The Living Years

Warm water, the sky an endless expanse of blue, palm trees swaying in the island breeze, and I have no clue what’s happening half a world away, back in the USA, as I blissfully float in the swimming pool.  To be fair, nobody knows that my father’s heart is on the verge of failure.  That he has less than a day left to live.

I get the call the next day – or my husband does – while I am back out at the hotel pool, enjoying a few days respite from our work with Habitat for Humanity in Papua New Guinea.  My husband appears at the side of the pool.  I flip in the water, push off from the opposite side, and swim over to see him, pushing water from my eyes as I surface.  He bends down and pauses a beat.  I don’t expect to hear anything awful so his words catch me off guard and I don’t believe them.  My father can’t be dead but somehow, impossibly he is.

It’s been 17 years and I haven’t stopped missing him.  I feel compelled to write of him at some point each year, to remind myself that time is short and tomorrow is a mystery.  That I love you and I’m sorry are urgent words that should not be put off for another day.

My parents are both gone now.  I visit the cemetery often and talk to them.  I tell my dad things I wish I’d said in the living years. I’m not sure that it would have gone well had I found the courage;  I just wish I hadn’t let fear of his reaction stop me from saying what was in my heart while he was still alive to hear me.

I’m grateful that I recently took the time to call my dad’s baby brother because he died unexpectedly yesterday, apparently in the middle of getting dressed that morning.  My aunt found his body later that evening when he was long past saving.  My uncle, like my father, was a relatively young man and it seems far too early but I find solace in knowing that the last thing I ever said to him was, “I love you, Uncle Don.”

I didn’t say those words lightly or easily.  My dad’s side of the family isn’t big on affirmation, hugs and I love yous.  I’m glad I’ve learned to have the courage to speak from my heart even when it isn’t easy.

Is there someone in your life that needs to hear from you?  Please, stop whatever you’re doing and just do it.  Right now.  Tomorrow may be too late.

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11 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Myke Todd on October 17, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    Someone is going to find great consolation in what you have shared here. I am fortunate, in that I still have my parents. But, this takes me back even to grand parents, who I was very close to.

    Reply

    • That is very much my hope, that someone will find courage or consolation in what I’ve shared. There have been far too many times in my own life when I have lost someone I loved unexpectedly, truly believing until they were gone that there would be time to say what needed saying. I wish I’d learned sooner. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Myke.

      Reply

  2. Posted by Dahlia Ramone on October 17, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    Both my parents are still here, but my kids lost their dad about three years ago, and I worry often about how that impacts their life, now and in the future. I don’t think you ever stop missing loved ones. There are so many things in life that we have to endure, but we find the strength to seek and fulfill full and happy lives, because I believe that’s what our lost loved ones would want for us. This is a touching piece. ((((hugs))))

    Reply

    • I know it’s what they would want from us. I’ve lost so many people for someone my age – friends and family – and I carry them all with me each and every day.

      When my dad died, my oldest son was eight years old. They had been closer than anything grandfather and grandson that I have ever known. He was so devastated and cried so hard I thought he would break and I felt wild to ease his pain. Now I fear I may have damaged him somehow in my hurry to stop his grieving. He has almost no memory of his life prior to his grandpa’s death. I’m wiser now and I know that grief is something we MUST go through, not skip over.

      I’m so sorry that your children lost their dad. My heart goes out to them.

      Reply

  3. I remember Dad’s favorite saying when he would get hurt, “I ain’t dead yet”! His heart gave out in 2001…….I was at work when my brother called me. He had just finished repairing a generator and was writing out the bill when he collapsed. The owner of the Company where he had repaired the generator was a former Paramedic and had taught all of his employee’s CPR. They did what they could. I appreciate their efforts. I love and miss Dad, but the pain of his loss doesn’t hurt as much now that the years have passed. I still have Mom and she seems more alive than we Kids are. LOL!! I love Momma!

    Something interesting, a few months after Dad’s funeral, the owner of where he worked dropped by the house to check on Mom. He told Mom the Dad’s work truck has sat behind the Companies back dock, unused since his death. He said the men refuse to drive “Sam’s” truck, instead they keep flowers on the hood of the truck. He was loved and respected there. They had to sell the truck!

    Great write as always. I am sorry for the loss of your Uncle. Hugs and love to you my friend…..

    Reply

    • Calvin, Thank you for sharing your experiences and memories of your father and “Momma”. I love the sense of respect and joy that radiates through your words. I’ve read your comment several times just to feel that again. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave it. It means a lot to me. xo

      Reply

  4. <3 Katy, I believe your father hears everything you talk to him about now. He knows. He knows he was a hard man to live with yet you still loved him.

    I was very lucky that in my dad's dying we had plenty of time to say all those things. In his last days, I found my "daddy" again.

    I want to share this with you. I know Sammy was "just" a dog. But he was my best friend and constant companion also. He loved me and I loved him fiercely. he knew all my secrets and desires. He never told another soul any of them. Well, he was sick for a long time. I could not bring myself to make the huge decision to help him on his way. The morning of the day my husband made the call to end Sammy's pain… I had been frustrated and rushed. Sam had once again messed himself and in my frustration while cleaning up him and the mess. I told him he was a stupid jerk and to get away from me.

    That night I got home from bowling. Sam was gone. C told me he wrapped him in our shirts (because he loved snuggling in our worn clothes) before he buried him.

    So the last thing my baby felt from me was not a hug and love, it was anger and hate.

    I took that lesson hard and to heart. No matter how mad I get at my babies now. Before I have to leave them, I make sure they know they are loved.

    I wish it was that easy with people. <3

    Reply

    • But it’s not easy, is it? We must be intentional about living each moment, fully. We must be intentional about loving. I lost another uncle this week and I feel a little lost. He was someone I would have liked to say more too but I’ll never get the chance.

      Thank you for sharing your story about Sammy. It’s a poignant reminder. <3

      Reply

  5. Posted by Dave aka Nissmech aka the blue fool on October 21, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. I lost my dad in ’94. Although we were never close we were always connected.
    I feel for your loss.

    Reply

    • Thank you for your compassion, Dave. I love what you said – “…never close…always connected.” I think sometimes that’s the best we get and it’s good enough. :)

      Reply

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