I lost my dad and my heart is broken in two

It has taken me several days to gather myself to write this post. I never thought I would have to go through this again so soon. My mom died Dec 24, 2021 and now I lost my dad on Feb 23, 2023. Losing both parents just over a year apart is too much. It feels cruel and unfair. Feb 23rd was also my mother's birthday, so when he died on her birthday it was very, very hard. I recently shared news that I am writing a book and sadly now, none of my parents will be around to read it. I will dedicate it to them but it is not the same. I lost half of my heart when my mother passed away and now have lost the other half now that my dad has passed.

My dad in the Okanagan 

My dad was a LOVELY, GENEROUS and KIND man. He is the first person who got me into birding. He took me out and taught me about birds and bought me my first field guide. He also bought me my first set of binoculars and first camera. We loved to feed birds together from Chickadees to Canada Jays. He loved watching Snow Geese which was his favourite bird. He was an outdoorsy, strong and adventurous 6'1 blonde Norwegian. He loved to snowshoe, ski and sled with us. We camped all over with him and he loved to genuinely play with us when we were kids and was a great storyteller. When he came home from work he gave his time fully to us. He came to Canada when he was 22 after being born in Oslo and loved it so much that he didn't go back to equally beautiful Norway. He spoke fluent Norwegian and English. He lost his sister at 16 and his dad when he was 44 from Leukemia so that made him want to set out and start a new life abroad. Because he lost his own dad so young, he was determined to be as good a father as he could be, for as long as he lived.

My dad got a diploma from business school in Norway and then joined a large Norwegian Shipliner Company and got to see the world that way. He went all over to China, Egypt you name it, before settling in Canada. He served on the committees of both the BC Maritime Employers Association and BC Chamber of Shipping after becoming Vice President of a Shipping company here for many years.

Feeding a Black-capped Chickadee (my spark bird) at Reifel - Photo by my dad 

My dad took me to Reifel a lot, got me into birding and bought me my first optics/field guide

He was married and divorced before he met my mom. My dad loved all of his kids unconditionally. I have never felt such unconditional love from any human that I have ever encountered. My dad loved me no matter what I did, even when I was foolishly angry with him, he never showed any anger. He was a true gentle and kind spirit. He was always relaxed and made everyone feel at ease. He never was arrogant. He was an inspiration to me by surviving childhood polio and never letting his "bad leg" stop him from achieving his goals including hiking many mountains. My dad was a simple guy who loved eating his favourite "Monty Mushroom" burger with a beer at White Spot over any fancy five course dinner. He was a good cook too and loved to cook Turkey and delicious home made gravy and stuffing every Christmas and Thanksgiving. I will miss his amazing holiday dinners. My dad was so thoughtful he would get up every morning in elementary and high school and make me elaborate breakfasts before taking me to school and we would sit and talk about what was going on in my life and things he read in the paper. My dad was a voracious reader. He read the newspaper every day and loved reading books on his kobo. He loved to garden. He planted beautiful flowers and vegetables. He made delicious Blackberry and Apple pies and jam. I loved going berry picking with him every year. He was intelligent and pretty much could discuss any topic with ease. He loved to collect hand carved ducks made out of wood and sailing ships because he loved sailing and being on the sea. When I brought him home a wood carved Atlantic Puffin he acted like I gave him a pound of gold. He was so appreciative of everything I ever gave him. My dad also kept an extensive Canadian coin collection from the Royal Canadian Mint. We had planned to go see the new Tom Hanks film “A man called Otto” because we had both read and loved the Swedish book but sadly now that won’t happen either.

He loved the song The Gambler by Kenny Rogers and Melissa by the Allman Brothers. In fact when he was in a coma my sister played The Gambler for him. I sure hope he heard it. 

