Note: This post was written a long time ago. I’m transferring it here from my old blog address. My Dad died of lung cancer in October, 2006 and the original blog entry (shown below) appeared in 2007.
In about two hours, it will be midnight in San Antonio, Tx. And, one year ago, my Dad died. I wrote about his dying, his death, and his final moments here. I’m going to share the entry again. It’s the first time I’ve read it since I wrote it on October 6, 2006. It seems like an eternity ago. Since then, I had the good fortune to visit New Zealand, Panama, work on countless projects and deliver some wonderful workshops. Each has helped assuage the grief, one troubled step at a time. There’s also been the daily overcoming the grief, of focusing on the present so as to not dwell on the past. Digital storytelling helped play a part in that…you can watch Garbed in Silver (YouTube Version | TeacherTube Version).
My father died at 5:32 PM on Saturday, October 7th. As my mom, wife and I watched, at 5:22 PM his gasps became more shallow, then stopped. His pulse continued for a few minutes, then stopped altogether at 5:32 PM. The official time of death was 5:40 PM.
I miss Dad, I miss his presence, the impact he had on my son. I know that my son misses him, too. Nevertheless, the grief seems a bit apart now. At first, it felt like it lay across a chasm, untouchable, unknowable…something so achingly far away that I would never gain on it, never approach it. But now, I’m not so sure. It doesn’t feel like a chasm anymore, a separation to be spanned. Rather, it is a road to be walked. It is a path through tall, dry grass, the heat, the grass, both pressing up against me…a walk not unlike I might have taken when a child walking through the bush, “el monte” of my first home, Panama.
Here’s what I wrote so long ago, yet, it seems but yesterday:
In 30 minutes, it will be Saturday. It will be the day my father dies.
I cannot imagine what I will feel or experience at that moment, when he breathes his last. I cannot imagine what life will be without him. When I visited the house today to pick up some things, I sat in his Lazy boy chair. Sobs ran through me as I walked from room to room, seeing everything that reminded me of him, that reminded me he would never touch them again. I saw the toys he’d bought for my son, the movies and books that we both viewed and read, the furniture which I had grown up with as a child for whom death is a distant shore.
I saw the table where the 3 of us–my father, mother and I–had eaten for 27 years, although I was a less frequent visitor for 17 of those years. I saw the place setting where my son would drink his milk and eat his macaroni, the couch he would lay upon and thrust out his hand like an emperor, silently demanding another cup of milk. Obediently, my father would smile and refill the bottle with milk. My son’s toothbrush lies upon the table next to the stack of papers my father scribbled his notes on–tasks to complete, people to call, phone numbers, and more.
Yesterday, I thanked the doctors. My father, a sergeant first class, was always tickled that his Army service had earned him unlimited medical care. He was delighted and humbled, too, that colonels, majors, captains, and other officers would lavish such attention and care upon him, a lowly SFC. Yesterday, I felt they understood. One of their own had come home to die, had entrusted himself to their care. And, they, like warriors of old honoring their fallen, cared for him.
In 20 minutes, it will be Saturday. It will be the day James Gordon Guhlin, Sr. dies.
As I walked to my truck, I retraced the steps my dad would take. I remember now how he would follow me out to the car, always with a conversation. I would put his grandson in the car, and the boy would insist that his Papa kiss him and strap him in. I would kiss Dad’s cheek, then get in the truck. He would talk me out of the driveway, and many a time, I felt terrible about leaving. His face would have the look of a man who has more to say, but no one to say it to. I was reminded of the hearty greeting he would give me, or wait until we were out in the driveway to speak to me of something serious. I wish for many things, but the tyranny of time, work, family, plain selfishness of living were things that gave me the power to back out of the driveway.
In 10 minutes, it will be Saturday. It will be the day my daddy dies.
As I sat in the truck, the fit of sobs having passed, I felt a sadness on me. A sadness I have wrestled with for a year, ever since his cancer returned. But now, I know that sadness. Tomorrow, it loses it’s power over me. At 10:00 AM, my dad begins his journey to a time and place where happiness is unending, where he will be greeted by his brothers and sisters, his parents, all those who have gone before. I know that his arrival on the distant shore will be a joyous one, and that when my time comes, he will be there to greet me. Then, I’ll be a wiser man, one who has known the loss of his father, one who will value time spent in the driveway, at travel’s start.
I remember him when I was a boy. He always gave me something, a pen, a musical instrument, something. He wooed me, loved me, and when other boys complained about their fathers, I only smiled. I was grateful, my father loved me.
It’s now midnight. It is Saturday. Today, the heart of our family dies.
Oh God, was I a good son? Did I make him proud? I can only guess. I can rest in the fact that my son brought him joy in his last years. Oh, I so hope that he smelled his grandson’s hair, became his velveteen rabbit.
As I look around at the other children he had, I know my father was proud. I know because I’m proud of my son, because I am a father…I now know that…A father’s love is not earned, but he freely gives it to his children. His pride in us flows from that love. I find comfort that he found joy in my son, who was by his side and needed him.
I find rest in God, only He gives me hope. (Psalm 62:5)
It’s 10:44 PM. In but a short time, it will be Sunday, the day I celebrate the memories of my father. I pray that our humble prayers, our quiet tears, our unspoken longing for him will find him where he is, nestled in the arms of God. Like a man gasping for breath, I pray.
Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure