The last time I saw my father was in the assisted living facility where he resided in Las Vegas. He had been on hospice for several weeks. My brother and I made the trip to see him in Mach of 2012, to say goodbye, both knowing we would never see our father again.
The three of us sat in the commons area of the facility. My brother and I shared a sofa, with our father beside us seated on his motorized scooter. We made small talk. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
The last memory I have of my father is of him eating a lime green Otter Pop, wearing a yellow t-shirt, and questioning a caregiver about something insignificant.
When it was time to leave, I stood up, bent down, and hugged my father. I then told him I loved him, kissed him on the head, and turned swiftly attempting to hide the lump in my throat, and the tears forming in my eyes. I headed out the door, and into my rental car to wait for my brother, who would say goodbye after me.
Looking back, I wish I had been more engaged – that I asked him more questions, fostered a more sincere dialogue, but I didn’t. I was in a hurry to get back to the hotel, to sip tequila, watch Sports Center, hit the treadmill in the morning, and get on with my life – to focus on the next Roy things.
Last week, my mother, in her 80s, flew across the country to say goodbye to her younger brother who is on hospice, the result of the cancer which spreads within. It was a very hard trip for my mother; long flights, long car rides, staying in a strange bed, etc. The trip clearly wore my mother out.
She has since told me of the conversations she and her dying brother had – that they held hands several times, that they laughed, cried, shared memories, and that she kissed him before they said goodbye.
She was there out of the deep love she has for her brother – for her family.
When I said goodbye to my father, if I’m being honest, it was much more out of obligation.
It’s only now, 5 years after he’s gone, that I think to have held his hand, to have engaged him in greater conversations, and to have seen him for what he was – my family, my father.
If we are lucky enough to know – to understand that we are saying goodbye to a loved one, the best thing we can do is to make that opportunity about them. I failed at that the day I said goodbye to my father.
And I ask myself this morning, is a lesson learned too late, a lesson learned at all…? Jhciacb
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