Death. I have been thinking about death in all of its forms for the last two weeks.
Unusual I agree, but with a blog called DyingToLiveYourLife, and a philosophy that we should work hard to live our best life while we have the opportunity and privilege of being “well” it isn’t uncommon for me to reflect on what it means to die.
Of course, this is also spurned by facing death, again, right in the face.
Two weeks ago, at home, with my family, my father passed away. Now, we knew the time was short with my Dad. He had been in hospice care for over two years, living at home, but failing. We talked occasionally about his health, but he did not want to discuss what was happening. Instead, he wanted to talk about news stories, my blog and website, the library and what books he read – he wanted to talk about LIFE.
Even while facing his own death.
For me, getting a call that time was growing near brought to the surface of my memory the illness and pain that my own near death brought to me. I understood in my soul that I needed to be present for my Dad, to be with him, and my Mom for that moment, and I did not hesitate to get home.
Home. I own my own home, a house, with my own children and husband, and yet a part of many of us still calls home that place where your parents or loved ones reside. That home, several hours from me, was calling to me.
My initial reaction upon seeing my Dad, such a proud man, a solid steady part of my life, in bed and not able to be up any longer, was heart wrenching. But I changed in that moment, to be the rock for him, as he had done for my entire life. I did what he needed, I ensured he was comfortable, not in pain, clean and cared for. I ensured he was safe, warm, and felt all of us around him. I wanted to be sure he knew, down to his last breath, that his family was with him to the end.
And his life did come to an end. While we were sitting at dinner in the next room, talking and laughing together, checking occasionally on Dad as he rested, he quietly slipped away from us.
It was swift, one minute here the next gone.
When I entered his room that final time, I knew immediately he wasn’t with us. I momentarily regretted that I wasn’t sitting with him, holding his hand, talking with him as he moved on, and I stood gazing at him hoping he was not hurt by our absence. I placed my hand on his chest, counting and waiting for the inhalation of breath, which did not come. I placed my hands on his cheeks, whispered “Goodbye Daddy” and knew it was time to tell my Mom and brother that the wait was over.
Death, here again in my life, but with a different face this time. It is the face of my father, calm, quiet and peaceful, with reflections back to a smiling, laughing man, a man full of intelligence and ideas, that taught me to be myself, and to trust in who I was.
This time death was not scary, it was present with honor. With love. And with finality.
We can’t run from death, as fast and hard as we may try. As we take stock each moment of who we are and what we can become, it is important to remember that we all have the same end path. Death. It is how we face it, in the pursuit of life, that can make our own death, and those that partake in that death, matter.
My Dad’s life, not his death, is what matters.
I want my own life to matter. While I am living it. Not just when it is over.