A great whooshing, sucking sound roared into my ears and filled my head. An emissary of the family just informed me that Dad has died.
We siblings, the eight of us, knew this day was coming but not exactly when. He died at 6:45 A.M. on Sunday, May 5, Cinco de Mayo… Margaritas annually from now on!
Dad had been sick. The gangrene in his left foot was spreading, the result of a chafing, rubbing piece of his left moccasin that went undetected until it was too late. Such a small thing to take down a giant of a man.
Adding insult to injury for him and to the rest of us, the doctors said, “He’s no longer a ‘qualified candidate for surgery’.” My brother, also an M.D., concurred. Dad’s fate was sealed.
As if he was running for office, I thought, while I grabbed the morphine that he might need for the pain from the outstretched hand of the hospice attendant.
That’s not good enough, not for my Dad! I thought as the initial numbness wore off and I confronted emotions that commingled with my intelligence. What the hell… ?
But I had seen the black toe, which looked like a charred ember, half-knowing in that moment that Dad would have no way out from this other than death. I postulated an easy exit for him, knowing that he was not his body and that he would find another lifetime quickly, whether he knew it or not.
One wonders how his parent will die; now I knew. It was like a body-slam but a quiet one. The fatality of the prognosis was numbing: this was it. Lights Out for Dad had raised its inevitable head and shown itself for all who looked.
We had been down this road before when Mom died. Her death was by cancer, and she just plain wore out from fighting it for years; fighting for life, fighting illness; fighting from the husband who was not the same fun-loving man she married over 50 years ago. She stopped fighting, gave up and died. Mom died before Dad did, and he always regretted that.
In the end, we all simply give up the last of our dreams in order to pass away from the current lifetime and move into the next one, knowingly or not; remembering or not.
My sister — the one that each of us turns to for information about other family members when we’re interested — informed me that Dad is gone. Though we had prepared ourselves for this phone call, thinking we had done enough for this moment’s arrival, we cried anyway.
“You only get one father each lifetime,” I told her as I hugged her, letting the vacuum of his departure draw both of us into mixed emotions. She heard me say it, but her belief, that you only go around once, clashed with my understanding that we live many lifetimes.
Anyway, of course, we cried. And we’ll cry at the funeral, despite what our heads — mere minds over matter — tell us. In the end, the heart rules and measures the depth of its consolation in teardrops.
No matter how we go on from here, Dad has finally left the building.
The funeral Mass is Saturday, 72 hours away.
I need a nap.