I lied. I wasn't ready to say good-bye.
by Shawn H.
On February 6, 2009 my father died and suddenly I became an orphan. He was the only one left who had watched me grow up day after day and he was gone. My mother died in 1993. My brother and his wife disowned my father and me that same year. Suddenly it was just the two of us left.
He met a wonderful woman soon after Mom died and she may have been the only thing that saved him. She passed in 2004 and I watched him fade after that. I knew he wouldn’t last very long and I tried to brace myself. He had loved these women deeply and he seemed rather lost without them.
I remember realizing when my stepmother got sick that he was probably the strongest person I knew. He had watched his mother die of breast cancer, supported my Mom when her mother was dying of liver cancer, nursed my Mom through lung cancer until 2 days before she died, and did the same for my stepmother when she got colon cancer. I find myself awed by the quiet dignity he maintained.
He smoked my entire life. Actually he smoked almost his entire life. He started when he was 10 years old. As he began to decline due to emphysema, people asked me why I didn’t try harder to get him to quit. How was I supposed to do that I wonder? He was an intelligent man. He had seen first hand what smoking could do. He knew without a doubt that the cigarettes were killing him, and after my stepmom died I’m not sure that he had any real drive to live.
Sometimes I think that the only reason he hung on as long as he did was for me, my husband and my kids. He had this need to know that we were going to be okay. He couldn’t let go until he knew in his heart that I was going to be okay.
So when he was in the hospital I told him without a single tear or quiver in my voice that I was okay, that if it was time to say good-bye I was ready; that it had taken me 30 years to get here, but I was finally an adult and could take care of myself.
The doctor’s weren’t ready to let him go, but he decided he wanted to go to hospice. He was there for only a little over 24 hours. I watched as he pulled the oxygen mask away from his face, I cried silently as I held his hand because he said he couldn’t see me anymore, I listened as he gasped for breath over and over thinking each time that it would be his last. Sometimes I still hear it in my dreams.
In the end though he managed to spare me the upset of actually watching him breathe his last breath. He died around 3 in the morning as I lay in a hotel bed in my husband’s arms having cried myself to sleep.
I didn’t go into his room when we got to hospice that morning. He wasn’t there anymore, just the shell that had held his incredible spirit. I haven’t allowed myself to really grieve for him yet. I tell myself there’s too much to do dealing with his estate, dealing with my kids, dealing with life, but in the end I guess it’s really that I wasn’t ready to say good-bye and I’m not sure I ever will be.