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Saying goodbye

For weeks now I’ve been alluding to a “family medical situation,” keeping it vague for the sake of privacy.  Things have reached the point that there’s no point hiding it anymore.  My father, Myron Bennett, is in hospice care and is near the end of his life.  I won’t go into the medical details, but he’s been quite ill for weeks now, and though I was keeping up my optimism about his chances for recovery, I think he accepted some time ago that the end was near.  Several times over the past weeks, he’s said things to me that I never expected him to say, and I’ve realized that having me around, even intermittently, meant more to him than I knew.  Even then, I sensed he was saying his goodbyes.

Today it was my turn. I went to visit him in the hospice.  At first, I didn’t know what to do or say, since he hasn’t been fully conscious in days.  My father has never been a demonstrative person, and our relationship has always been somewhat detached, mainly on a verbal and intellectual level.  If he wasn’t lucid enough to converse, I wasn’t sure what I could accomplish there.  So I said a few tentative words of reassurance and then had to leave the room.  But I had a good long talk with a very kind hospice nurse, who’s surely been through this with a lot of people.  She helped me think about what my father has done for me and meant to me despite the distance, and after a while I realized I needed to go say some things to him after all, in private this time.

I’m not sure how much he understood what I said, but I guess it was as much for me as for him.  And he did show signs of awareness at times.  Either way, I said my goodbyes and said what needed to be said — including things I wasn’t sure I’d be able to say until I was there in the room.  I’m not sure I would’ve had the courage to say them if it hadn’t been a monologue.

If anything, I’m a little embarrassed at how predictable I was, like a character in a story — first holding back from facing what needs to be faced, then having a meaningful conversation that gives me new perspective, then having the standard heartwarming dramatic monologue at the climax.  But I guess there’s a reason stories are structured in certain recurring ways.

But it was a cathartic experience and a necessary one.  Afterward I had another long talk with the nurse, and they brought me cookies and milk.  Yesterday, when the family friend who’s handling my father’s affairs gave me the hospice address and I realized I’d have to go there and might need to do this, it sent a rush of panic through me.  I wasn’t eager to do this.  But at the end of it, I was feeling cleansed and comforted.

Of course I’m not happy to see my father passing on at only 77.  That’s young by our family’s standards of longevity, and that’s a sad thing.  But I think it’s something he’s been ready for, something he accepted a while ago.  He’s lived his life and accomplished his goals to his satisfaction.  He’s seen me and my sister accomplish our goals, to his greater satisfaction.  He’s completed his business in life and wouldn’t want to linger.  And that helps me to be philosophical about it.  Though I have no idea how hard it may hit me once he’s actually gone.

They gave me a blueberry muffin too.  I think I need to go have that now.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Charlie
    July 24, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    im very very sorry. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  2. Marc Hart
    July 25, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Chris, you have my sympathies and my thoughts are with you all. Nothing any of us can say will make you feel any better in the here and now, but for what it’s worth, your father will soon be in a place where he can watch over you without all the worries of a mortal life.

  3. Patricia
    July 26, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Thoughts and prayers to you and your family. Glad that you were able to say the things that you needed to say.

  4. Adam
    August 4, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    I’m truly sorry for your loss. 😦 Glad that you got to share some last moments with him, and have some kind of closure.

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