He liked to put too much salt on his food and he spread on butter on his toast as thick as cheese which I chastised him for. He loved brie cheese. He also would eat raw fresh oysters from the ocean he found, despite me telling him how gross and unsafe that was. One day he found me a pearl though and I didn't mind as much and he never did get sick. My dad loved to take me out in his canoe and taught me how to fish. He also hated anyone who could be cruel to animals. He loved his cat and would feed it expensive tuna every morning. He really loved that cat. I’ll make sure he gets tuna and love for the rest of his days. My dad taught me how to drive, to swim, to skate and ski and most importantly how to love.

My dad, sister and I swimming. He really loved us. Photo taken by my mother.

One day when we were renewing his Norwegian passport because we planned to go there together this summer, he told me he didn't feel well. He was complaining of chest pain and felt weak. He never complained about his health. I took him to St. Paul's which is not far from the Norwegian consulate. I never expected he wouldn't come out.... I thought he would get some medication and that was it but it wasn't the case. I suspect he was feeling unwell for quite some time before I took him in but he was a guy that never complained and hated doctors. 

He was quickly diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia and was pumped full of IV antibiotics. That failed so they tried another round of a different set of broad spectrum antibiotics and that failed too. They had to put a PICC line into him which is an IV catheter line that delivers medication straight to the heart. They did a catscan and it was bad news. The infection had caused pulmonary fibrosis which is not reversible and is severe scarring and damage to the lungs. He began to become very short of breath and needed oxygen. Then they tried high dose IV steroids and that didn't work. In fact the catscan showed things were now much worse. The steroids also made him delirious which was horrible to witness and it made him so confused and scared. He had too much fluid around his lungs and then his heart began to really fail. They gave high doses of IV lasix to get the fluid off but then that started to work but sent him into kidney failure. It went from worse to worse and his body grew tired and said it had enough. He stopped being able to do the physio exercises. He lost the will to fight but he fought as hard as he could. He would tell me how grateful he was for me to come see him and how much he loved me and kissed me every time, until he couldn't anymore. He stopped being able to eat food and even swallow as he became weaker. They didn't want him to aspirate so he couldn't even get water.

My littler sister and I went every single day to see him, we never missed a day. It was exhausting and we both took time off work. We couldn't believe we were going through this all again so fast.

He continued to deteriorate and one day he had a respiratory event in front of me and no matter that he was masked and they kept turning up the oxygen to 15, he kept desaturating since he was not getting enough oxygen and couldn't breathe. The nurses looked scared. It was so hard and scary to watch him struggle to breathe. I couldn’t stop crying as I thought he was dying in front of me then. 3 doctors worked on him from the Internal medicine team and a Respirologist and he recovered.

Unfortunately, his body continued to not show any signs of improvement, as he had became so weak and went unconscious. The doctors told us he had to transition to palliative care..... there was just nothing more they could do. They really did try everything for him.

I wondered how could we ever survive this? How can I walk into the same funeral home I just walked in with him just over a year ago? How can I navigate life without my dad. He was my guide. Meghan and I are still young and still need him but the choice was out of our hands.

I began to get physically ill as I thought about the fact that we must sell his house, go through all his stuff in the closets and the house, donate his clothes, throw out stuff,  go through all the cold lawyers, banks, etc. all over again. So many of these financial institutions and government agencies treat you like a transaction and just money after you die. Planning all the funeral arrangements and everything.... It is all so daunting, stressful and depressing. Calling the funeral home from the hospital was a hard call to make.

My head began to spin and had a huge headache as I realized I never could talk to him again or go to Norway or other places with him as we planned. I can no longer tell my dad "remember when we..." I realized that we couldn't spend anymore time together at his cabin in Point Roberts and how lonely I would be without him. I am grateful he left the cabin to my sister and I, because after my mom's death we went down to the cabin in Point Roberts a lot to get away from the pain and just relax. I will continue to think of him every visit down there. 

After my mom died, I  kinda avoided calling his house and not having my mom pick up but was glad to at least hear my dad's voice. Now that number will soon be discontinued, as will his email and I won't ever hear his kind, reassuring voice. He gave me so much good advice in my life. I have been reading through all the emails he sent me and they are filled with so much love. He was so good with finances, he was so good with fixing anything... he was so good with everything. He was so good to me. I know I will be a mess without him. He helped me with so much in my life. He was always so grateful for anything I did for him. He always told me how proud he was of me. He was always there for me.

