Thursday, April 28, 2011

One moment

About a month and a half before he died, I had a conversation with my dad about death. I didn't know if it was right or fair, given his incredibly frail health, but I desperately needed to talk to him. I wanted to tell him about the vision I had of Thomas pushing through crowds of family and friends to be the first to greet whichever one of us was to arrive next.

I said "whichever one of us". I knew it would be Dad.

He smiled. And got quiet.

To fill the silence I blathered on, making a vague reference to some pretty severe doubts that had been plaguing me since he'd gotten so sick, about whether or not there even was a heaven.

In hindsight this all seems so cruel - to try to seek spiritual solace from someone staring death in the face, someone getting weaker every day and fighting so hard to live. But I couldn't help myself. I knew I was losing him. I was watching him slip away right before my eyes. The enormity of that impending loss made me realize exactly how desperately I needed to know that this is not all there is. That I would see him again, even if he had to leave me for a while now.

It was easy when he was younger and healthier. It was theoretical, the separation.

But when you look at someone and see death staring back at you, sometimes you say things you might otherwise not. And I hope he has long forgiven me for forcing him to talk about dying in the dialysis waiting room that day.

He told me he wasn't afraid of death. He was a man of immense, unwavering faith. He said if he happened to be wrong, which I know he didn't think he was, he'd never know the difference so it didn't concern him.

He said the only thing he was afraid of was the moment of death.

And I didn't know what to say, except to agree. And to feel sick for making him reach in and poke at that one little weak chink in his armor.

And then he was gone.

He would have loved to tell me about the moment of death, once he finally experienced it. As weird as that sounds, I know he would have. He loved to tell stories, especially if they were funny, but also if he knew someone was really, really interested in what he had to say. And I am. Oh, I am.

He would lean forward in his chair and said, "Say, do you remember that day in the waiting room when we were talking about dying? WELL..." then he'd pause for emphasis, lean back, and proceed to tell me that it wasn't as bad as he'd feared. Or that it was worse. Or quick. Or agonizingly slow. Most likely he'd say it's not worth worrying about while you're still alive because there's all sorts of important living to do then. And if that was his message, he'd probably wag his finger at me with his head tilted and his stern face on while he was delivering it.

And I would listen to the sound of that lovely voice, taking in all the details, nodding and commenting and laughing at the funny bits I'm sure he'd have managed to find in it all. Just like always.

It's been so long.


Mrs. Spit said...

One day, the stories will be there. You will be there. I keep holding on to that.

Illanare said...

Sending love.

Pipsylou said...

Your writing is so eloquent, your words so fluid...I think you must get that from him.

areyoukiddingme said...

Who better to seek spiritual solace from than your dad? I'm sure he got quiet because he was worried about you and how you were going to miss him and how you've already suffered enough losses in your life already.

And I think you've already heard his story - or else you would not be able to hear him say that you should not worry.

erica said...

Sending love. Every time you write about your father I think of how amazing he must have been.

Terynn said...

I love this post.

And I do not think that you should feel badly about steering the conversation into a direction about death and the possibility of life after (which I happen to share with your dad).

It is my thought that the frail, sick and dying do want to talk about their thoughts and fears, but likely do not, in order to spare their loved ones having to face the "hard stuff".

I believe your vision was given to you for your comfort and to build your faith. Hold onto it. I believe that your precious boy and your wonderful father are waiting, together, for the rest of your family to join them--in God's timing.

Thanks for sharing your journey ...

ApronStringsEm said...

I've been having a hard time trying to compose a response to this post. I think it's more because, for some reason, the universe decided to take our fathers away from us around the same time.

I know what you're going through. I know the heartache of doing something or saying something that, in retrospect, seems wrong. I know the regret of NOT saying something or NOT doing something that might have changed the outcome of things.

And it's tough ... so tough ... not to be hard on ourselves. And I *do* wonder when it will get better. But I suppose the only thing we can do is keep those memories of our Dads and believe that they're there next to us, watching over us.


loribeth said...

I too had to come back to this post; I get teary every time I read it. After he had a heart attack, I remember lecturing my beloved grandfather (who would have been 99 tomorrow) over the phone about taking care of himself. He cut me short & firmly but gently told me he'd had a good long life & wasn't afraid of whatever the future might hold for him. I want so much to believe that he & my grandmother are helping to take care of our Katie & telling her bedtime stories, just as he used to do with my sister & me. And that they'll all be there to meet me. Someday.