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November 30, 2008

I Miss My Daddy (He Died 11-22-2008)

Dear Family & Friends,

    I come to you this year with a saddened heart. In October, I received a call from my sister Esther, asking me to fly north as soon as possible. Dad was going downhill faster & faster each day. That Friday was no exception! Two of my nieces picked me up from the Allentown, PA airport & when we got to my parents house, my brother, three sisters, their spouses, my other niece & her boyfriend were already there. My Father was laying in the hospital bed, in the living room. Oh Lord! He was so frail... So tiny... So weak... He mumbled a lot, but when I leaned over the bed rails to give him a hug, he gave me a kiss & told me he loved me!! I never felt so touched in my life, as far as my Father was concerned... It was a very touching experience. Friday night we all took turns by his bedside & several times we all gathered and said the Lord’s Prayer & sang together as a family... We had all taken turns trying to get him to drink or nibble on some Jell-o or some of his home-made applesauce...

    Late in the evening Dad's temperature started going up. At 2AM, the only people left at the house were Mom, Dad, & us 5 children & by 2:30 Dad's temperature was up to 103 degrees. Calls were made to Hospice especially when Dad started complaining of pain. They informed us to give him certain emergency meds & to wipe him down slowly & softly. My brother helped first by taking some of his clothing off & then we gathered around & each of us kids took a hand/arm, foot/leg, & forehead & started wiping him down with washcloths. By 4 AM it had come down to 101 degrees & by 7 AM it was completely down to normal... But boy those 5 hours were very touch & go! At 8 AM one of my nieces came back with enough Coffee's & McMuffin Sandwiche's for everyone, including the rest of the niece's that had gone home to sleep. The next several days seemed to be much of the same, without the major high temperature, thank God... It was still very touch & go... When Dad was tired enough to sleep, there were always two people with him, just in case he woke up or tried to get out bed.
    Saturday, we took Dad outside in the wheelchair and I had the pleasure of tossing leaves all over him! Dad watched my brother & his girlfriend rake the leaves. We took him over to see his Roosters & while he was sitting there, he seemed like he wanted to stand up, so my brother helped him up and Dad took a few steps with my brother's assistance, while my oldest sister video taped it! Dad seemed to enjoy his little walk, in his bare feet, even though he never ever went outside without his boots! When we took him back in, he insisted that I take his “Boots” off! At first I tried to tell him he didn’t have them on & that he had gone out without his boots on... But he insisted and so I went through the motions of taking his boots off. and when I was done, He even thanked me! Here's a photo of my Dad right after we had gotten a big Load of wood, that he chopped, to keep us all warm...
    The following week, he seemed to be getting better. He was alert & watching TV. He would ask that we put on the news or one of his favorite Cowboy movies. In the evenings while he was dozing, my Mom, my sisters, & I, would watch a Hallmark movie & stay by his side. We would crush his meds and put them in a small bowl of homemade applesauce, before trying to give it to him. So many nights, the Ladies Ministry “Helping Hands” at my Mother's church were so wonderful; they brought over enough food to feed everyone & enough to have leftovers too! We tried to feed Dad every evening, sometimes he would eat & sometimes not. He seemed to really enjoy his homemade applesauce & Watermelon. He also enjoyed his Coffee, Pepsi, Root beer, Peach Juice, & Sweet Tea.
    Here's a photo of my Mom & Dad sleeping together November 16th, the night before my birthday!
   On the 17th, my Mom sent one of my sisters out to pick up a Birthday cake for me. As they, including my Dad, all sang "Happy Birthday" to me; I took a video of it! My Dad sang & later said Happy Birthday to me! It was a very special night for me, to be spending my 40th birthday with BOTH of my parents, siblings, & nieces. Below you will see a VERY - VERY Precious photo of my Dad & me. He asked for a small piece of cake & made sure his piece was white & not chocolate.

   This is the Very Last photo taken of my Dad, before he died... It is One of my Favorite Photos... I know that he doesn't look his best in this photo, but I KNEW HE LOVED ME, in this photo & that's what matters to me!

