At 3:30 in the afternoon of June the 16th, my Dad passed away sitting in his wheelchair in the hall outside his room at the Westport Nursing Home. He had just spoken to a couple of the nurses and then he was gone. The last two times I had seen him, he had been asleep, the last time, exactly four hours before his death, when I had dropped in to check on him after a thirty minute meeting with the bookkeeper at Westport trying to figure out the complexities of the first ridiculous bill I had just gotten from them. I hesitated at the elevator entrance for a moment. I was running late for an appointment. At the last minute I decided just to swing by his room. It’s always the small decisions we make that seem large when the histories are written.
I found him in his wheelchair in the hall outside of his room. He was asleep and wouldn’t wake for me. Someone had just combed his hair. The nurse told me that he was having a sleepy day. I kissed him on his forehead and told him that I would be back at 7:30 to tuck him in. As I walked back to the elevator the familiar anger welled up in me and I pleaded once again with God to take him, for the thousandth time, to take him.
Linda called me at 4:30 with the news. I raced over and found her alone with him. His face was the color of egg shells. I reminded myself that this was what we had all been praying for, that he had finally escaped this half life, and his mind was finally clear again, that he was finally with Mom. Still, it all seemed so abrupt, so devastatingly final. For the first time in my life, I felt like an orphan.
There is no time for grief. Today plans must be made; the funeral home, the cemetery, and the bank all have to be dealt with. Then the viewing has to be arranged and the service planned. The business of death is a relentless and tawdry thing, but must be endured. Over the next few days we will take comfort in the outpouring of love from a thousand friends, taking full advantage of membership in a church that knows how to care for the bereaved.
Once it is all over, there will be a hole in me. The one great man of my life will be gone. For the past two years his care has occupied no small part of my life. My two sisters and my older brother have done everything humanly possible since Mom died to make him comfortable. We have done this not out of obligation or guilt, but because he deserved our finest effort. Because we have done our best, we have no regrets. Our father died knowing that he was adored by his children, loved and respected by all who knew him.