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Part of my grieving ritual--telling the story copy of letter


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March 30, 2006

Dear Friends,

Lee Acosta was a powerhouse and a loving patriarch. I am proud to be his daughter.

When I got to the ICU on Tuesday morning March 21, his fever had broken and he was up talking to me. My Aunt Linda and I fed him soup. The pulmonary doctor said well we could try this procedure and see what it gets us. Relieved that my dad was feeling better, Mom and Cathy went home to rest. Other doctors came by but none mentioned Dad’s grave condition or offered a prognosis. In other words no doc, not even his Onc, was willing to tell us this was the end and they couldn’t offer much hope either.

Only the infectious disease doc let me look at the x-rays and told me Lee might beat the sepsis but the cancer is spreading to his other lung rapidly. Already, the right lung was deflated and full of fluid. The left was filling up now. This fluid was thick and not draining. The Doctors had tried to drain them twice. Only the upper left lobe was keeping him alive. This Doctor said that they would intubate Lee if he continued to labor as he was.....the laboring was ugly …a rapid heart rate and respiration in the high 30s-40.

That's when I discovered that dad's DNR was not noted on his charts. I called mom and told her to get his living will up there now! I asked dad what he wanted to do. He said end all treatment now. I am finished with this. It was as if he thought that taking off the oxygen mask would immediately end his life. He said: "At 3pm, I am going. That’s in 7 more minutes. Give me your hugs and kisses now. I am ready. " Dad was a consummate poker player. If he could win, he played his hand. If he couldn’t, he would fold. There was no changing his mind.

Dad’s oncologist came. When I told him of our decision, he wept. He sat with us awhile. He helped us out by giving the orders for the morphine drip with button for more punch. He signed off on our wishes for palliative care only. He hugged and kissed my mom and I. His words were very sweet to me. He said he lost a daughter two years ago as an infant but he wanted me to know that had she grown up he wished that she could be just as good of a daughter to her father as I am to mine. This meant so much to me since this kind Doctor had given me his cell phone number and I definitely made use of it during these last 6 months. His care was genuine. We are grateful for the hope he gave us during Dad’s life and his guidance at the end.

Mom, my two sisters Cathy and Vickie and my brother, Joe Lee and I spent the night in the ICU with him. We did not sleep. At one point, Dad woke up and spoke to us. It was very tender and sweet---A goodbye just for us. We told him to wait for us in his recliner where he could watch all his shows and sports events in peace. We stepped him down with the ativan and morphine. He lasted until 2: 20pm on Wed. My grandmother, Victoria Acosta, Lee's two siblings, Linda and Sam, my two cousins, Rickie and Jenny joined us in letting Dad go. After it was over, I helped the nurses wash his body. We removed the IV's, the drain tubes from his lungs and changed his sheets. That was very comforting to me. I will treasure this memory.

When we got home, my cousins cooked for us. Another cousin came over and he showed us a dvd he made in tribute of his father (who also passed from Lung Cancer). He offered to make a slide show about our dad's life. So Mom and I went to work sorting through her photo albums and her cd's. We stayed up until midnight compiling and planning this memorial to Lee’s life. It was hard to do this work but very much worth doing. Linda and Momo gave pictures too.

Thursday, we had an appointment with the Funeral home and the priest at St. John's Catholic Church. My uncle Martin cooked for us. We had many dear visitors come to the house that night. I stayed up until 3 in the morning writing the rough draft for the eulogy.

Friday, I went over the eulogy draft with my mom, sister and my aunt. I went to my aunt's house to practice a song I wanted to sing at the Rosary. I had to go shopping because I hadn't any clothes for a funeral....(Dad was hospitalized for an out patient procedure so logically I had not traveled down to Texas expecting to go to a funeral.) Mike and the kids arrived just in time to quickly change and go to the Rosary. Try as we could to prepare the kids for the shock of seeing their Grandfather in a coffin...they were stunned. The rosary was very meditative and beautiful. The Mysteries were punctuated with a simple song sung in Spanish accompanied on guitar by the two deacons.

I am so proud to say that Owen gave a speech remembering his "Tata"---everyone could hear the punch line to his anecdote---"He ate the whole damn hotdog!" (a story when my dad took him to Dairy Queen twice in one day to "fatten" him up because Owen is too thin.) Sophie gave a tender rendition of "Joy to the World" on the piano. I sang a reworked version of "I Will Remember You" by Sarah McLaughlin. My aunt Linda read her remembrance of my dad. Our dear family friend, David "Wheel" Acosta sang, played his guitar and spoke. His tribute spoke mostly to what a competitor my dad was on the fast pitch softball field. Finally, the DVD slide show was viewed. My cousin, Albert did a supremely touching job of helping us remember our Lee.

So many friends and family were there at Crespos-Jirrels Funeral home. The younger children had a playroom off the main room. Light appetizers were served in the “family” room. I met some of my Dad’s oldest and dearest friends. I saw many strong men with tears in their eyes. My family was reminded of what a good and well thought of man our father was in his life.

The Mass performed on Saturday was simply beautiful. The grandchildren spread a white cloth over the closed casket to represent Dad’s baptism in the Catholic Church. Sophie was entranced with the ritual. Uncle Dennis Aruajo, Linda’s husband, read the eulogy and David Acosta played Carlos Santana’s “Samba Pa Ti” on an electric guitar signed by his friend, Carlos Santana. This tribute was so profoundly moving and appropriate. I was very proud.

At the gravesite, an Air Force Honor Guard presented a flag to my mom accompanied by a rendition of “Taps” recorded by trumpet player, brother-in-law, Jim Zawadzki. The pallbearers, Mike Griffin, Bobby Serrano, Josh Acosa, Joe Acosta, Dennis Araujo, and Ricky Lenoir stood while the Father William Oliver said the final words. This solemn event also included a very beautiful ritual (one I had never observed before)--a dove release. Its handler passed around a single white dove representing Lee and the group in attendance was able to stroke it and say “good bye”. Upon the release of this bird, three other birds were released representing the trinity. Then finally, eight more white birds were released a short distance away. The sight of these symbolic-laden white doves circling gracefully over our heads was remarked upon as very moving and emotionally satisfying by many of the observers later during the course of the day.

The most touching tribute of all for our family is the stunning portrait of Lee given to us by Sterling White Funeral Home. This gorgeous portrait sat on an easel next to the casket. This image of Dad on Cathy’s wedding day is how we will remember him always.

After this, we were joined by many family and friends at a luncheon served by the Ladies of St. John Church. I was thrilled to see Stephanie Kubicek, a teacher of mine from Ross Sterling High School amongst these sweet ladies. Owen was especially appreciative of the tender beef brisket and delicious cakes. I saw Cameron (my sister Cathy’s child) and Owen return to the buffet for a third helping! I am sure this would have pleased his “Tata”.

That afternoon, Mom took Dad’s Longhorn cap and UT tee shirt and draped these over the recliner in the living room. UT was playing basketball in the Final 8. My brother and husband, Michael watched the game with him and entertained visitors to the house with stories and beer.

My uncle Martin open his lovely home to us and served us a wonderful meal that evening. My mom’s two brothers, Martin and Mando and her sisters, Toni and Lupe all visited while their children and grandchildren played. It was very much like the good times we all shared when Lee was alive. Owen and Sophia had a tremendous time playing with my cousin Marty’s children. Michelle’s child Sara and Cathy’s little girl, Julianna ran around having a great time. My uncle Mando and his wife Pat were there from Kansas with three of their children. They missed the Rosary because their fourth child, Christina gave birth to a new grandchild—a baby girl on Friday morning. My Uncle Martin and Aunt Gloria were so generous and good to us through all this week. It was a joyful end to a really sad day.

I want to thank everyone for the kind cards and letters, flowers and plants, food and hugs. The support of co-workers during this time has been phenomenal. My mother, Alice extends her love and appreciation to all of you and your families as well. The love and warmth of neighbors and friends has been so generously given and we feel so much stronger because of it.

