Letting Dad Go


I wrote this a few days after Dad died. Died? It still seems strange to say he's "dead", in part because I don't feel like he is. It might be some sort of denial, or that I'm still processing his death, or that after watching him transition to his pure self, I will never think of death in the same way. 

Or maybe all the above. 

It seemed time to share this since so many people held me up with their love and space and support during the months he fought his strokes. I stopped writing as we dealt with the progression of his condition, but every person who sent well wishes, love, and light during that time has been a saving grace. Truly, all of you, you blessed us. 

As I work through the past eight months, I am taken on a journey from Thailand to Texas, to the United Kingdom and back, a few times over. I'm taken on a journey of memories from childhood to last week. It's strange how much life can change, even more dramatically than the environment you find yourself in. What is even more crazy is how strange I find everything, even the body I find myself in. 

The Balinese have a saying, "The closes people to God are newborns and the dying. People farthest from God are middle-age people with mortgages."

I'm honored to have been reminded there is more to life than a mortgage, deadlines and homework. There is Life.


June 25, 2019

I arrived in time. Mom opened the door as I walked up, hugged me, and I set down my bags, wearing 19 hours of travel and 5 months of worry on my face. I wiped it all away when I stepped in front of him. "Hi Dad!" His one good eye looked at me and smiled. His mouth turned only slightly at the corner, but his eyeball smiled. It's so amazing how much you can talk with one eyeball.

I sat down with him and said absolutely nothing of significance for a very long time. I talked about how I moved my flight up to be there early and I still had a longer journey to get to his house than I do getting to London. I think I might have talked about the weather for an awkwardly long time. I asked if he was in pain. I asked if he was doing ok, which I found silly because what does "ok" mean in this situation?

I told him I had to pee before I self consciously uttered out loud, "That's a normal thing to say to someone with a catheter, right?" I left him for a few moments to take a breather and get some water and catch up with Gregg, Dad's long time friend from 40 years ago, who was also visiting, talking in the kitchen with Mom and the caretaker.

It felt strange to talk without Dad there, so we brought the party back to his bed in the living room. We talked about the past and what crazy pranks those band corp nerds played back in the 60's and 70's. I swear every story involved some boys naked. "Yea, ha! We were always naked," Gregg said and my dad's shoulder give a "whatyougoingtodo" shrug.

We talked about Gregg's wedding in 1985. I remembered that wedding! I was there! We shared stories of our very old house in Friendswood where I grew up and I marveled at how familiar someone you haven't seen in nearly three decades is because you share a history, and some memories, and a love for a person who is lying in front of you waiting to go to the next space.

A little while later, as the house grew quiet again, I sat with Dad. I swear his head was giving off glitter. "Dad!? I know you can't see this, but you're sparkling." I took stock of the moment, all those mindfulness trainings coming in handy now, looking at everything in the room. The oxygen tank pushing air to Dad's nose, even though he breathed through his mouth. The blinds that were open to the pond and fountain outside. The items to keep him clean and comfortable spread out on the table next to the bed. I couldn't see any reason why there would be light droplets coming off his head. Was the light playing tricks on me? Was the long journey and sleep deprivation making my brain see an aura, like before a headache?

I shifted in my seat to find new vantage points. I took another look. Even after changing my view, still above his head, rising off his matted hair were sparkles. "Dad! I'm not kidding. There are glowing things coming off you." He looked at me, squarely with his one good eye, and gave me two eyebrow raises. My head fell back without a thought and I laughed from my belly. He smiled again briefly. He was with me, even as his essence was lifting and sparkling. That turns out to be the last time I knew he was truly present. It was the last knowing exchange we had.

Of all the memories of my dad, and I have thousands, this one will be one of my favorites; his one good blue eyeball looking at me with a knowing and a joy that I can't understand, at the very cusp of where we go next, with all the anxiety of change and transition, like he was just as handsome, maybe more so, than ever.

The night was long. We joked about Dad having three women taking care of him. We fretted over him and helped each other read his body. "He's in pain, call the nurse," I said. Mom gets on the phone. "Dr. Morgan, your wife is calling the nurse, it's going to be ok." "Dad, Mom is getting more medicine. It will take 7 minutes to kick in. I'll set my watch and let you know when it should take effect." I set my watch. I talk to him while Mom prepares more medicine in case we need it and the care taker looks up additional information. "It's been four minutes, you should be feeling a little bit better." "Almost there, Dad. You got this. Thanks for being my Dad. In case I don't get to say it later."

