It’s been exactly 3 months since Dad died on January 6 of this year. I’ve gone from stunned and with a complete lack of short term memory to feeling like things were okay, then feeling like the loss was even stronger than it was before. Like everyone, I knew one day I would be dealing with my Father’s death and, like everyone who has been through it, I found that no matter what I did to prepare myself for it and whatever I imagined, it was quite different than I expected and that there was no real way to prepare for it.
I think the toughest part for me was identifying his body. I don’t know if it’s a Virginia law or federal law but before he could be cremated, someone had to identify his body and I felt I should be the one to do it. If you know me well, you know I believe in life after death, that I’ve been fortunate enough to have had some unusual experiences that leave little room for doubt (and no, I’m not going to go into them here, and will discuss them in e-mail so please don’t waste your time and mine by asking). My Mother, sister, and I had done all we could for Dad. There were no regrets, since we had done our best to make him feel comforted and loved up through the end.
I’ve read, many times, to be sure and tell people in your life that you love them. Maybe it’s a testosterone thing, but I didn’t say that to Dad too often, but in all the political debates, in all the discussions about astronomy, auto mechanics, wooden boat kits, aeronautics, and in getting together with him to do the taxes ever year, and on and on, there wasn’t a need to tell him that. It was always there, between the lines, comments, ideas and questions. We’d often call each other if one of us found an interesting show on TV we thought the other one would want to see.
Still, after he had left for the Summerlands (yes, it’s a pagan term for where we go when we die and it’s one of the must beautiful terms I’ve heard for that concept) and I was there to identify his body, I felt like that would be the last time I could actually look at him and talk to him. When I touched his forehead it was cold. I guess I expected his body to be at least room temperature. This was my Father, my best friend, in a coffin, facing up, but not looking at me. It was the first time, ever, in my life, that I wanted to talk to Dad and he didn’t answer back, at least not in this realm. It was the only time I wanted, or even at my age, needed my Father and he was not responding. I had an easier time understanding that his body was dead than I did that there was some kind of boundary that my Father, who would do anything for me, could not reach across and make his eyes open again or speak to me again.
I had a lot to say to him that day. I could have stayed much longer, but it was too hard to stay any longer. In all the tears and comments and questions and all the times I was thinking about that would come up where he would not be there when I wanted to talk or to see him, it occurred to me there was one thing I had not said to him. Not, “I love you,” since, as I’ve said, he knew that and it was not really something that needed to be said. It was something I had said to him a number of times, on specific occasions, but still, I had never said it to him about everything he had done as he and Mom raised me. It’s something I’ve never heard anyone say they should have said to someone before they died.
I know it wasn’t something I needed to say, that he already knew I felt it, but still, it just seemed like poor manners to have never have said this one thing to my Father before he died.
Thank you, Dad.