I’m not sure if it is morose to always remember this day, or respectful? For me, however, today is a day that was forever seared into my memory. It was four years ago today that my Dad passed away. It was peaceful and swift and almost without incident. It was almost a non-event- had it not been for the fact that I still grieve for him to this day.
It was seven o’clock at night. I have heard it said that you are more likely to pass away at the time of day when you were more active. Morning people, for example, tend to pass away in the morning. My Dad was a night person. He sure liked to sleep in. He would have never done well in a nursing home where there is a regime of breakfast at 8:00 am, lunch at noon, and dinner at 6:00. Being home with care allowed him the luxury and dignity to make his own choices. Afterall, for all that he gave to family and country, I would think he deserved that.
My friend, Janine, taught me to speak to him as though he were still alert and with me and, so, as he lay in his bed in a seeming coma, I did. “Good morning, Dad”, I remember saying to him this time four years ago. “It is a beautiful day. You would really enjoy being outside in the woods today.” And I raised the blinds.
Dad loved the woods. He always called the property where he and Mom lived for twenty some odd years, their own Walden Pond. I would often hear him recite a passage from Thoreau’s novel while he was in the midst of the forest:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”
I’m not so sure that Mom wanted to live “Spartan-like” and would often tease him about being “cheap”. Of course, she ended up getting what she wanted anyhow and then they would laugh about who actually wore the pants in the family.
I think I have a bit of Walden Pond here in my own back yard. While it is named a much less elegant name, “Bear Creek”, it most certainly does evoke the longing to live among nature. The birds fly wildly by me as i write this post and the wind passes gently through the trees to rustle their leaves just enough to create a glorious philharmonic of sound. I really must try to learn the bird calls, I am reminded. I’m not sure which call belongs to which bird. Dad knew them all and could whistle them right back. He got a kick out of communicating with the birds. He got a kick out of most things in his life. I’d like to think that when it came time to die, realize that he had lived richly and deeply. I’d like to think that he, as I, had sucked the marrow of life. I know he cut a broad swath and that his path will be remembered forever.
There is no time to waste on regret or anger. There is always a solution to any problem. There is no room, in life, for jealousy and lies. There is always more joy in rejoicing with others about accomplishments, and supporting one another’s lives. To love deeply, to forgive readily, and to rejoice in the glory of the moment is divine. Not that Dad was perfect, but one tends to become more of a saint after death. Okay, Dad is still not a saint – but he sure was my cheer-leader. He appreciated the care I gave him, the food I cooked him, the time I spent with him listening to his stories. I brought my family to visit and eat dinners with him, I played his favorite music, and I shared his wine with him. I remembered Mom with him, I recorded his stories on a blog for him, and I reassured him that he was going to be okay. We watched fireworks from his balcony, shared Remembrance Day tears together, and kept in touch with his friends and family. Maybe he did not live in Walden Pond during his final days, but he sure lived life deeply.
One of the best lessons he offered me, however, was to “remember the good times”. Be positive. Appreciate what you have.
Thanks for the good times, Dad. Loving you still – Stacey.