It’s the day my dad passed away. Seven years ago today, my sweet mom came into the bedroom where I was sleeping with my three children in the tiny house I grew up in, and whispered, “Angie, come on, it’s time.” It was about 6:00 am and Dad’s breathing had slowed to shallow intakes of air every 10 seconds or so. He hadn’t actually been with us for a week because he was drifting in and out of this earthly world and the spiritual world. It pains me to think about this one specific moment and so when I try to remember him I focus on the happy times of when he was strong, and humorous and lively. But every now and then I drift back to this moment; I have to because it is a part of me now.
I got up quietly so as not to wake my baby boy,then only one and half, who was sleeping in the crib at the foot of the bed, and I gently closed the door. My parent’s room directly across from mine, I stepped into the other room where my brothers were standing on either side of the hospital bed. Mom was holding Dad’s hand praying. I listened for Dad’s breath.
My sister was missing. I knew she didn’t want to go the night before but she returned to her home because there really wasn’t anywhere comfortable to sleep and we didn’t think Dad was going to pass. His breathing had been labored for many days now. We called her to tell her it was time and she rushed over as quickly as she could. Her home is about thirty minutes away from Mom and Dad’s. I was worried about her driving over frantically, wondering if she would make it.
I heard Dad take two breaths. I don’t know why, I rushed to the bathroom to brush my teeth and wash my face. I guess so I could wake up. I think I remember Mom and one of my brothers doing it too. I returned to my spot, looking at my dad. My mom was at the head of the bed, my oldest brother, then me, and my other brother opposite the three of us. My sister wasn’t going to make it. One last incredibly shallow intake of breath and then what was, sort of, a big exhale and it was done. He was gone.
I remember looking abound the room, at the corners of the ceilings wondering if he was up there floating around watching us watch him. Wondering if he was looking at me looking up. I was so sad because my sister hadn’t made it. I knew it would affect her. I was grateful though. Grateful for him that all his suffering was over. Illness sucks. Parting sucks. Death sucks. But one thing I know for sure, the experience I had at THIS moment changed my life forever. THIS was the moment that I saw the face of Jesus. THIS was the moment that I felt called by God. THIS was the moment that I needed to know HIM more because I need to be at peace with what just happened.
I took that calling. I took it and ran. It just so happened my church was offering biblical classes through the local Catholic university that year and I decided to sign up. I spent the next four years learning about and reading the entire bible; learning to evaluate it in a historical and critical method and apply it to my faith. It changed me forever. It taught me that no matter who, no matter when, no matter what, I am never alone. I will never BE alone. I will have to part with people I love, but I will never lose HIM. I have my faith, and I believe, I truly believe that one day, I will see my family again in the next life; our eternal life which we will truly spend doing God’s work.
This story, this memory may start heartbreakingly, but it ends peacefully, with the gift of faith that I, even though being raised Catholic, never really had until I experienced THIS moment because I spent my time going through the motions. Though I miss my Dad greatly, I am thankful for the gift I received to grow close to God because of it, for without faith, without hope, and without love, we are nothing. I want to be something and I know I can only do it with God in the center of my life.
As I think back on the experience of losing my dad, yea, it pains me. I have a lump in my throat. Some tears in my eyes and a deep ache in my heart for sure. However, I can be OK with it because I know he’s in much better place. One of my favorite bible verses is from Paul’s letter to the Philippians (NAB) 1:21–“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” You see, I knew when Dad took his last breath he was a man of strong faith, and that he had a strong love of God. So I take my solace in knowing he is doing God’s work, that he has seen the face of Jesus and that Dad’s death was his gain because he is now living an everlasting life. This is my hope and my peace and before I leave this earth, I hope it will be my children’s too.
As for my sister, you know, I haven’t really spoken in-depth with her about her story, her perspective of that morning, or my brothers for that matter.I guess I never really worried about my brothers because they were there. I wonder what my sister’s experience was and if she feels anguish over missing that last breath? I’m sure she does and I wonder if we’ll ever have the moment and bravery to discuss it. Maybe someday? As for today, we will celebrate who Dad used to be…
Thanks for remembering with me,