreed on her sewing it… That feeling. More things still remaining in my home are his reading glasses, and the final Christmas gift I bought for him that I had wrapped up but not yet sent out before it was too late.

On that first day of not having a father, a phone call came to the childhood home. The autopsy of our father’s body was performed. The cause of death was a heart attack. The irony. My father always had the kindest heart.

In front of our house, on the cold winter day of December 9th, my brothers smashed the bed in which our father died to pieces.

06 – Cats

20091208 Posted on Sun, October 18, 2015 13:12:01

Something I would ponder about later was dad’s feelings towards cats.

His last phone call to me, made in the end of November, was about these little creatures. Niklas had two cats, Darwin and Newton, who moved in to my parents when he did. My father was so optimistic when he called, his enthusiasm about these cats was heartwarming. Even before their arrival he looked forward to having them in the house and it seemed to be working out very well. He spoke a lot about them during this final conversation we would ever have, and I clearly remember him saying how he had always loved cats.

The thing is, when I sorted through some papers and old books of mine a few months after his death, I found this book where a few childhood friends had filled in stuff about themselves. Things like favourite food, favourite music, that kind of stuff. I had asked my dad to fill in one of the pages as well. Two of the questions were about what you love and what you hate. There, with his peculiar handwriting – it really had more character than beauty – he had written “Cats”. On the section saying “Things I hate”. No mixup, since he next to “Cats” had written “War”.

Pity, how I never got to ask him how this made sense if he had always loved cats. 🙂 I’m sure there was an interesting story behind it.

Pity, how many things we never got to, my father and I.

05 – The night

20091208 Posted on Mon, August 17, 2015 18:47:29

In the pitch black night Daniel and I arrived to our childhood home. The deep snow lit up the surroundings, as did the street lights with their cold gaze. The driveway was fairly snow free. Perhaps that was one of the final efforts my father had made, I remember thinking. Every once in a while I had hoped to one day be able to give my father a snow blower for Christmas to replace the snow showel he used, to spare his aching joints some of the pain. This was just one out of many things it had gotten too late for.

Daniel and I stepped into the hallway where we had been so many times before. Everything was different, everything was the same. Dad’s winter jacket hung between other jackets, his shoes were on the floor beside other shoes. So many pieces he left behind.

Our mother, Niklas and his girlfriend were waiting for us. Everything was very still, the surreal feeling was very present. It took us some time to go to bed. Things to talk about, to be sad about, before sleep was possible. My mother insisted that I’d sleep with her in her and dad’s bedroom.

On dad’s side, I couldn’t sleep.

My mother snored, I couldn’t sleep.

After an hour or two I went out to the living room, to the couch where my father had not watched enough movies. Thoughts were bugging me, I couldn’t sleep. I cried, I couldn’t sleep. Upstairs Niklas was making music, the sounds that came through the ceiling told me he was recording rhythm sections. Good. His way to deal. I wasn’t yet sure of mine.

A cat soon appeared in the night, Niklas black, heavy Darwin. He kept me company. Sat on my chest while I laid there crying. He washed away my tears with his weird little cat tongue. Maybe that’s why he’s a heavy guy, maybe he eats simply everything. He kept me company like this, every night during my stay, cleaning my tears away. I got a back pain from his weight but I couldn’t care less. On this first night it took me a long while and a lot of tears, but finally I managed to fall asleep. The comforting chubby cat remained on my chest.

04 – Eight hours

20091208 Posted on Tue, August 11, 2015 17:01:16

Two hours later my oldest brother Daniel and I travelled to Gällivare. In all the mess and confusion that arose after it was certain our father was dead, our youngest brother had to begin with been contacted by no one. Everybody though that somebody else had been in touch with him already. Our little brother heard the news an hour later than everyone else. For that I am sorry. We never meant to, little brother. This did not give him time enough to join Daniel and me for the bus trip up north. Perhaps it was a bit better to stay at home. Let it sink in. The journey Daniel and I made was the most horrible one I’ve experienced.

Daniel was sort of hyperactive. His phone rang a lot but obviously not often enough since he also made phone calls and sent text messages ever so often. He was laughing about the weirdness of life and death, and talking almost constantly the first couple of hours, totally wound up. I didn’t do much other than cry. I’m not the kind of person to cry in public, but this time I couldn’t help it and I didn’t care, shattered as I was. And my brother kept being wound up. A perfect example of two completely different forms of shock.

Daniel’s best friend came to pick us up at one of the bus stations to give us a ride the remaining 250 km. At least in the past this friend was known for the habit of arriving either late or even later. I think this was the first time that he was punctual -well, even early, because he was already waiting when the bus arrived. I would find a lot of things moving within the next couple of weeks. This was one of them.

We drove in the dark and cold, slowly approaching our destination. I did not have many tears left at that point, but the few ones remaining showed up every now and then. I remember Daniel and his friend talking but I don’t remember what about. Maybe I spoke some words too, I have no idea. My main memory from this trip is the feeling I had while looking out the window, watching the stars.