My dad taught me how to love and respect nature, animals and people. I will never forget him and will miss him for the rest of my days. I am heartbroken. I am broken. I will miss all our awesome road trips together from BC to California, Mexico and Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Vegas, Alberta and Saskatoon and more. I still remember each one. One of the best and adventurous was to Hyder, Alaska, but that is another story for anotehr time. We planned to go on a road trip next to the Cariboo again. We had such a great time there with my mother and he wanted to go again. It makes me so sad we won't get to do our road trips again. Luckily, the last one we did was last June for Father's Day I bought him a trip to the interior. We had a father daughter trip staying in an airbnb and visiting wineries and birding from Kelowna to Osoyoos over a week. It was such a marvelous time drinking wine, watching nighthawks and finding birds. He was so thrilled when I showed him some burrowing owls. I am so happy we took that trip now more than ever. 

When my mom died at home, my dad was right there beside me. As my mom lay dying I feared how it would be when he left me too. It hurts my heart this day came so quickly. My dad never was as happy as he once was after my mother died but he cherished every last moment he had with his children and family who loved him then and more than ever today.

When I needed my dad he always came calling, even when I told him one night in Saskatoon I was sad he got on the next plane from Vancouver to come comfort me. He helped everyone he knew who needed it. He made the world a better place. 

I feel every word of this next poem and the immense pain because my dad really was my North, East, South and West and my working week and Sunday rest…

Funeral Blues by W.H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message 'He is Dead'.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

My father looking dapper

This quote below pretty much sums up my dad as well:

My dad loved to hike and camp. On one of our camping trips in Salmon Arm it rained like a monsoon and my sister and I were sad about the poor weather being stuck in a tent. We couldn’t even start the campfire so my dad ordered pizza and told us ghost stories in the rain and made us laugh and scream. He loved telling ghost stories about Norwegian Trolls. He could always make lemonade out of lemons. He loved nature and he loved animals. He always had a dog or a cat growing up and instilled that love in me. He taught me a lot about mammals we saw in the forest growing up too. My dad was a hard worker and worked his way up to Vice President of a Shipping Company so he could take us on nice trips throughout BC and abroad. My dad really showed me the world. He loved to travel. I have fond memories of our trips together to Arizona. He was so dazzled by the variety of hummingbirds there. He also loved to snorkel with me in Hawaii. He had a funny habit at laughing at his own dumb jokes. He had absolutely no prejudice and never judged anyone. He had respect for everyone it didn’t matter their class, race, gender expression or sexual identity. He was a great role model. He was a great and loyal friend. He always had my back.

My dad loved breakfasts more than any other meal. He loved the cheese omelets I would cook for him. I will miss making breakfasts of bacon and eggs for him on weekends too and him asking about my day. He took a genuine interest in what some would call mundane visits to local parks and places.

I remember in elementary school I was bullied bad when I was about 10 years old. He would come at his lunch breaks from work downtown and would bring me Twizzlers and sit and eat them with me and be a much needed friend. He was always there for me no matter what. I thought I would have him in my life for many more years to come. I am in shock as I write this. 

As I was writing this song came on the radio and I began to weep. It seemed like it was playing just for me. 

I know he missed my mom and was so sad without her. They were together for 39 years. When he was falling unconscious he said the words "My Wife" in front of Meghan and I. Now they can be together once more on her birthday. It is the only comfort I take in this pain that will never truly heal. You never get over this pain. You just learn how to live with it and survive it. Grief changes you. I know I am not the same person after my mom died and will change again now that I lost my beloved dad. This song by Willie Nelson explains it better than I could:

It is compound grief on top of grief losing both parents. It is not fun to be an adult orphan and lose your guides in life. When my sister told my 4 year old nephew Parker that his grandpa had died, he cried and cried. It broke our hearts. My parents loved that little boy and vice versa and now he has no grandparents on his mother's side. He's just got me now.  

