He told me his biggest concern was suffocating. He didn’t want his final moments to be feelings of asphyxiation. The moments of lucidity were brief. In between the morphine drip that has come to define hospice care, in the time his mind was not numbly floating away, it was 100% present.
“I don’t want to suffocate.”
In the end, it was a series of two or three quick, short breaths …. and he was gone.
For as much as I knew that moment would come, for as much as I tried to accept the inevitability of those circumstances, watching my father pass away – succumbing to the Cancer that had reduced him from a gregarious presence to a fragile shell of his former self – was the most emotionally sobering moment of my life.
That’s it. Just like that. My dad was dead.
So much has happened in the fifteen years since he’s passed. Lifetime upon lifetime of memories and experiences have been made in the five thousand four hundred seventy-five days since God called my father home. But the void his death created remains a constant in my life.
I’ve written time and time again about how God has blessed me in abundance, redeeming me by forgiving me of my sin and lifting me out of my shame, a shame I kept secret from my dad because I could not stand the idea of disappointing him. I could not risk losing the approval of the one man whose approval I valued more than anything in the world.
I don’t know how my father would have reacted to the news of that secret. I like to think he would have extended me grace, put his hand on my shoulder, and loved me through that period of my life. What is heartbreaking for me, still to this very day, is that I’ll never really know. After all this time, after all these years, after all the growth I’ve experienced; I’ll never be able to have that honest moment with my dad, and deep down inside it kills me.
I was thirty-one years old when my father passed away. I feel as if a part of me is stuck there, stuck in 2004 overwhelmed by fear, confusion, angst, impending divorce, and hurricane upon hurricane bearing down on my state. That storm season was as much metaphorical for me as it was literal, and a certain sense of my innocence was lost in the whirlwind of the chaos I created.
I miss my dad so much, more than I can ever put into words. I miss learning from him and laughing with him and watching him fall in love over and over again with his grandchildren. I miss his stupid jokes. I miss his inquisitive mind. I miss having his light shine on my path.
For years I’ve been fooling myself thinking it gets better. It doesn’t (at least not for me). I can attest my faith is as strong as it’s ever been in my life, but the emptiness of not having my father around echoes constantly today as it did in the moments following his last breath.
I pray I’ll see him again one day. I pray for one more awkward hug and one more approving smile. Perhaps then I’ll find what’s been missing in my life these last fifteen years.