By My Father's Side


spacer-25It’s been almost a week since my father has taken any fluids. He’s no longer urinating and his fingernails are starting to turn blue as his body is abandoning the extremities and rallying around the core of the heart and lungs to keep life going.  

Yesterday I wrote his obituary bedside and recalled how after being wounded twice and MIA in WWII he told me that “everything after that was gravy.”  

On the farm with my dad, cutting slab wood for the wood furnace.

On the farm with my dad, cutting slab wood for the wood furnace.

He’d seen a huge amount of death early in his life. Of the twenty guys who joined his rifle unit with him, he was the only guy to make it out alive after seeing some of the most intensive action in Anzio, through southern France and in the final push into Germany. After being patched up for the second time he was at Dachau right after the prison camps were liberated.  

Now he’s again in his personal relationship with death, this time washed and shaved, medicated with morphine and Haldol, tilted to one side so his freed up lung can breathe.  

I thought he’d be in a coma by now, but he still focuses his eyes, mostly his right one, and sometimes tracks me when I talk to him. I’ve read him Keats, who was his specialty as an English professor, and read him some advice from the Tibetans, specialists in the art of letting go. I’ve guided him through a few meditations, told him the story of this life and all he’s given and all of his kids have told him it’s OK to go.  

One breath at a time, we’re all letting go.