In Death as in Life

DSCN3275I’m at his bedside, an onlooker and a participant. Day melds into night into day into night as time loses definition. Hours are counted by breaths, weaker, weaker, but still he lingers between worlds. He’s back in the Army, Germany, World War II. He stretches out his arm to an unseen stranger, straining, reaching, “Grab hold, I’ll get you up!” I gasp, hold my breath spellbound as he pulls some soldier from long past to safety. The sting of tears barely subsides before the raspy, ravaged voice cries out again, “He’s going up the hill!”

“Who?” I ask wondering what his dream state will offer up.

“Robert,” he says without hesitation, then, “Oh wait. They’re calling him back.”

For hours it’s like this as he revisits his life, sometimes familiar scenes, sometimes places only he has been. “1969,” he says with the ring of authority. “1969 was a good year for blackberries.”

Dying. My dad is dying and I get to be here to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event as he leaves his out-worn body, shedding the earth-bound shell.  In death as in life he sets the example, fearless, patient, kind. I adore him, always have. He’s the best man I’ve ever known, my rock, my hero…my dad.

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41 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. stevecastley
    Jan 23, 2016 @ 18:27:22

    So beautiful.

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  2. Carol Frei
    Jan 23, 2016 @ 18:42:03

    Beautiful, loving words honoring your hero, your dad. Both of you are an inspiration.
    Love you my dear friend.

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    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Jan 23, 2016 @ 18:52:58

      I’ve told him in every way I can for years that he’s my hero. He’d always say, “Humph!” Now a ghost of a smile twitches across his lips when I whisper it. Before this he wore hearing aids and still had trouble. Now his ears unaided in any way, he hears a pin drop in the next room!!! This process is unbelievable!

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  3. Peggy Brennan
    Jan 23, 2016 @ 19:04:08

    Hi Sherry: I am a friend of your parents. I live in Grand Rapids. Please let me know if there is anything you need. Pixie/Peggy Brennan

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  4. gerard oosterman
    Jan 23, 2016 @ 20:25:59

    How fortunate for your dad to have you by his side. Stay well.

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  5. Janet
    Jan 23, 2016 @ 21:38:20

    Thank you for sharing. Very hard for you all. Whisper to your dad that you will be fine without him, he needn’t worry about you, but you will always miss him. Assure him everything is in hand, under control and organised. Everyone will be fine. He can go with a clear conscience. Don’t worry about the family. He’s done a great job all his life. I’m sure he’s worried about all of you. Maybe words like this will put his mind and body at rest. All my love and thoughts. Xx

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  6. judybali
    Jan 23, 2016 @ 21:38:55

    Hi Sherry, I had no idea this was happening and that you are not in Bali at the moment. I’m so glad that you can be with your family at this very special and sad time. I wish you strength and fortitude. Much love to you and your family, Judy

    >

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  7. shanemac
    Jan 23, 2016 @ 21:58:20

    Thank you for sharing your story with us, beautifully told and poignant. I’m praying and visualising for your family.

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  8. karin grouf
    Jan 23, 2016 @ 22:38:53

    So sorry to hear of your loss and how lucky to have had him so long. my thoughts go with you and the family .

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  9. Gigi Gloria Heitkemper Cullins
    Jan 23, 2016 @ 23:01:51

    Oh, Sherry, I am so sorry to hear this! I am so glad you are there with him to say goodbye. That is a very special blessing. I understand exactly what you are going through. Sending love and prayers for all of you! Your Dad is such a sweet man. We so enjoyed getting to know him and your Mom all those years ago. Big hugs!

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  10. sageblessings
    Jan 23, 2016 @ 23:19:01

    Sherry, my friend, I am so glad you are part of this second most important event of his life. Birth and death are the bookends and you are there. I saw his photo as a young man on FB. I think Jessa posted it. I thought, “What a handsome man.” I thought it again now when seeing this photo. Peace to you all.

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  11. Tracy
    Jan 24, 2016 @ 00:31:43

    Hoping for a peaceful passage for a man who has always been kind. I was looking yesterday, I was sure I had a great picture of him pushing Jessa on the swing in their yard. Jessa looked happy, your dad looked content, as he almost always seemed to look when I saw him.I think this picture might be just in my mind, I am happy remembering him this way. He was a hard worker, supported you, loved your daughter, and really liked being with his wife, and working alongside her and with her to provide a home and tons of great garden food from a garden that stretched forever. I think of things they did to support you kids, and they did some very creative parenting to help with the hard times and enjoy the good times. Blessings to your whole family.

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  12. Lottie Nevin
    Jan 24, 2016 @ 01:02:29

    Sending my love and thinking of you.

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  13. Alexsandra
    Jan 24, 2016 @ 02:45:29

    Such beautiful writing at this time with your hero. Thank you for sharing this with us.

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  14. healingpilgrim
    Jan 24, 2016 @ 02:52:03

    What a moving experience. I’m sure he feels loved with all of you gathered by his side. Wishing you peace, light and love.

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  15. Christina Williams
    Jan 24, 2016 @ 08:44:07

    Sending love to you and your family

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  16. First Night Design
    Jan 24, 2016 @ 08:56:45

    Very movingly written. My heart goes out to you all. Take care.

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  17. Bobbi DeGuiseppi
    Jan 24, 2016 @ 09:12:56

    So sorry for your loss, Sherry, it is hard to lose a parent. Thinking of you and your family.

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  18. Nan
    Jan 24, 2016 @ 10:54:41

    What a lovely tribute to your dear dad. Sending prayers to you and your family for a peaceful transition.

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  19. Susan Wiste
    Jan 24, 2016 @ 13:02:50

    I send heartfelt wishes to you and your family for peace while abiding in your father’s love as he walks on into a new dimension. Thank you for sharing this wonderful tribute.

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  20. Kasprick KATHLEEN
    Jan 26, 2016 @ 21:11:31

    Dear friend, You are in the unfamiliar territory of accompanying your father to his death, and you are elegantly escorting his body to a resting state. It sounds in your beautiful piece, that he is peacefilled. Years ago, when my father was dying, I found it important to tell him he had been a good dad, that I would miss him very much, but my memories of our times together were sweet, and that it was OK to leave us now. With the very little energy left in his little body, he lifted his arm and in an awkward fashion, we hugged. He died soon after. One of my last times with him was staying with his body, just waiting for the heat of life to leave. This act takes a longer time than I anticipated and for me it was a spiritual awakening. We are not only body, for his body was still on the bed in front of me. Yet, his life, the lively, dancing, partyloving soul was dead and its’ leaving the home of his body, left him cold and stiff.

    Look for your dad soon after he dies. He will show you he is at peace. My own experience, driving home on that black, cold, snowy, early March evening, shivering, crying, grateful for the womb of my car, was on the seldom travelled train track by Highways 6 & 12, a lonely train whistle, and then a couple of louder,faster, even cheerful toots, and a brightly lit train sped past, tooting with great urgency at the intersection. I sat in the lone car late that evening, knowing the man, my father, in life a railroad switchman, was off on the great adventure we call death. I’m holding you and those you love prayerfully in my heart.

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  21. writingforselfdiscovery
    Jan 27, 2016 @ 21:27:50

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing your experience with your own father. And thank you for your thoughtful, kind words.

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