Here I am, a month later, and again someone has died. This time it's my father, a precious, wonderful man who made his family the most important thing in his life. He raised six daughters and left each of us feeling our own special connection to him. In his later years he worked to strengthen those connections, calling us, telling us how important we were to him, always reminding us that he loved us. Even as he was dying, word from one of his daughters made him smile and his voice would get stronger: "Baby girl! My baby girl said that?" One of the last coherent things he told me was "All my children are great. All my children are great."
We marked his death in stages. We were women observing and discussing, and we noted every change and worried about its significance. There was his diminished appetite, and then dwindling intake, and finally refusal to eat. He lost weight, and his doctor confirmed that his chronic kidney failure had worsened significantly. Then he was unable to walk. In bed, he woke to acknowledge us and ask for water, ever appreciative of each sip that we gave him. "Nothing like cold water. That's some good water." Finally he slipped away, never really waking, no longer seeing us even when he opened his eyes.
He spent those last days at home, able to decide for himself when he would no longer seek medical help or go to the hospital. My heroic sister rearranged her life and made it possible for the parents to live in their home until they die. When I go there today his empty hospital bed will make me cry again.
I cry in spells. It hits me without warning, the blessing of his life, his 92 years, the pain of his leaving. I blow my nose and keep moving. He taught us everything about living and being useful, and nothing about sitting still and grieving.