The long goodbye

My dad passed away back in 2011, the day after his birthday.  His decline was an arduous journey…six years.  He never truly experienced the sweet joys of retirement. He spent most of those years in and out of hospitals.

He died at 68 but he begin dying at 62.  He became this person I didn’t even know anymore.  His short term memory shot.  The vital man I knew as a child was no longer there. Instead, I saw a frail shadow, pale and weak.  One of the final memories I had of dad was at the gas station on our way to Chicago.  His heart was failing, he suffered from a number of ailments the main one congestive heart failure complicated by diabetes.

Each breath he took was a struggle, for he also suffered from COPD. He was a chain smoker. About 3 packs a day…his habit building up since the age of 13.  That memory at the gas station, dad so pale…he shuffled as we walked, painful to watch. It was a candid reminder:  the frailty of life.

I also remember us sitting in the living room, our last day in my childhood home before we left for Chicago.  I told him we were going on vacation, to visit my sister.  But I think he knew he was never coming back. Somewhere in that brain fog he knew this was the long goodbye.  With tears in his eyes this formerly strong man told me I could have anything from the house…anything I wanted.  The only thing I wanted was time.  Time for him, time for us.  Time with his family. I knew I was witnessing the end of this man.  A dad I could barely remember.

And as we drove up to Chicago he kept asking me every 20 minutes or so where we were going. Dad had stroked induced Dementia so his memory was also fading, like his body.  I feel bad now how impatient I was with him.  I should’ve tried harder. After all, his life was now counted in weeks…not years.

What I’ve learned from his passing is that each moment we have on this earth is so very precious. Love should never be taken for granted….and we need to be able to forgive…if nothing else…forgiveness is something we can freely give and the relief of letting go past transgressions…priceless.

Dad and I at VA Hospice January 2011

Dad and I at VA Hospice January 2011

One thought on “The long goodbye

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