The demise of one’s parent, no matter that it’s neither unexpected nor tragic at age 89, is still powerfully sad. No matter, either, what the relationship has been or might have been, no matter how finished or unfinished your business with each other, a parent’s death is a loss and an ending, and it is final, irreversible, and sad. Further, neither daughter nor father can wrest control of the situation this time, neither can make it easier on the other; neither is in charge which, some moments, can feel like relief, but others, adds frustration and pain.
My father’s slow, inexorable decline has given my sisters and me time to both think about and experience who we are -- to our father and to each other -- at this particular stage of life. And death. We are still struggling to discern what it is, exactly, that we are being called to do -- as if (and this is an old and terrible lesson from our childhood) there were only one right way to do anything, including, it follows, effect the transition of a loved one from life to death. Would he like a chocolate milkshake? A new book-on-tape? To watch the Super Bowl? Dare we leave town? Should we leave work?
Dad sleeps more hours of every day; we sleep less. Day and night, our minds are looking for answers we wish we knew but can’t. We pray, we write, we weep.
He hangs on. And I decide it’s time to learn something from this, something neither memory nor angst could ever teach. I need to know that I can die in peace when it’s my turn, and knowing this to be the case, my family will not suffer as my sisters and I do now.
What will that take? That’s what I’m starting to think about. That’s what I need to take from this sadness, even as I try -- we all try -- to give Dad peace.
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