I feel now that it’s just my sister and I left that I need to protect her more than ever. When I see her crying so much, or unable to move due to grief over my dad, I wish I could take away her pain but am helpless in this case.

It’s just Meggie and I now sadly - Photos taken by our dad

As the below poem that touches me states “though this loss has wounded others too, no one knows what has been taken from you…”

When I got back to his house after the hospital to put down his bags and collect some stuff, I spent the night in his bed and when I woke up everything hit me. I was so anxious I had to call my doctor for anxiety meds, luckily she took my emergency call. I began throwing up uncontrollably and it really hit me I would never see him again. His pillow and clothes still smelled like him. He had just bought a brand new recliner he barely had a chance to use. I looked at it empty when he should of been in it. I couldn’t believe I would never see this wonderful man again and I couldn’t take it. After the pharmacist delivered the medication I calmed down a bit but every part of my body especially my heart hurt. I absolutely hate that this happened to him and our family. I am numb and when I tried to eat I couldn’t. Food didn’t taste good. I tried phoning him and remembered he wouldn’t pick up the call. Nothing will be as good anymore now that he is gone. I am not ashamed to talk about my grief and pain in such detail. I feel it is far too taboo in our society and grief is normal, it is just an expression of our deep love for the departed.

Here is a powerful poem that explains in very few words how painful this type of grief is:

After the Fire

You ever think you could cry so hard
that there’d be nothing left in you, like
how the wind shakes a tree in a storm
until every part of it is run through with
wind? I live in the low parts now, most
days a little hazy with fever and waiting
for the water to stop shivering out of the
body. Funny thing about grief, its hold
is so bright and determined like a flame,
like something almost worth living for.

I am glad this time my little sister could be with him as he passed. She wasn't able to be with my mom as she passed away and it deeply affected her. Since the doctors told us he could die at any moment, anytime we left the room we told each other keep your phone on and promised to call each other. We basically lived at St. Paul's. It was so hard when the doctors told us as power of attorneys that we had to decide to remove his ventilation. I knew when we removed it he would die and this was helping to keep him alive, so it was a decision I would not wish on my worst enemy. I know my dad would not like to live in a vegetative state because he was in a coma and non responsive. I know this was the right decision but it didn't make it any easier to let him go. Before this happened the palliative care nurses washed his body and shaved him.

He passed peacefully and quickly and my sister and I held his hands as he took his last breath. All I could do was tell him thank you for loving me and giving me such a good life. I kept stroking his hand and kissing his hand and face. We then stayed with his body overnight in his private palliative care room overlooking downtown. The nurses brought us cots on to sleep beside him. His body became cold as ice. We cried a lot that night. My sister stared out at the city and remarked how life just keeps on whizzing by, as she watched the traffic rolling on as our world was collapsing on the 10th floor of St. Paul's. I had a ache in my left side of my chest the moment he died and that pain is still here as I write this today.

This passing was so different than my mom's in many ways. We could prepare for her death but this one was so shocking and everything happened so fast. We never expected him to die like this now.

I am so grateful for everything my dad did for me during his life. I hope I can see him again in heaven one day. I will be very lonely without my dad. I am glad I have my sister but there is nothing like your dad or mom and that unconditional love and support they give to your life. He was my friend and my protector. I loved him more than words can say. He was my rock. I am weaker and in so much pain now that he has left me.

I have to thank the Respirology and Internal Medicine teams at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver and all the nurses who worked on him and provided him such wonderful care. They really did fight for him and tried everything to save him. I have to thank the Palliative Care team as well for helping us through his end stage of life with such kindness. St. Paul's is where I was born and took my first breath with my dad standing over me and it is now where my father took his last breath with me beside him.

