Sometimes you consider looking them up – finding them – calling them and seeing if you can be friends. You imagine yourself showing up on their doorstep and everything being okay and embracing in a warm hug.
- Call them and listen to the sound of their voice as much as what they have to say.
- Visit them so you can look into their eyes and really know what is going on.
- Meet your mother at the kitchen table when everyone else has gone to sleep. Eat, laugh, confide in her as she holds your hand and looks at you as if you you are the most important person in the world.
- And when the time comes, get up, put on your gloves and be in their corner when that bell rings.
LOVE your parents.
on the grass
in the sun
with the wind
of souls you have loved
you will hear them
if you let your mind
and stop thinking
they will come to you
with a whisper
you will feel them
in the tall grass
with your fingertips
will tell you
they miss you
as you miss them
they'll surround you
they leave you
they won't tell you
where they are going
just that you can't follow
you'll stand up and walk away
and just when you think
they will never return
the wind will blow
the sun will shine
and somewhere in the distance
you will hear
And wrapped up in those moments before you fall asleep, you are always alone no matter how many people surround you.
You catch your breath just long enough to count your blessings and then you count them again making sure they are all still there.
There will be honey and Challah and prayers and rejoicing.
There will be families and loved ones and grandparents with grandchildren and aging parents with their own children.
There will be laughter and jokes while enjoying dinner and lunch and walking home together arm in arm, hand in hand with the people most important to you.
But there will also be fresh cuts that will turn into raw scars and never fully heal.
There will be lasting images of the end of a life well lived packed with pain and suffering that served as a great injustice and indignity to the person that they were - a person who cared for you with every molecule of their soul and left this world too soon and too brutally.
And you won't forget because you can't forget.
Just when you think you may be having an okay moment, your stomach turns and you feel as if you are going to be sick except you are sick already - sick, exhausted, beaten and torn and there is nothing you can do to dull the pain.
And when your family sits down to say farewell to the year that has passed and to welcome the year that is present, there will be an empty chair at the dining room table.
Some of you will choose to look away while others will stare in utter disbelief and question "Are they really gone? Will I never see them again?
And there will be a crude silence and an image will form for just a second - their face - their lips speaking your name - and then it will disappear just as you were starting to think it may last.
Every family has someone they miss and someone they wish they could bring back.
And then there would be no empty chairs at any tables - everyone would be together at least for that one meal, that one celebration, that one very sweet moment.
Empty chairs - there are far too many and they will never be filled.
I watched him suffer for months and I deeply questioned and disagreed with the pain and indignity that was bestowed upon him.
You often read in obituaries that the person fought a valiant battle. My father fought an impossible battle but he still fought it with all the realms of possibility and we were there right beside him around the clock as he was there for us throughout our childhood and later into adulthood.
He was a super extroverted person. He spoke to everyone, he spoke to anyone and he listened. He was a radio broadcaster, a DJ, a sports journalist, a talk show host, a radio school teacher, a community man who volunteered and hosted numerous charitable events, the stadium announcer for both the McGill and Concordia teams. At his prime in reporting, he knew all of the Expos, Habs, Alouettees, WWF, jockeys at Blue Bonnets and many celebrities he interviewed on his Sunday radio show for CKVL. He was liked and recognized for his skill in getting everyone to open up and tell him their life stories.
But mostly he was a simple man who loved cheesecake and ice cream and Irish coffee and any drink with an umbrella in it. He loved coaching my brothers teams and picking up my nephews from school and making a detour to McDonald's.
He was extremely funny and rarely serious.
He had several health issues and as they continued to pile up and fall to the ground, he was left beneath the wreckage. But under all of that soot and rubble, you could hear him and feel him hanging on.
My mom spent over 50 years with him - her best friend since they met on a double date at 18 yrs of age. He was with another girl and she was with another guy and my dad called my mother up after that date and asked her out and the rest was history.
Watching her lean over him today holding his hand and kissing him and making sure he knew she was there was healing yet terribly painful. Witnessing the end of their journey, I felt a slice of my life cut and removed from my very being.
I will never seen him again.
I will never see him again.