A few days later my brother put up plastic around the entire huge back porch! I helped when I could, by holding the plastic up; holding the ladder; & handing him things he needed. When we finished the entire porch, we were both sweating, even though it was in the 30’s outside! He went & got Dad’s thermometer & hung it up, shortly after - the temp was 82 on the porch! I then took a video for Dad. I started from the driveway & walked up to the porch & then walked over to the roosters & then back over to the porch and inside. My brother had a few words of encouragement for Dad & after I transferred the video to my laptop, I played the video for Dad – Twice! He loved it! He even laughed when he saw my brother having to encourage one of the roosters to get down off the fence & into his pen. The next few days Dad’s breathing was very labored. He would take a deep breath and then not breath for anywhere from 8 to 28 seconds. Then on the 21st his breathing got very shallow, breathing constantly but very shallow. My oldest sister had spent the night that night but had to go home to get a few things done.

   The morning of Saturday the 22nd, Mom & I sat with Dad and noticed that his fingernails were darker. Mom got up to get some of Dad’s laundry done & I got up & cleaned the living room. When I was done, I noticed that Dad’s lips were really dry. I asked Dad if he wanted me to get a ‘lollipop’ for him & he said yes, by squeezing my hand. I got it & made sure that his lips & tongue were moist. He looked up at me & smiled and then he was gone… I could hardly believe it! I was alone with him & he was gone! I headed to tell Mom & met up with her as she came into the Living room with a change of clothes for Dad. I told her that Dad didn’t need them & that he was gone. It was around noon on Saturday. We checked his blood pressure & it came up all zeros. Oh the look on Mom’s face! As she cried at Dad’s bedside, I called my siblings and informed them of what had happened. They all showed up & we all took turns sitting with Dad one more time. Hospice came and confirmed that he had died. Then the funeral home men came and took Dad to the funeral home. It was so hard to see him being rolled away. Then some of us went with Mom to the flower shop & ordered flowers for the funeral. Then we went to the Funeral Home and made the final arrangements. It was hard, but it was even worse for my Mom.
    The obituary (see below) was in the newspaper on Monday the 24th & then the viewing & funeral were held on the 25th. First there was the viewing & it was so hard to say good bye to Dad for the last time. But Dad looked really good! He wore the suit that Mom & he had bought for his sister’s funeral. My Mom was the last to see him, She gave him a special piece of wood that she had sent to him a LONG LONG time ago, when they were just dating... It said: "Johnny, I LOVE YOU, Ruth" It was REALLY SAD to see my Parents together one last time… My oldest sister made a memorial video, that was played at the funeral & then posted on YouTube.

   At the cemetery the funeral home had made sure to have enough seats for Mom & us 5 kids. The seats were covered with fake fur & then they put a nice warm blanket on all of us. Then there was the 21 gun salute, which I jumped at the first shot, and flinched for every one after that… It was beautiful, but yet Very Sad. After the cemetery we went back to Mom's church where we had a luncheon with Dad’s favorite meal – Fried Chicken! So many people showed up for the viewing & funeral & it was very touching that so many people thought of us. One of my parents neighbors even showed up with a squirrel on her sweatshirt, In Honor of Dad!
    Thursday was Thanksgiving & we all went to one of my niece's house for dinner. With Turkey, Stuffing, Cranberry sauce, Baked Corn, & all of the other goodies it was really nice to be with family. But you could tell we all missed Dad. We even left an empty seat for him, “Just-In-Case.” After dinner & a wonderful desert of Pumpkin Roll, I helped her decorate her Christmas tree & we all watched an old Christmas movie. Then Mom & I took my other sister home & then visited Dad at the Cemetery, fixed his flowers, & took a few for home.
    I only had 2 more days to spend with my Mom before having to head back home to Florida. My Mom & I visited Dad at the Cemetery again, before doing a little shopping. Friday night I spent making 10 batches of my Mom’s favorite kind of hot drink: ChaiTea! Saturday my sister & I helped Mom set up her Christmas tree. And we both sat with Mom & looked through all sorts of Photos that were taken throughout the years, most of which we had never seen before! Esther drove me to the airport and I flew home. My brother & sisters spend time with Mom, but I know she misses Dad a lot!
   I'm just glad that she has her dog Betsy! Betsy keeps her company all day long, every day! But I Miss & Love my Mom so much! I wish I could move back up there, but I can't leave my children behind! Two of them have already moved out and I just can't leave them. So please say a prayer for my Mother that she finds enough peace and harmony to continue her life without Dad.
    When I can afford to fly back up there I will, but can only spend a few weeks at a time up there, because I see my Pain Management Doctor every month... Below is the photo & Obituary that was in the Harrisburg newspaper along with a link to the Guest Book. I’ve paid for the guest book to stay online for another year, in hopes that many more people sign it & share with my Mom their prayers & good thoughts. It would mean so much to our entire family if you could click on the link & sign the Guest Book. Thank You So much for your Thoughts & Prayers, Christina Whale