I sit a while longer to wait for the nurse to check back in on us and send Mom to bed. She's been up for weeks fretting and crying and these last few nights she took a shift every two hours to make sure he got his medication. It was time for me to take over for a while.

The nurse called back to check on him and I confessed he still looked in pain. He was stiff and holding himself very rigidly. I described his face, his hands, his temperature. "What is his personalty like?" she asked. "Oh, you mean was he a casual, laid back sort of fella? No. He's in this situation because he's a type-A, overachiever with high blood pressure and diabetes and four major strokes and a million small ones. He's a PhD and a Captain in the Army and helps people do statistics for their dissertations in PhD programs for fun." "Yes, that's what I thought. He's resisting the medication. Try [the other one that it was almost time for anyway] and keep that regimen. And let him know it's ok to let go."

And so I did.

I told him he can rest now. We want him to be comfortable. I wrote down the instructions from the nurse and sat with him while my timer counted down to the next medication allowance.

"Ok, Dad. Here's the thing. I got this. Remember a few years ago when you told me to make sure Mom goes to the doctor for her brain tumor? I will. And you know how you were worried about the router? Yea, it's annoying. It keeps dropping our IP addresses. I'll fix it. And I'll make sure Mom takes care of herself. See? I sent her to bed. I got you."

I can't say that made a huge difference, but I do know the medication started to work. His face began to soften. His fist relaxed. His breathing became regular again. He looked peaceful finally.

I woke Mom up at the next medication time and went to sleep myself for a bit.

Mom ran in to the room. "Leslie, come quickly. I think this is it."

I sat next to him. We listened to his chest as the last bits of oxygen and life drifted out of him; like the essence and glitter I saw the evening before, like the bits of water and salt drifting down my cheeks.

She took the watch off his wrist and handed it to me. "This is for Owen." I made a joke that Dad made frequently about kids, and we laughed, and I turned to him expecting to see his slight, though visible, chuckle at the familiar joke. The face laying in front of us now was not his. "I'll hold on to it until he's older, Dad. Thank you,” I spoke not to his lifeless body but to him, where he was and is now; everywhere.

The hospice nurse dressed his lifeless body in his favorite shirts, shorts, and shoes. While she worked, I talked to her about my undergrad degree; all the nutrition courses and anatomy physiology I took. We talked about medicine and bodies and health. "What do you do now?" she asked. "Oh, I'm a web developer." She laughed. Life still laughs. I laughed, too. "Right? It's HIS fault!" I share how Dad was the reason I got in to coding at 12. Why he encouraged me to get in to Computer Science and how I eventually did. "He was right. I could do it. He's the reason there's at least one more woman in tech."

That's my dad.

Before they came to take his body away, Mom and I sat with him for about thirty minutes. It's surreal what happens when the energy of a person leaves. There is a body, like a copy of the person you knew, but not the person himself. He wasn't there. He moved to the next place, or transitioned in to a higher version of this one, or became the purest version of the core of what we are. Either way, the body laying with us did not house the man it used to. That person is free from the body with the aching knees and managing glucose levels with pills. That person is everywhere now, knowing all the secrets to the universe, and experiencing peace and love and joy.

But we are still here.

I had to remind myself of this fact many many times over the next week or more. I still am.

I remind Mom while Dad is free, somewhere, in dimensions 4-11 or wherever it is we can't see, we are still here contained in this time and space. Our bodies still need things like food and sleep and walking and each other. It's easier to remind her than myself.

Being a human is 40% water, 55% forgiveness, and 5% skin, organs, and everything else.

There's no better reminder of the magnificent power of Forgiveness and Compassion than watching someone transition to their highest self of Pure Being. The true honor is taking all these last months of time spent with him, all his regrets and apologies, and allowing them to move me to where he was at the end; a compassionate person who laughed easily, who said he loved us, who thanked us, who openly expressed emotions, and still held us in his care and responsibility until the very very last moments.

That's my dad. He will always be my dad. He is still my dad.

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