Losing him has left me floating. I'm not here, I'm not anywhere and I have no idea how to get back to the surface.
So all I can think of doing right now is closing my eyes and opening my ears and listening for his laughter and his jokes and envisioning him eating a big cherry danish and smiling.
And I know that what I need to remember is not the last thing he said to me but all of the things he said to me that have made me who I am today.
Today I said goodbye to my father. I kissed his forehead and held his hand and told him I loved him and then when everyone left I placed my head on his chest and whispered in his ear "See you on the other side."
And one day I will.
Daddy .... love you ....love you ....and so much more.
Sending strength to all those coping with pain and inevitable loss.
Would it be the first time you realized you loved yourself?
Would it be the first time you held your child?
Would it be the first lips that brushed against yours?
Who would you choose to remember?
What would you say to them if you could have them there right in front of you for just a few moments?
In the end what you remember and what you forget is what gets you from here to there.
And somewhere there is a loved one long gone, looking over you and whispering in your ear:
"Let it go"
However it is all so common with the increase in Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Cancers of every sort, that one of the two has to be hospitalized and evaluated and most always, inevitably the call is made by medical professionals who are doing their best but have far too many aging patients to monitor and evaluate and far too few specialists available to support them and so the call is that the said parent will never return to their home again.
This crossroad means so many different and sad things to various family members.
So I will use the Dad as an example. Your Dad has been told that he will never regain his independence - perhaps he can no longer walk or go without diapers or oxygen. Maybe he has a progressive disease that is moving at rampant rates. He is already frail, depressed and practically throwing in the towel after months that feel more like years of being in a hospital bed and away from his loved ones.
He hasn't eaten his favourite food at his favourite restaurant or watched a good movie, or enjoyed a glass of wine with a home cooked meal with your mother by his side.
Your mother suddenly is alone. After 40, 50 years of marriage and of having her best friend there every morning when she wakes up to eat breakfast and discuss one another's days and to pick up this and pick up that and pay this bill and bring the Grandchildren here and fill the car up with gas.
She is alone in the house you grew up in for the first time in her life other than the past few months that your dad was hospitalized with her always believing he would eventually return home to her side.
It's eating alone and having no one to discuss your day with or your latest worry or something fun you want to do together on the weekend. It's facing that fact that the vacation you had planned so long ago much like the Neil Diamond concert tickets you bought in advance for your anniversary will never happen.
Happiness has left town and sadness has moved in with all of its relatives.
And late at night when you both try to fall asleep, all you can do is look up at the ceiling and imagine the time you could have had together in this last stage of life. You reflect back on a black and white slide show that plays on the bedroom wall at all that you shared from the time you first set eyes on one another to the birth of your children, your first home, that vacation you saved up for so you could take the whole family somewhere new and exciting and share in the experience of travel.
There are the struggles as well to reflect upon. The good times always come with some bad times but as a couple you battled through them, sometimes against each other but always as one in the end and you did a damn good job of fighting the fight hand in hand.
So why can't you fight this one? Why can't you last more than a few rounds? Why can't you get up after that strong right hook to your jaw?
Because you've already fought so hard to stay together and you are both exhausted. One from visiting the other in a cold, uncaring atmosphere amongst strangers in the very same room and the other in great fear of never being able to sleep in their own bed and eat at their own kitchen table and say goodnight, turning the lights off knowing that the person you love most in the world - your best friend - your kindred soul - is not there next to you.
There is one person in a hospital bed.
There is another person in a bed at home.
These are two very different beds and places but if you combine them they withhold the hearts, the souls and the lives of two people who are still very much in love and can no longer reach out and touch one another as the night grows long and the slide show of what once was such a beautiful and fruitful adventure is now a memory somewhere in the distance imagined as dancing silhouettes that make up the shadows of your life.
Wishing strength to my dear parents and to all of those who are at this inevitable and really quite tragic crossroad.
There are few things as painful as what life brings us at the end and few things as wonderful as it offers us in the beginning but the real meat of it all - the best of the best - is right there in the middle and it's funny that it tends to be the part we mostly ignore and miss out on because we are so consumed by beginnings and endings.
Remember to enjoy the middle.