The Sound of Silence

Dad,

I write these words knowing that you are not here to read them.  It’s been five days since you died.  Five days since you took your last breath and let go.  You died slowly.  Painfully.  Not at all the way I ever imagined you would. I always imagined you would go swiftly, quickly, and hopefully without pain.  I always figured I would get a phone call to say that you had passed away.  I didn’t expect to be with you, to watch you in your final few moments.

After a lifetime of beating the odds, they finally caught up with you.  In a hospice room, on the first day of Fall, you left this world.  Did you know it was the first day of Fall?  Did you somehow choose to walk from this world into the next with the change of season?

Did you hear me say that your room overlooked a butterfly garden?  I hope you did.  Because I know that you always associated butterflies with your mother and believed that’s how she came to visit with you after she died.  When I looked out from your hospice room, the garden will filled with them.  As sad as it was to  hear you labor to breathe and realize that your death was so near, seeing all those butterflies was reassuring.  It made me think that maybe they were there to guide you on the next step of your journey.

The day that you died, you seemed to be peaceful and calm.  Not like the night before when you were restless and fidgeting, picking at your clothes, and still trying to climb out of the bed even though your legs would not support you and you had lost the use of your left arm.  I wonder where it was you meant to go.  What did you see that was powerful enough to make you want to get up?

The look of your eyes haunts me.  Once so clear and bright, they were milky and dull with sickness at the end.  And yet somehow, the night before you died, you opened those eyes and recognized me.  You knew my name.  You knew that I had just gotten back from Alaska.  And there was enough of you still there, in that dying body, to crack a joke or two.

When you asked me for a hug, at the end of those few minutes of awareness, I should have known that you were getting ready to go.  You were only a hugger when there were goodbyes being said.  But in the moment, that thought didn’t occur to me.  And now I wish I would have hugged you longer and held on tighter.  Did I even tell you that I loved you?  I can’t remember.

And I can’t remember what your laugh sounded like.  I try to hear it in my head and there’s nothing.  It’s as though the night three weeks before you died when you were surrounded by friends, laughing and carrying on, had never happened.  But I was there.  I saw you laughing.  I heard you laughing.  I just can’t hear it now, no matter how hard I try.

What I can hear is the sound of you breathing the morning you died.  You weren’t hooked up to any machines.  There was no heart monitor peeping or respirator rising and falling to muffle the sound of your labored breaths.  There was only your raspy and gargled breathing.  And it was the absence of that sound, the silence of your room, that told me you were gone.  You waited until we had stepped out of the room for a moment, and you slipped away.

It’s been five days of my mind racing, trying to mentally grab hold of bits and pieces of you.  The way you tried to teach me how to properly hold a knife and chop.  How you passed on your love of driving with the windows down, even in the dead of winter.  The way the whiskers on your cheek, usually clean shaven, softly bristled under my fingers when I touched your face for the last time.  How you could see, and convincingly argue, six sides to any given issue.  The fact that you did not allow chicken to be cooked or served in your house and yet you asked for chicken noodle soup when you got sick.  The amount of knowledge that you had.  These are the things that I didn’t read in your obituary.  These are the things that made you who you were.

I wish I had known you more as a person and not just as a parent; to maybe have understood you a little better.  64 years is not a long life but I’m glad that in that time you were able to see me grow out of my youthful arrogance and find my way in life.  I’m glad that during our last phone call I told you how much I admired and respected the attitude you took during your illness.  I am grateful that we connected through the food I made to try and comfort you.  And I thank you for your final gift of waiting until I got there to say goodbye.

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20 thoughts on “The Sound of Silence

  1. What a touching tribute to your dad. I’m sorry he went painfully, but glad his suffering is over. I just wish I was there, in person, to give you a great big bear hug. Sending my love to you. ❤

  2. Wendi, you know I’m thinking of you so much right now. I think you’ve captured perfectly what it is to say goodbye to someone with such an influence in your life. And as someone who’s recently been there, I promise you, that elusive laugh? It’ll come back at the most crazy of moments, and you’ll laugh and cry with joy in the same breath of emotion when it does. For a while after my grandpa died, I couldn’t hear his voice. Now I hear it all the time. Usually in his favorite teasing remarks. As for Nanny, it’s taken me a while to not hear her muffled voice over the phone behind my dad – the last time I heard it – and instead hear the last time she said I love you. It will come. All my love, darlin’.

  3. Oh Wendi. This breaks my heart. I’m so glad you had those final moments with your dad. I hope he found peace in letting go, and I hope you find peace now that he’s no longer suffering. I’m so sorry. You’ve had it rough this year, lady.

  4. Wendy – My beloved father passed the same way a year ago on 9/13/10. I appreciate the courage it took to share your thoughts with us. I was not able to verbalize my thoughts for such a long time.

    I wish you peace,
    Liz

  5. Oh Wendi. I’m so sorry about your dad, but I’m so glad you were there to say goodbye, and that it happened with a hug. What a year it’s been for you. I’ll be praying for you, that you find the comfort you need to be at peace.

  6. You’ve had a quite a year—I’m sorry for your loss. While I was reading I could see the butterflies and feel the whiskers…Your words will stick with me.

  7. Wendi,
    You have had such a hard year, filled with tender memories and hard goodbyes. Thank you for sharing so openly your intimate thoughts. We are moved. Our thoughts and prayers are with you sweet friend.
    Kristin & Chris Ann

  8. Wendi,
    I am so glad that you were able to be down here with your dad when he passed. I know how hard this time is for you and I am sorry that you are in such pain. When my brother passed away a couple of years ago my cousin gave me some comforting words which I would like to pass on to you. They are: ” When a loved one becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure.” Hold on to the treasure that is your dad. Love, Ms. Pat

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