I got the phone call early in the morning. They told us that you were going downhill quickly and that you probably wouldn't make it through the day.
We all quickly made arrangements and soon mom and all of your children were surrounding your bedside. We held hands around you, laid our hands on you, and prayed. We prayed for your peace. We prayed for your comfort. We prayed in thanksgiving for having you in our lives. We cried and we comforted each other.
I was so happy that we were all there for you. So many of us that they had to move you down the hall to a larger room to accommodate your whole family. We all sat around your bedside and told our favorite stories about you. I knew you could hear us. I knew you were enjoying it. Every time someone would tell a story about one of your passions your breathing would speed up and your mouth would twitch as though you were trying to talk. Trying to add to the stories.
It was a day all about you. So often you have taken a backseat in your family life. Happy to let your kids have the spotlight. Never really having a party or the focus on you. But this day. This day was all about you. We could feel your love for all of us in that room with you. And we all agreed that each time one of us would tell you that we loved you we could just feel your desire to say "I love you" back. You were always so quick to tell us you loved us throughout our lives and we could feel it that entire day too.
Your health deteriorated more as the day went on and I was so grateful that you had The Anointing of the Sick just the night before. I knew it made you feel better and it was such a blessing to witness. I almost felt like I was watching you being baptized into your new life. Your spiritual life. And as the day went on and I knew you would not be with us much longer I was comforted that your soul was prepared and ready for God.
When everyone was out of the room I spoke with you. I told you it was okay to let go. To let your body relax. We all said what we needed to say. You knew how much we loved you and we knew how much you loved us. We were going to be okay. We were going to take care of mom. You had nothing to worry about. I told you again how much I loved you and thanked you for being such a wonderful father. If you wanted to let go we were going to be alright.
Still, the day wore into the night. The hospice nurse came in to stay with us and enjoyed hearing stories about how you and mom met, the musicals you were in together, and your passions. I told the hospice nurse that I had a feeling you were waiting until we all left to pass on. I thought you might be worried about us and didn't want us to be there when you passed away. You have always been so private about certain things. You have always had such a strong, personal relationship with God. I thought maybe you wanted it to be just you and God. I spoke with the hospice nurse about my feelings as she assured me that she has seen that many times. Sometimes the person passes on when all is quiet and the family members have gone.
It was late. Most everyone had gone home. Mom was exhausted. She hadn't eaten or slept much. She was planning on sleeping in your room with you but I knew she wouldn't sleep. I was worried about her and she was worried about me. Mom was worried about me being so pregnant and not having had much food and being too tired. We talked it over and I told her I had a feeling you were waiting for us to leave. We finally agreed to go home and sleep and come back first thing in the morning.
We said our I love you's and our goodbyes one more time and we went home.
Ten minutes after I got home I received a phone call from the hospice nurse letting me know that you passed away.
I jumped back into my car, picked up mom and Anne, and we went back to the nursing home to see you. We weren't sure why. We just felt we needed to. When we walked back into the room it felt differently. We could feel that you were gone.
There were no tears. We were so relieved for you, and I'm sure, a bit numb. As we got back into the car for the ride home we all felt very peaceful. We looked up at the stars and the beautiful moon and knew that it was just the kind of gorgeous night that you would marvel at. And now you had the best view of all.
One year has passed. I don't know how to feel about that. With each holiday that came and went without you I felt like I had an excuse for feeling so sad. It was the first Christmas without you. It was the first Easter without you. It was the first Father's Day without you. And now that the first year has passed am I supposed to miss you less? Because that is not how it works for me. As time moves on I feel I am missing you more.
I guess I thought I would see signs of you everywhere I looked and be comforted. I thought I would dream of you often. I thought perhaps I could have conversations with you. But they never came. And it has made me miss you more.
But every now and then I do know you are with me.
Thank you for making me laugh when I was sitting on the back steps tying my shoes. I was all alone in the house hurrying to get to church to help mom plan your funeral. It really caught me by surprise when I sneezed so loudly and then heard your voice clear as day say, "Gesundheit!" It put the biggest smile on my face. It had been years since I'd heard you say that.
And thank you for staying with me when Todd was deer hunting. I know it is silly to be frightened in my own house especially now that I am an adult. But it was a brand new house, and it seemed so big, and I felt so exposed. And I had to put on a brave face for my children even though I was nervous on the inside. The minute I asked you to come and stay with me and watch over me and the kids I immediately felt peaceful and calm. I knew you were with me making me feel safe and protected just like you did when I was a little girl.
Most of all, thank you for being with mom. The conversations you two have now are so real that I can not deny them. It is just more proof of your soulful connection to each other in life and in death. It shows me what real love is. And it also helps release any lingering fear of death I might have had.
I still miss you, Dad. I suspect I always will. Whether you have been gone for one year or 40 years I will miss you. But I take comfort in knowing we will see each other again. If there is one thing you have taught me it is to know God, to serve God, and to trust in God's love for us. And in that love we will live on forever.
I love you, Dad.