Five years ago today, I had stayed home from work with a case of strep throat. Oddly enough I kind of relished it. Harry was 3. Annie had just turned 1. It was the first time in what had had seemed like a long time that I had been able to stay home sick and take care of only me.
I had pulled the trigger on going to the doctor for strep pretty quickly. Harry and Alissa had already had it, so at the first indication, I’d made the appointment and gotten myself hooked up with antibiotics.
You see, I needed to get over this quickly. My dad had just started palliative care for lymphoma the day before, so I wanted to make sure to minimize the period for which I’d be contagious, and therefore unavailable to help
My mom called in the mid-morning. She and my aunt had had some difficulty getting my dad into or out of bed. He’d fallen, and while uninjured, no one could get him back into bed. They had to call the paramedics. I talked to the medic, explaining about my strep diagnosis and weighing my dad’s condition and presumed life expectancy against the risk of infecting him. The medic thought it best if I stayed away until the afternoon…24 hours after my first dose of antibiotics.
He didn’t make it that long. It wan’t surprising, really. He was not enamored of the idea of a long convalescence stuck in a hospital bed in his living room. Living out his days without being able to get outside into nature or see sunlight sparkling off of tranquil waters was just not an existence that he wanted. And so he let go of life on his own terms. It was peaceful. He was holding my mom’s hand as he fell asleep and then he was gone.
Of course, we were all sad. It’s only natural to grieve when someone you love passes on. But we were able to take comfort that my father had a long happy life and his suffering at the end was minimal. I wished my kids could have gotten to know him better, to hear his stories, and to know gentle spirit, his commitment to justice and his awe at the beauty of nature.
But my kids will get to know those values as they’ve been passed down from my father to me. It is my job and my pleasure to pass it on to my kids. To me, this is the ultimate form of remembrance, a universal form of immortality that transcends any differences we may have in our beliefs about God or the afterlife.
I think it’s fitting that my dad’s passing is part of what inspired me to start “Great” Thoughts. He told stories. He loved the arts. He was well-versed in history and science and politics. He was as awed by the great diversity of human experience as he was by the beauty of the natural world and the wealth of stories that could be unearthed in its exploration.
My dad is gone. I believe I’ll see him again, and I’m comforted by that. But in the meantime, I have memories to share and values to pass on. I can’t bring him back, and that’s okay. But I can, though remembrance and the passing down that which I knew of my father, make him immortal.