My dad died in his sleep last night. Here in Houston, I woke suddenly at 3:40 a.m. That would be 1:40 a.m. Seattle time - do our bodies and souls know when a loved one leaves this earth? My cell rang at 5:00ish Houston time and I knew even before I picked up the phone that it was my sister Kate. I knew Dad was gone. We cried together, both disbelieving and relieved. She and I texted late yesterday afternoon. I asked if I should fly up immediately and she wrote, "It's if you want to see him again. I can't predict how much time he has. You might be fine waiting until (your flight) next week."
And I texted, "If you are still there with Dad, please give him my love. Sending love your way, too."
"Yes, I told him," she answered. "He smiled."
"I hope I get there in time."
|Dad with Gedyong, his caregiver extraordinaire.|
Mom rallied briefly just before she died. Now Dad had done a similar thing. Over the weekend, he'd been withdrawn and untalkative, but yesterday, Kate said he appeared 'better.' Better was that last spurt of life energy before dying. In the moment, Kate forgot that Mom had done exactly the same thing. Caretakers told us that often happens sometime close to death.
We both hope that Dad 'gave up the ghost' (a phrase Nora would have used and which our family appropriated) peacefully, without gasping for breathe or choking on phlegm. I am glad he refused to go to the hospital several weeks ago when he got pneumonia AGAIN.
|Bonnie Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, 2013. Dad with four of his nine great grandchildren.|
Kate and I spoke last Saturday, I asked her if she was willing to tell Dad that it was OK to let go and she said yes. After hearing her words, he responded, "OK." And he has done just that.
Surviving until the family picnic on September 6 was a task too great to bear. And, always, he bore his increasing infirmities and limitations with dignity and acceptance.
"I'll call John now," Kate said. A few minutes later my cell rang and it was John. Neither of us were there to say good by to Dad and did it make a difference? We mostly thought about Kate and how she'd been there the entire time, was always 'there', week after week, year after year. My parents moved to Seattle after a decade in Houston, because, as Mom said, that was where her doctor daughter lived. Those two had a special bond. Mom had great faith that as a doctor, Kate would know what to do 'when the time came.'
|Dad, getting a big hug from his first great grandchild, Charlie Bean Kleban, December 2013.|
I suspect when I get to Seattle next week, I'll be sorting and clearing Dad's space at the adult family home. Boxing things up, making decisions. That will be my job. And today, I will find Dad's obituary, which I drafted years ago when he was in hospice, but recovered and lived on. I will call his church in Seattle and I will call his church in Houston.
In an hour, it will be 7:00 a.m. in the Pacific Northwest and I can call my three daughters with the news that we are no longer a four generation tribe. There was satisfaction in knowing we comprised four generations of family. How will our family 'be' now? How will we reassemble, reform, refocus? I sense that our family picnic on September 6 will be a joyous event. We will celebrate Mom and Dad's lives and renew what are already pretty strong family ties. I can hardly wait.
My door is open to the morning and the garden looks the same as it did yesterday. The paper piles surrounding my laptop are still somewhat disorganized. I hear doves singing their call and respond. The distant freeway traffic is steady. The world has not changed significantly and yet it has.