This is a story about my father. Specifically, his death. Why am I telling this story on Father’s Day? Because his passing is as important to the story of his life as any other event, and it’s difficult to celebrate him without sharing it.
My father did not have an easy life. He suffered great loss, with his first wife and both of his parents all passing within a very short time. He had three young girls. He quietly carried these losses with him every day. God sent him my mother, and they married and had five more children. He supported and raised us on a municipal worker’s salary. He and mom worked very hard to make sure we had enough, but extras were few. They instead filled us with the gifts of family, love, work, faith, and the ability to appreciate the importance of all of those things. My father lived for his family, nothing else.
As my father aged and started to experience health problems, my siblings and I would talk about his future passing with dread. How would his life end? Would he suffer? I remember many times praying for him to pass in his sleep, for surely he deserved to leave this life without pain. None of us could bear to think or talk about it for more than a minute.
At 86 years old, my father was blessed with the transition everyone hopes for. Pain-free, comfortable, surrounded by the people he loved most, in the living room of the home he worked so hard to secure and maintain. But most exquisite, was the way he so easily and willingly gave himself over to the Lord, just a few hours after kissing my mother for the last time. He was ready and relieved to be finally going home.
The first of my father’s final three days with us, my mom, and seven siblings and I realized that the end we had dreaded for so many years, was finally here. Dad was conscious and sitting up in his favorite chair, but barely speaking. He had stopped eating and drinking, and his body and mind were clearly getting ready to go. One by one, my siblings and I, and our families trickled into the house until it was full. We all sat together in the living room, surrounding him on the floor at his feet, to spend what we knew was one of the last evenings with our dad and Papa.
I cannot explain the look of happiness on his face, as he looked out into the sea of people, his legacy sitting before him. He was never so proud as he was at that moment. I am in tears once again as I recall it. He knew what was happening, and yet, all he could do was smile from ear to ear. What more could someone want in their last hours, but know they have left something meaningful behind? And there it was, right in front of him. His family.
Over the next two days, Dad drifted in-and-out of sleep and wakefulness. If he was awake, we all were, even at 3:00 am, just for the potential opportunity to make him more comfortable or maybe hear a few words. We prayed, we sang, we laughed, we ate and drank, together as ten for the last time. He even managed to keep his sense of humor, riddling us with crossword clues in the middle of the night, as we all slept at the foot of his recliner. The spirit of love that filled our family home those few days was felt by everyone who entered. Even the nurse’s aide who came to bathe and shave my dad for the last time commented on the feeling in the house and the love that was palpable. The gentleman told my mom he had never seen anything like it.
At 10:48 pm on January 28, 2015, Dad took his last breath, surrounded by his beautiful wife of fifty years, and eight children. It’s true, no one or nothing can prepare you for the loss of someone you deeply love. Especially when that someone is half of you. But what I felt as my father passed from this life into the next was relief, love, and gratitude.
My siblings and I cherish the memories of these precious last days with our Dad. Although we miss him, it’s difficult to be sad, because he left us in the most beautiful way. He was gifted the ending he so much deserved, and for that, we are all so very grateful. I hope his story lightens your heart. Happy Heavenly Father’s Day Dad. xo Karm