No one wants to do what we had to do last week. But we’re grateful for the support given to us so we could say goodbye to Lee Acosta in a manner fitting his memory.

Thanks so much,

Stephanie Acosta Griffin

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Eppie - what a beautiful and loving tribute to your dad this was. I just wanted to let you know how sorry I am for the loss of your dad. I lost my dad in October and I am still struggling with the loss. Unfortunately for us, we really didn't realize that my dad would lose his life that fateful day - we thought he was actually getting better. His vitals were actually staying pretty strong and me and my mom had even decided that we would leave at 8:00 that night to go get some rest as we had been there since 8:00 the previous evening. My dad must have heard that because he died at exactly 8:00 right before we would have left. We would have been devastated if he had died alone. I am so sorry for your loss, but I am so glad that you had time to say your goodbyes. My kids also struggled with the viewing - nothing can prepare kids for that. My daughter still has bad dreams about it. Anyways, please know how sorry I am and if you ever want to PM me just to talk, please do. No matter how much we think we have accepted the situation, it is still very hard in the weeks and months to come. You have a shoulder to lean on if you need it. God bless you.

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Thank you for telling all that has been going on with you, Lee, and your family.

Your Dad's oncologist was right all along, you are a remarkable daughter.

I love all of the closures that you were able to participate in.

I would have liked to hear you sing and participate in the Rosary.

love, Cindi o'h

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Thank you for sharing your heartfelt thoughts and feelings, Eppie. Although somehow, I feel I ought to call you Stephanie today. May you find peace and solace in knowing you were a daughter of whom to be proud and an advocate for, and asset to, your wonderful Dad.

Love and prayers to your whole family, Ep.


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First, I would like to say again how truly sorry I am to hear about the loss of your dear Dad.

Secondly, reading your story brought tears to my eyes. It sounds like you have a big, loving family & lots of friends that all pulled together at such a difficult time. How very touching it must have been to see all you've described in such great detail. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

Continued prayers for you and your family.

Warm Hugs,


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Hi Eppie,

What a beautiful tribute to your dad. I know he was smiling from ear to ear.

While I was reading your post it brought tears flooding to my eyes.

I just want to say that I am so glad you posted and thank you for sharing that incredible tribute to him.

I can see how much your dad was loved.

Prayers sent to you and your family.


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Dear Eppie,

Thank you so much for sharing....it was such a beautiful tribute to your Dad. I will sadly lose my Dad soon.....I appreciate reading of your experience, I am so worried how things will be for my Dad, reading all of the facts everyone is willing to share helps so much. My thoughts are with you

love, NancyT

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Dear Eppie,

I was so touched by the tribute and memorial to your dad - it is so obvious that he was a remarkable man and loved by so many. I don't think I've ever seen a family pull together like yours did during your dad's battle and at the end of his life, and to celebrate his life.

I have read a lot of your postings, and the deep love that you have for your dad would always shine through. I am so sorry that your dad had to leave you in the physically sense, but I a confident that your love and that of your family's will always keep him so very close in spirit. Love never dies...your dad was as blessed to have you as his daughter as you were to have him as a father. Treasure this mutually wonderful gift of love that you shared and carry it with you always.

Peace be with you during this very difficult time!


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What a simply beautiful tribute to your dad. It is obvious that you, your family, and your support network (docs, church, friends, etc.) are very special people that understand what it is to pull together in a spirit of love and caring in support of a special person, your dad. The segment about the dove release just gave me chills.....awesome.


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What a beautiful tribute, Eppie. Your Daddy must be SO proud. I think I will play "Europa" in Lee's honor...gonna play it loud - loud enough for Tejas (and heaven) to hear....the beautiful guitar work always reminds me of a free-flying spirit...

Love & Hugs to you, and your family during these difficult times, Stephanie.


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Eppie what a moving and beautiful tribute to your father. I could not help but notice in your post that you lost a family member in death and added a family member with a new birth, the baby. God's sign and will that we continue to live and love.

God Bless you and your family.


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