I also want to say a big thank you to all my friends that checked in on and me and sent me gifts and a huge thank you the young birders both present and past graduates and their parents for reaching out to me and being there for me. I am so touched by your caring concern and that you remember me and care so much about me. The future of birding is bright with such lovely young adults and parents like you in it. A huge thank you to Bridget, my friend, for stepping in and covering the RBA for me so I could step back and grieve. Thanks to my friend Kate for walking my dog right after my dad died when I couldn't. Thanks my love for being there for me and a shoulder to cry on.

I would like to share a song by Randy Wood called "When I close my eyes" that makes me think of my beautiful and kind father, Arne Hafting. Whenever I close my eyes dad, I will think of you.

My dad wants to be cremated and buried with my mother. He loved this hymn and I plan to sing it if I am able at his internment service.

Rest in peace Dad. I love you now, forever and always. You were extraordinary. Thanks for always trying to make me and Meghan happyI used to call him about every new bird and BC Rarity ] I got and he was always so happy for me. I will miss speaking to him about everything in my life. So many of his work colleagues wrote me to say how much they will miss him and how special he made them feel. They told me how kind he was to them and how he made their work environment brighter. He really made everything lighter and brighter. When he walked into the room you felt happier and calm. He radiated warmth, kindness and happiness. It will be hard for me to smile again without him. There has not been a day I haven't cried my eyes out since he left me. I have now lost the two most important people in my life.

My dad played this Nat King Cole song a lot after my mother died, now dear dad I play it for you. I will try to smile again through my tears, whenever I think of beautiful you. I loved you so so much.

I will try to continue on and try to survive this. I will miss you dad and mom more than you could ever know, until my own eyes shut for good. Dad I will miss your voice, your guidance, your support, friendship, love and beautiful presence. Thank you for all the beautiful and joyous memories we made together. Rest easy sweet Father.


  1. There are no words Melissa sweetheart - except I'm so very sorry for your loss. What a beautiful moving tribute to your Dad. Your parents did an excellent job raising you and your sister and making you both extraordinary humans! I'm always here for you (and Pipit) - stay strong - I know your Mom and Dad are so proud of you! I hope nature and birds will help heal this pain that no one should have to go through - losing both loving parents in such a short time... Take care - love you lots - Kate

    1. Thank you Kate. I took Pipit out today he is helping me to get out the door even when I feel I can't move. Thank you for your kindness and for helping me so much in my deep sorrow love you

  2. Oh Mel! You moved me to tears. He was handsome and sounds like a beautiful man. I can tell because he made wonderful you. I hope you know how many people care about you and need you here.

    1. Thank you Linda means a lot. I have to admit I wondered what was the point of going on without them and feeling so sad like I will never be happy again but I hope the birds will help me through and want to try my best to be there for my sister who I know needs me.

  3. I can't imagine losing both parents like this at your young age. I am so sorry for your unbearable pain for you and your sister. You had a beautiful family. Your parents live on in you both Mel. Sending you my love and hugs. I am so sorry you had to lose your wonderful dad in this manner

    1. Thank you so much for your kindness. I am not sure who you are but thank you for caring about me and taking the time to send me a note of condolence.

  4. Such an amazing moving tribute to your much loved father Mel. What an extraordinary life he had, he and your mom raised such a smart, kind and beautiful woman. They will always be a part of you as you make your way through this painful time. Sending love, strength and hugs. Janis

    1. Thank you Janis for your beautiful words it means a lot to me. Thank you for what you said about me I am truly touched and moved to tears. Thank you for the support <3

  5. Heartbreaking, Melissa, doubly heartbreaking. Grieve and grieve some more. Remember in time that your father had lived a good life and you are living one too thanks to him.

    1. Than you Mike for your kind words of condolences. My dad definitely lived a great life and I hope I can continue on finding the joy in life like he did. Right now I will grieve as you say for the wonderful man I lost whom I loved with my whole heart.

