MY FATHER’S DEATH GIFT
My father was a mean and stingy daddy. Through the years, I maintained a relationship with him from a distance both physically and emotionally. I knew I did not feel love or respect toward my father like other people had. I did know the socially acceptable way to behave toward parents. I also made it a point never to ask for anything. I knew there would always be a price in the receiving I was unwilling to pay.
After my mother died, I spent a week with my father getting him settled in. I did not leave my husband and career to live with him as he asked. I did visit when he had a medical emergency and helped him get settled in an assisted living facility which he hated. He then decided that he would spend one year living with each of his six children. I declined the rotation.
The year my husband and I moved to FL my father was living with my youngest sister. She asked me if I could take him for a few weeks over the holidays to give her a reprieve. Since my house did not have room for my father, the plan was to find a temporary rental where my father could stay. As I began preparing for the visit, finding space, a home health aide, and meal services, I realized that this was a bigger expenditure of energy than I was ready to give. In addition, my father was now talking about staying permanently. I felt like I was in the lights of an approaching train and I was tied to the tracks.
I was already consulting a life transition coach weekly, so I presented the issue of my father’s visit at the next session. It was not difficult to realize that I was dreading his visit, what was a total surprise was why I didn’t just say NO. The justification for my inability to say no was that I was helping my sister.
This awareness brought the learning “It is never acceptable to abandon oneself in order to save someone else.”
I would like to say that it was very easy to pick up the telephone to tell my father no. It wasn’t. I first had to confront all the patterns that held me to be a giver and a non-receiver that allowed me to abandon myself, patterns that were set down years ago to protect and now restrained me. I knew the nature of my father. I would be foolish to willingly get poisoned like the frog carrying the scorpion across the river.
Once I decided to love and protect myself, it was very easy to say no. I could say it out of love and not be compelled to rationalize or explain my decision. It was just NO. Later that week I read an article about having the right to change our minds. I had changed my mind about what I wanted. I had spoken my truth.
My father decided to move to FL anyway. He moved back to the area that he and my mother had lived – a three-hour drive from my home. He initially lived with his accountant. Later he bought the house next door. He created a wonderful community in a neighborhood with friends who visited daily. He found a compassionate doctor who listened to him and hospice nurses who relished in his “fierce independence”. He was adored. He would have missed this wonderful opportunity if I had allowed him to live with me and not spoken my truth.
A little after my father’s return to FL, I received a call from his hospice nurse informing me that my father was being placed on continuous care to evaluate his condition. His health had been slowly failing for years due to congestive of the heart. Now he was unable to walk unattended and was easily confused. We, the family, would need to decide about his continual care based on the results of this observation.
I am a homebirth midwife and know that death like birth is a process that cannot be precisely predicted only anticipated. In both events you can prepare the environment and wait. I knew my father, like my pregnant women, wanted to stay in his home. The next day I traveled to his home to prepare it for his death just as I’ve prepared many homes for birth.
After I arrived my father was doing better and the hospice nurses thought his death was no longer imminent. I made arrangement for in-home health care to begin My older brother planned to arrive later in the week. I was able to tell my father that I would not stay longer than the extended weekend.
During the weekend, I administered flower essences, burned aromatic oils, listened to 1930-40’s music and watched him nap. I talked about my work and birth and the strong conviction that we are spiritual beings. My husband visited and provided acupuncture. My niece brought crab cakes, one of my father’s favorite foods. Sunday, the day I was preparing to leave, my father could not get out of bed. I agreed to stay another day to give my older brother a chance to arrive. The hospice nurses decided to continue the continual coverage.
Death was now imminent.
Although it was never vocalized, I knew my father wanted me to attend his death because I did not fear it. He was afraid. He had said so often. Once he told me of an out-of-body’ experience that had terrified him. He is the only person I know who found this a frightening experience. As I stood by his death bed, I recognized the familiar feel and flow of life energy moving. I could hear it in his breathing as the rhythm changed, reversing a newborns gasp for air and independence. In the same method, I coach a woman to release her baby’s body, I coached my father to release his body.
My older brother arrived later that night, adding a strong presence to the process. My youngest sister, who shares a birthdate with my father, called and said her goodbyes again.
I asked her if she had any thoughts on why he was ‘lingering’ and she reminded me that he was a geologist as well as a Virgo. She suggested that I get some rocks from his Bonsai garden and place them at his bedside. I found three rocks and placed one in each hand and one over his heart. His accountant friend sat by his bed and told him that he didn’t owe any more taxes and that the stock market had made him a rich man.
My father died peacefully and gracefully in his own bed. I was very proud of him and touched by the stories his new friends and neighbors had to tell me. Even his doctor liked him. The stories told of a different man than the father I was raised by. The stories were of generosity and kindness. I was so grateful that he was able to transform his life.
I was very proud of him and touched by the stories his new friends and neighbors had to tell me. Even his doctor liked him. The stories told of a different man than the father I was raised by. The stories were of generosity and kindness. I was so grateful that he was able to transform his life.
A week later, one of my clients stopped by my office and gave me a Bonsai tree. She had heard that my father had passed and wanted to offer me something to remember him with. She said the tree liked lots of sun. She wasn’t aware that my father also grew Bonsais but she suggested I call the plant Jack after my father. It wasn’t until after she left that I wondered how she knew my father’s name was Jack.
Thank you for the opportunity to express my father’s day memories. Now that I am elderly and distanced from my children, I wonder if they have unresolved “parent” issues.