Johnny J.B. Back <-- Link to his obituary.
   With the air growing brisk and the autumn breeze getting ready for winter to come, I returned home to God on Saturday, November 22, 2008. I was born on December 6, 1932 in Sharon, Pa, which means my time here on earth was just a mere 75 years. But, during my short stay, God gave me a loving and faithful wife Ruth (Rickabaugh) whom I shared 52 years of marriage. We raised five (5) children; 1 son, Samuel Back of Highspire, 4 daughters Judith McClain-Yingling (and husband, Michael) of Hummelstown, Esther Back and Susanna Back, both of Harrisburg and Christina Whale (and husband Gregory) of Florida. I also was blessed with two nieces who live in Florida. They in turn blessed us with eight wonderful grandchildren, Michael and Joshua Back, Heather, Spring and Sarah McClain, Joseph, David and Greg Whale and one great grandson, little Joshua Back, Jr.
   Over the years, I lost a lot of family members, like my mom and dad Hilda and John Back and my 3 sisters, Hilda, Betty and Margaret. But, even though they are gone, I was left with a thousand memories to hold onto over the years, just like I hope you will have, with the time we spent together. So, dear family and friends in Harrisburg and Sharon; do not grieve for me, but celebrate that time which we shared. And, please know how much it meant to me when we sat and talked over a cup of coffee. I loved fishing with my son and family on the Susquehanna River and Swatara Creek and remember making baked goods till they were coming out our ears.

And, it gave me pure pleasure to mow the grass on my John Deere and then sit back on our park bench with my wife and take in all that God has given us. As you grow older, you look forward to what the future holds, but look back on the past and hold it close to your heart. I remember the mistakes I've made that I can't change and the cherished moments that I spent with my wife, my children and grandchildren, my friends and my animal companions, Honey my dog, my roosters and my squirrel "little bit" who sat on my shoulder and ate peanuts out of my pocket. -- I went to school in Sharon, PA and in 1952 I joined the US Army.

   I also proudly served in the Korean War to help fight for the good ole' USA. In return for my service, they awarded me the Bronze Service Star, the Korean Service Medal, US President Unit Citation, ROK Korean Service Medal, the National Defense Service Metal, the United Nations Service Medal & the Combat Infantryman Badge... After the military, I finally settled on a job with Sears Roebuck & Company and retired from there as a Deluxe Specialist.
   My family is going to have my viewing at 10 a.m., on Tuesday, November 25, 2008 at First Assembly of God church at 4100 North Progress Avenue, Harrisburg, PA., followed by a service at 11 am. Burial will follow at the Woodlawn Memorial Gardens, 4855 Londonderry Road, Harrisburg, PA 17109. Jesse H. Geigle Funeral home at 2100 Linglestown Road, Harrisburg will be handling the arrangements.
   In lieu of flowers, I would be honored if you would make Memorial Contributions to either First Assembly of God - Women’s Ministry "Helping Hands" at 4100 North Progress Avenue, Harrisburg or Hospice of Central Pa, 98 South Enola Drive, Enola, PA 17025. Geigle
Published in the Patriot-News on 11/24/2008

Obituary for Johnny J.B. Back:

Guest Book address for Johnny J.B. Back is:

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