Never Goodbye

Navigating the Journey through Dementia

As I saw May 1st approaching, I wondered if I would remember when the day arrived, or if the day would blend, burying itself with countless others as I busied myself with work and everyday tasks. However, when I woke up slightly after six this morning, my first and most immediate thought was that a year ago my father passed away, here in this house, in this room, in the space next to where I lay in my bed.

The five years prior to his passing were mixed with funny moments, the joy of being with him, and the gut wrenching pain of vicariously experiencing his decline. Blessed and cursed with a deep empathy for others, I lived those last years with him. At times, the heart felt journey seemed like it would stretch to eternity, filled with the ambiguity of hanging on and letting go. Yet, as with all times and seasons, this day approached, May 1, 2007. And, so I watched him struggle, grasping onto a fading thread of life–followed by his last breath.

While he is gone, the memories are vivid. Living here in his house I’m reminded constantly of the love and closeness nurtured by those final years and of the special moments spent together. Even now the tears well up in my eyes and my throat tightens in a knot of grief. I wonder how I could ever imagine that this day would not stand out from all the rest.

I feel my dad’s calm, quiet confidence. He had a certainty about living that many people lack, a sureness of his place in time as it marched forward. I remember several months after I first began living with him when he looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I’m not afraid to die. I really have no fear of death.” Unflinching and a brave soldier, my dad was.  And that is also how he left this life, quietly accepting his moment with dignity, breathing one moment, and not the next. I could only hope when my time comes that I am equally courageous about meeting my Maker with such grace.

In memory of my father, I recognize he left me far more than material possessions. His legacy extends to strength of character and a sense of humor, along with a deep respect, drive, and appreciation of life. So my dearest father, know that today more than any other, my love goes with you, and that I continue to cherish our time spent together — and that I always will.

It’s a beautiful sunny Alabama day today, perfect for taking a walk through the woods and admiring the wildlife and lake. If you have read my blog, you will know as part of my father’s story, there is no acknowledgment more befitting than a walk through his woods surrounding his lake.

(An aside: When I entitled my blog “Never Goodbye” I honestly had no inkling, really just no idea how accurately the title would reflect my feelings and the character of my relationship with my dad. The words came out of nowhere at the time, and yet today they hold so true– as if I had known all along.)