After a couple year battle with cancer (with many ups and downs) my father passed away in March. It’s a strange thing, knowing someone is dying. I mean, we are all moving toward the end of our lives…but having a terminal illness puts the imminence of death, right in the forefront. After his diagnosis, I was able to head back to the Midwest and visit many times. I had time to create new memories with my dad. I’m thrilled that my dad and my daughter were able to spend a little time together, since he died 7 months after her birth. I’ve had time to question, journal, talk about my feelings and grieve (even before his death…kind of a pre-grieving).
I’m so grateful for the time we had.
I’m most grateful that I was able to say goodbye.
Saying goodbye to someone you love, is so hard. It’s not something I’ve had experience with. Saying goodbye isn’t something that is talked about in polite circles. In some cases, we avoid saying goodbye. I’m writing more about this topic in my April Newsletter (subscribe here)…not just about death, but saying goodbye to friends we’ve outgrown or a lover we no longer love…saying goodbye can be tough.
Mid-December my father’s doctors said they didn’t think he had much time left. I went back to the Midwest to celebrate my daughter’s first Christmas and my father’s last Christmas. My family assured me they didn’t expect me to come since I was just there in the fall, but I knew I needed to say goodbye. When I arrived my dad looked great! He was climbing on a stepladder and decorating the tree. He was laughing and playing with his grandkids. I have to admit, my “say goodbye plan” started to teeter a little bit as I began to doubt my dad’s prognosis. How do you say goodbye to someone who looks healthy and happy?
The trip was grand. Sweet and bitter. Full of holiday traditions, sharing past memories and creating new ones. The hardest part was trying to figure out when and how to say goodbye. On the last day of my trip my dad and I planned to sit down and talk after a nurse made a visit to our home. We were going to talk about logistics, final wishes and I wanted to say goodbye. That changed when the appointment didn’t go as planned and dad had to go to the hospital. He assured me he would be back before I had to leave, but that changed too, when he got to the hospital and was admitted. I wish I could accurately describe the emotion and panic I felt. We had to leave for the airport in one hour, the baby was sleeping and I had a deep need to say goodbye. I almost talked myself out of that need. I knew he loved me. I knew he felt supported and loved by me. And if I really listened, I knew that I needed to say goodbye. My husband was also a huge support and reminded of my “goal” in coming home. I needed to say goodbye. We left the babe with family, and my mom drove us to the hospital. I felt anxious on the drive. I really didn’t even know what I needed to say. I didn’t know the exact words. My dad was quite surprised when we burst into his hospital room. He and my husband talked a bit and then my husband headed into the hall. It was just us.
I can’t quite describe what took place. We talked about death, we talked about living, and we talked about love. I said goodbye. I told him how sad I am that he won’t know my daughter and she won’t know him. There were tears. There were hugs. And I said goodbye. As I think about it or write about that moment, I am still filled with emotion. It was so powerful. And then I walked into the brightly lit hospital corridor and I felt lighter. I felt so content. I felt such peace. Still sad, but so present and open and serene. So right.
Shortly after my dad’s death I was asked if there was anything else I wished I had said. I am so happy that I can say I feel completely confident and truly resolved about our last moment together. I miss him. I get sad when I think about the next time I’m with my mom, my siblings, our partners, and our kids; and dad isn’t there. I am also so grateful that I was able to say goodbye.