My father died Saturday night.Â I knew it was coming.Â In some far-off distant â€œitâ€™s not going to happen to meâ€ way we all know death is coming, but I believed there was more time for him.Â For us.Â My heart said he would beat the doctorâ€™s prognosis because my dad was strong.Â In fact in my mind he was a titan, and titans endure.
The night before his death my sister sent out a photo from her iPhone.Â It showed my dad, my brother, and her having wine in a celebratory way.Â Dad looked happy even though the photo shows little of his face.Â I, having seen that face for a lifetime, knew well the crinkles and wrinkles that signaled happiness.Â How could he be gone forever a mere 24 hours later?
My husband and I were out for the evening when the hospice center called.Â Weâ€™d been working hard and needed play time.Â After we returned I saw the light blinking on our answer machine.Â I hit â€œplayâ€ while taking off my jacket and listened with less than full concentration since I didnâ€™t recognize the voice. At first.
â€œHi, this is… blah, blah, blah. I love your answer machine message. Â Blah, blah, blah. So, Gail, Iâ€™m calling aboutâ€¦you know if I had a smart phone, which I donâ€™t, I wouldnâ€™t have a clue how to use it.Â So, the reason Iâ€™m calling is to let you know your dad passed tonight.Â Give us a call.â€
I was stunned.Â The message was two parts fluff and one part death.Â Who does that?Â I listened again, but harder this time.Â I must have misunderstood.Â The same words, tone, and fluff floated in the air.Â Only the â€œyour dad passed tonightâ€ fell on the floor and shook me. My husband, who had been out in the garage, came in and saw my face.Â â€œWhatâ€™s wrong?â€
â€œListen to this message.Â Is she saying Dad died?â€
He quickly hit the play button and listened.Â He frowned.Â â€œYes, she said he passed, but she said it in a most inappropriate way.â€
My hands shook as I dialed the hospice number.Â â€œSheâ€™s wrong, sheâ€™s wrong, sheâ€™s wrong,â€ I kept thinking.Â A receptionist answered.Â I identified myself and said a message had been left for me about my dad.Â The receptionist asked me to spell the name.Â â€œOh yes, heâ€™s in room 810.â€Â My heart lifted.Â So he is okay, I thought.Â But then another voice came on.
â€œHello.Â Your dad passed away tonight. We have been unable to get ahold of your sister. Can you reach her? â€
I numbly hung up, then called my sister who was already at the hospice facility.Â In fact, she was in his room.Â â€œCan you come down?â€ she said. â€œIâ€™m here and donâ€™t know what to do.â€Â Silence, and then her voice shattered in uneven shards of pain and grief.Â Mine did too.
My father died Saturday night and my world spun off axis.
The rational voice in my head says heâ€™s out of pain now, which is good.Â My rational voice says heâ€™s only a thought, memory, and smile away.
And yetâ€¦and yetâ€¦my irrational voice, the one that speaks from a daughterâ€™s love for her father says, â€œDadâ€™s are supposed to endure. I wasnâ€™t ready for you to leave.â€