Early yesterday morning my dad passed at home in his sleep, he had been ill and fighting for his life for the past year except we didn’t know how quickly it would take him from us. How unfair it had been for him to get sick right at the time he should have been celebrating his retirement and living well-earned carefree years traveling with Mom. I keep thinking of other things I wanted to tell him, words I wanted hear from him one more time and other ways we would have handled things if we weren’t acting out of a paniced fear. My Dad and I knew each other in a way no one else on earth could relate to and I can’t think too long about how lonely life will be now without his connection.
I knew he was dying, I could see life fading away and I felt helpless to know there was nothing I could do to take the agony away from his body. He pushed his body past it’s limits while bones collapsed and broke with no effort at all. Dad’s steps became slower, his body weaker. Towards the end he was sleeping more and eating less each day. I knew he was dying, I could see life fading and I still believed I had more time. His appearance became more fragile, he avoided having visitors because he didn’t want others to see him and remember him so sick. For months I avoided being physically close to him when I came to the house, afraid I would unintentionally infect him with germs and make him feel even worse.
In the past few weeks I returned to giving him kisses on the forehead or cheek when I said goodbye. Being so close, I could feel his bones protruding through his face and still I wanted to believe he would rebound, this would not be his fate. I realize now our final interactions were my last goodbye. If I had known, I would have stayed for longer. I would have told him I’m okay with him going because I don’t want him to be in pain. I know he knows this now.
There are moments when peace calms the house and I feel reassured, Dad is not in anymore pain. He is not suffering. Our family is together now and connected by hugs, holding hands and laughter. Then there are waves of grief which catch me off guard and squeeze the air tightly from my lungs, how did we get here to this point, how could this have happened to him?
Seeing how family and friends have responded in the last day has made me observe I am not the only one who has a unique and special connection to my dad. It’s both comforting and distressing to recognize how influential my dad was to so many people. He taught life lessons, was an example for how to be genuine to people and a devoted husband, father, brother, uncle and friend. His cancer spread to impacting the lives of so many who loved and respected my dad, the grief is widespread.
In one of the moments of calm yesterday, I looked through the photos on his cell phone. As predicted there were pictures of his grandchildren, of him with my mom, of his motorcycle travels with his brother, of the only cat he says ever loved him “Mozie,” and of the countryside in Italy where he took his last international trip. Some pictures made me sob to see the joy on his face and the love in his eyes, knowing I wouldn’t ever see this in person again. Then one image seemed to stand out from the rest, a heaven sent message from my dad for exactly this moment. It hurts so much right now to think about him being gone and I know down the road everything is going to be okay, even if I can’t see it or feel it today.