“As I am quietly sitting here next to my Dad and listening to the rhythm of his breathing synchronizing with the oxygen machine, I realize how precious the one act of just being able to breathe can be…”
I wrote this in my journal last week just a few days before he died.
During the time I spent with my Dad, he had such moments of being the Dad I always knew, but most of his days were spent sleeping and I could tell when he was having a wonderful dream because he would smile a lot!!
At times, he seemed finally willing to surrender to the inevitable part of life that we only go through on our own; accepting the fact we don’t live forever and that death is such a solitary, personal experience. Nothing is able to stop this process, yet somehow it is difficult to comprehend, but I believe there is a part in each one of us that wonders about what this experience is going to be like when it happens to us.
The last week I spent with him was full of long conversations about a variety of topics, but suddenly he did just come out and ask me, “So, when did you finally get straightened out?”
I have to admit it took me by surprise and then I started to laugh and said “What do you mean?”
He recalled the difficult times when I was in my twenties trying to figure my life out, he mentioned that the decisions I was making back then really worried him and my mom, but he recalled that a respected family member kept reassuring them that I would be okay and he looked at me laughing and told me he would continually ask her “But when is it going to happen?”
Those were some difficult years for me because I struggled with all of my siblings being married and starting their families but I wasn’t doing so well in that department!
My parents did not like my fiancé yet they resigned themselves to the fact I was going to marry him until one day during a meeting we had with the priest, my fiancé left the room for a moment and the priest asked me “Do you want to run down the aisle to meet this man?” I responded rather quietly “No, I wouldn’t do that Father.”
He proceeded to give me the best advice and said “You are going to wonder why you walked down the aisle with even the right man, so if you don’t want to run and meet this guy right now you don’t have to do this.” Even though the wedding was six weeks away I called it off! My Dad told me he was so happy I didn’t marry him and felt that was the beginning of me “Straightening out.”
We certainly had some heartfelt talks as he gave me precious advice I will always cherish during what I now know would be our last week together.
He loved helping people and was always concerned for my well-being, it felt very special to take care of him, massaging his feet, fixing him what he wanted to eat and offer the love and attention I always wanted to give him as his daughter.
As he grew weaker, he told me he liked having me around because I made him laugh, he told me to never lose my ability to giggle, which I felt provided him some sense of comfort.
During his final hours as he was struggling to breathe and telling me he “had to go”… we held each others hands as I would try to convince him to rest.
This continued throughout the night, and as dawn was approaching he told me to leave the light on by his bed so I gently laid him down and held him as he quietly passed away in my arms, a precious gift that I am unable to put into words.
I will always have a vivid memory of that powerful moment as long as I live and how privileged I felt that he chose me to be by his side.
He was a wonderful father that provided for his family and in remembering my Dad as the days pass by, I will keep his “light” on in my heart forever.