In January, earlier that same year, I left Gällivare where my father lived. Then, too, I was sitting in the back seat of a car, staring out in the darkness, thinking of how I would miss my father now that I couldn’t meet him as often as before. I felt a bit low but I found a little comfort in watching the stars, in particular Ursa Major that is practically the only constellation I remember from the ones my dad once taught me. Both my father and I could look at the same stars, so we were not really that far apart, I remember myself thinking. So, in that thought I found a little comfort.

Now, in the back seat of a car I rode because my father had died, the sight of the stars no longer brought me that feeling. Another kind of emotion was closing in on me. My father would not gaze upon the stars again. He would see nothing, hear nothing, speak nothing, ever again. The emotion that started opening up, swallowing the ground that I still desperatly tried to place my feet upon, was despair.

03 – Finding out

20091208 Posted on Sat, August 08, 2015 11:52:26

My brother Niklas was at the hospital when we spoke. He had not yet heard anything from anyone, they had rushed dad away to the emergency and Niklas was still waiting for news. He told me though that he did not believe there was much hope. He had found dad seemingly lifeless, and he told that he and his girlfriend at the time had performed CPR.

It sounded so surreal, that this could even happen at all. The clichĂ© feeling of this having to be a nightmare that I should be able to wake up from. But it wasn’t. And I didn’t. Instead, a doctor entered the room Niklas and his girlfriend were in while we were still on the phone. Niklas put the phone away without ending the call, so I heard parts of the conversation. Which was even more surreal.

The doctor spoke of how they had gotten no response resuscitating my father, and how they had ended the attempts. He never said it straight out, and he spoke in very factual terms. As if the doctor thought Niklas had already been informed. As if this doctor only entered the room to tell about the procedure and how it all went to hell. In factual terms and in a calm manner. I did not hear all of what was being said, the reception wasn’t the best. I still heard enough. But the doctor never said it straight out. What a strange way of getting to know. I still understood, but I denied.

The call was interrupted. I tried calling back but my brother didn’t pick up until a while later. I needed it confirmed, black on white, these words that there were no turning back from, that meant no more denial.

So I spoke with Niklas again, and got it confirmed. Black on white but mainly just an incomprehensible dark. Our father was dead.

02 – The hour

20091208 Posted on Sun, August 02, 2015 14:19:26

One hour. That’s how long I waited for new information.

My mind was fixated on the concert. Probably because it was easier that way. I pondered about how many songs I was playing along with the others in my rehearsal group, of course my father could not die just like that, I would be able to play this evening. Maybe only play though, my father would of course pull through, but I would be shook up and perhaps singing would not be a good option. So if we didn’t include my song in the setlist, maybe the evening would be manageable after all, since my father was going to survive. He just had to.

So those things, my mind pondered. To have something to think of other than that second possibility.

In between I made phone calls, nothing new to be heard, still the uncertainty.

And in between the phone calls, there was the concert. It was all I could lean back on, all I could think of not to already fall apart. I remember the feeling of letting everyone in my group down if I wouldn’t be able to play. Which didn’t make sense, given the situation. Still, that would of course not be the case, I wouldn’t need to worry about letting anyone down. Since my father was going to survive. He had just to.

And still, there was that feeling that I did not dare finding words for. I guess that feeling made me focus so much on thoughts of the concert, since I would otherwise think of the feeling and what it meant.

And then, when one hour had passed, I got a hold of Niklas.

01 – The phone call

20091208 Posted on Fri, July 31, 2015 16:39:52

I’ll share a real bad experience in this blog since it might be therapeutic for me, and maybe helpful for someone in the same position. So, let’s start somewhere.

In 2009 I attended a course called Creative Music. You learned some theory, to play different instruments (I took some drum classes that I highly enjoyed), and you rehearsed your own tracks with a group from the class. Ever since the start of the first semester I looked forward to December 8th, when a concert was to be given. As the date came closer our group rehearsed more and more intensely. Among my tracks I had picked Seasons of the Fall to perform, and on remaining tracks I played a bit of drums and a little keyboard.

So came the 8th of December. In the afternoon I sat behind the drums doing some rehearsing when my phone rang. It was my mother. She asked if I was sitting down. Well yes I was, behind those drums, in the area where we would later perform our tracks. In good sight of a lot of people who were around. Strangers. But yes, I was sitting down.

My mother started speaking of some relatives she was visiting and I did not understand why she had asked if I was sitting down. To begin with she made no sense to me. Then she started speaking of my father. Ice hitting my stomach. She told me about how she spoke with him before noon, how he felt nauseous and needed to lie down. How she an hour later couldn’t reach him. How she then called my second oldest brother Niklas, who at the time lived with her and dad due to a job he’d gotten in the small town. How she told Niklas she couldn’t get a hold of dad. How Niklas looked through the house, how she heard him drop the phone when he found our father on the bed in one of the rooms. How the ambulance came, how it was not sure whether or not dad was alive.

The darkness within. The silent chaos.