Late Monday morning, we heard from our stepmother (M) that our dad had a stroke the previous afternoon and had brain surgery overnight–in a hospital 7+ hours away.  My two sisters and I all left work, met in shock, and then went home to pack and get on the road. We used Waze as our navigator for our long drive south. We appreciated knowing where the speed traps were along our route as well as the road hazards.

We arrived at the house in South Carolina late that night.  Tuesday morning, we drove with our stepmother to the regional hospital 20 miles away. M tried to prepare us, but we were still shocked at the sudden change.  We all took turns holding his hand, talking to him, and listening to the doctors.  I used my iPhone to immediately email my dad’s closest friends and let them know what was going on.  We realized he wasn’t going to recover from this massive stroke.  My sister suggested calling their priest to come to the hospital.  He soon arrived and led a prayer for my father and gave him Last Rites.  Dad passed away at 3:30 PM. I used the DayOne app to capture my thoughts and feelings—everything was happening too fast.  I just visited him three weeks before with my husband.

We rode back to their lake-side home in silence, each trying to absorb and process this.  My sisters and I knew we needed help M as best we could as she tried to absorb this blow—we knew how much she loved our father. The work ethic our dad instilled in us soon took over and we set to work on mapping out a list of everything we needed to do.  None of us had experience with planning a funeral, but we did the best we could.

My dad took command of a ship in 1977, and it was one of his proudest moments.  That command picture is the one M chose for his obituary, but it had age spots and discoloring.  I removed it from the frame, took a picture of it with my iPhone.  I uploaded via Dropbox to my Mac, and edited the photo in web-based PicMonkey, cloning the good parts of the photo to fix the discolorations and improve the overall look of the photo.  I used iMessage on my Mac to send the repaired picture back to my iPhone.

We met the funeral director, but forgot to bring a printed copy of the obituary. I pulled up the final obituary on my iPhone and emailed to the funeral director so he could print it out and review it with us. I also emailed the fixed photo from my iPhone. We wanted to add a charity to the obituary, and we discussed the Navajo Code Talkers and the poverty my dad & M witnessed on a recent trip out West.  I looked up ONNSFA, which I had seen on TV recently.  We did a quick search on my iPhone  to see if it was a reputable organization, and it seemed like a great way to donate to a cause we know he hadn’t had time to research yet.

Since my dad was a retired military veteran, we needed to submit his DD214 to get the Color Guard, the ceremonial folded flag, and the 21-gun salute befitting his service.  They won’t talk to the funeral home until they receive a copy of the DD214.  We didn’t know where my dad left it—in a safe deposit box?  We arrived home, and it was in the first place I looked—a folder my dad clearly labeled “Funeral Information”.  I scanned it with my iPhone using TurboScan, emailed it to the funeral home, and he then submitted it for consideration. This saved my step-mother another trip into town to take the form the funeral home.        

By that time, everyone was emailing me for information, calling to express shock, or texting me to get updates.  Various people asked for the information on where the service would be held – I looked it up on Apple maps on my iPhone, found the detailed entry, took a screenshot, then texted/emailed it to the folks that needed it.

I used the iPhone camera to take pictures of the business cards for the funeral home, florist, and manager at the club for the gathering after the service.

The funeral home forgot to have M to sign an authorization form. To save her a trip back downtown I asked him to email the form to me. I printed it off, she filled it out, I witnessed it, and then scanned it with TurboScan on my iPhone, and emailed it back to the funeral home.

My sister and I went to select the flowers.  We picked an arrangement we thought would be appropriate, and I took a picture of it with my iPhone to show M when we arrived home.  We tried to handle as many details as possible to give her space to start to grieve. Our motto was “suggest and retreat.” As his wife of 30+ years, she knew best what my dad would have wanted.

As people arrived in town, my iPhone became the central communication point for everything.  I used it to check in with work, coordinate my husband’s travel plans, iMessage a friend to house-sit/animal-sit at the last minute, deposit a check electronically through my banking app, and too many other functions to recall during a hectic, stressful time.  After his oldest friend jokingly questioned the validity of the golf score in his obituary, I found the scorecard, took a picture of it, and sent it to him via iMessage.  He said his  golf score in his obituary would be one lower, and I told him he would need to have documentation.

To organize all of these various pieces of information, I created a notebook in Evernote and saved everything there: the obituary, the  picture, business cards, the program from the service, his golf scorecard proving his 78 score, and even the ominous sky I noticed as we arrived in town. My dad always valued efficiency and organization.

Over the last year, I consider myself lucky to have done a winery tour with him & M, celebrate his 75th birthday together, visit him & M in Myrtle Beach, tour his favorite gardens (Brookgreen Gardens) again, and finally a fun four-day visit to their home in late June.  I enjoyed the best hamburger I’ve ever had at the Edgefield Grill.  

This loss is still raw for me since it happened recently, but I don’t know if we could have gotten everything done without this critical tool.  I also used my iPhone to keep in touch with my sister-in-law since my mother-in-law was hospitalized Friday night, the day before my dad’s funeral.  Sadly, she died before I made it home on Sunday.  Just five days after my father died.