  6. This is a beautiful tribute to you dad. He and your mother raised a loving, beautiful daughter. Your gift of being so very open, honest, and transparent is so refreshing. I honestly can't be that open so I admire you so much. I really don't know what to say. I will be thinking about you and praying for you during this difficult time. I pray that the people around you will continue to support and comfort you and your sister. I enjoyed the photos and music. Jim

    1. Dear Jim thanks so much. I told my dad about our time in WA birding together and he was so glad I had met such a lovely friend as you. Thank you for praying for me. I am very stressed right now planning funeral and dealing with his affairs, closing accts etc. Thank you my friend.

  7. Melissa, your tribute to your wonderful father is exquisite. Seems like every detail and cherished memory could even fan out further like wings. 💙 Stay strong. Peace.

    1. Thank you Liz that means so much to me that you read my long post and it moved you. I tried to put down as much as I could about him. I think people forget how important Dads are too... I know I will miss my father every single day of my life. He never mistreated me and was only ever good to me every day of my life. I know that is so rare and our love will never end. I will try to remember that because I feel so weak and not strong I am so affected with sadness I can barely move and really do not feel like myself.

  8. Dear Mel, my heart breaks for you. Your dad seemed like the loveliest man and you were exceptionally lucky to have him and your mother as parents. I'm sorry you're going through the grieving process once more. They live on together in heaven and in your hearts. Love you, girl xoxoxo

    1. Thank you so much Shou. I was really lucky to have had such loving parents. I love you too <3

    2. and I sure hope they are together in Heaven.

  9. Thank you for sharing your grief and your beautiful memories. You have written a wonderful, moving tribute to your father. You are in our thoughts.

    1. Dear Alaine thank you so much for your kind words and for taking the time to send me this. I just poured out all the love and pain I was feeling. I miss him so much and it is so painful I can't see or talk to him again it is a new reality that I can't stand :( thank you for keeping me in your thoughts at this sad time.

  10. Dear Mel I am so sorry for your loss. This is such a beautiful tribute to your dad. I cried when reading it. I know what this pain feels like and nothing can ever make it better. You are loved by so many I hope you know that. I am so grateful for all you have done for me and helped me with over the years. You do so much for the birding community and are a great friend. Your dad would be so proud of you for the new upcoming book and you were so lucky to have him... but do remember how lucky your dad was to have beautiful you. xx Josh

    1. Thank you Josh for your really beautiful words it really means a lot to me. I have had to take a break from my work with the birding community for a little bit as I protect my own emotional health at this time. I just feel too sad to do much of anything right now. Thanks again for your kindness.

  11. I am so sorry for your loss. Your dad sounds like an amazing person and the world lost a wonderful man. I wish you and your sister so much love

    1. Thank you so much Alyssa. He really was so wonderful. I miss him so much I really can't sleep well and when I wake up all I want to do is talk to him once again. I was starting to go through his clothes to donate to the poor and I just broke down in tears looking at all the tshirts I bought him from our trips together. His house feels so empty without him... to be honest life feels empty without him and my mom. I really appreciate you sending Meghan and I love. <3

  12. Your father's hand has always rested on your shoulder Mel and its still there. Feel it and find peace.

    1. Thank you Keith for your very kind words it means a lot to me. Nice to think of my dad always with me. I got out today for my first birding since my dad died was nice to see some birds and feel the fresh air. I hope he was with me...

  13. Colorsinwildlife (aka Mimi)March 23, 2023 at 4:00 PM

    Melissa, I am so sorry for your loss. You heartfelt writing really gave me a sense of how devoted and loving your dad was. I wish you could have had so many more years together. I wish you soft landings and strength on a daily basis as you adjust to this excruciating loss.

    1. Thank you Mimi your kind note means so much to me. My dad was so loving and caring and yesterday was one month since I lost him. It has hit me hard after the funeral. My heart feels in a million pieces the reality that I will never see him again and being overwhelmed with all on my plate is very hard. Thank you so much for the wishes of strength I really need it and still can't believe he is gone :( my heart hurts every day without him and my mom. I will never get over this loss.


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