Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of my father's passing -- March 2nd, 2005. It's hard to believe it's been so long. I remember the day clearly; it was a Wednesday, and so school had let out early. Earlier in the day, I'd mentioned to one of my teachers -- as a courtesy, to explain why I'd not be giving full effort to her class -- that we were soon to move him into hospice care, and that things might be rocky for a bit. She seemed taken aback, probably at how casually I mentioned it; I guess it hadn't fully sunk in that the end was truly near.
After school, I went to the hospital. I remember that I was doing some handhelds.org work at the time, still somewhat oblivious to what would come next. (I seem to recall that on that day, I had an IDA session open, and I remember thinking that he would be proud.) The last glimmers of consciousness were by then faded; it was hard to tell whether the squeeze of the hand was a tremor, or a last goodbye. I always hoped, and so I'd turn my attention away from my computer and give a squeeze back. Some family friends came and went, and as they left, everyone else went to talk in the hallway; for some minutes, I was the only one in the room. His breathing shifted noticeably, and as I went to ask what to do, the realization came to everyone present that these breaths would be the last.
The things I wish I had told him that I never did flooded in. I wished that I had told him that I still remembered the evening that he got called up for his first liver transplant; we were together on the green chair in the family room, and all was quiet, and as far as I could tell, that was the day that everything changed forever. I wished that I had told him that I remembered who he was before that day, too, when he was at his best. But I never did.
The end was the end, and a pair of hoses sat around uselessly feeding oxygen into the nostrils of a now-lifeless body. I remember leaving the room, quietly singing the final lines to one of his favorite movies; I remember that my mother did not much wish to hear it:
We'll meet again -- don't know where, don't know when -- but I know we'll meet again, some sunny day...
As I walked out, from there began the next chapter of my life.. . .. . .
When someone leaves us, it is our nature that we whitewash their memory. My father was no exception. Even before his illness, he could be a difficult man. Over the course of his illness, he could get to be exceedingly, and sometimes unbearably, difficult. He was often irritable and contrarian, which made living with him as a family member a challenge. (Now you know where it comes from.) We whitewash it: we blame the drugs he was prescribed, and we blame the stress of the transplant, and the uncertainty of treatment in general. But at the same time, it is on us to accept all of who he was: these were challenging times, but he was a challenging person.
We remember him with love, but in our love, we must be sure to remember all
of him. Only by remembering his faults can we also remember our compassion for him.. . .. . .
In the Jewish tradition, we announce our memory with the Mourner's Kaddish. The Mourner's Kaddish is the same as the sanctification that one would otherwise say every other day, but it is spoken, not chanted. In some congregations, only mourners read it; in others, the entire congregation joins. The Mourner's Kaddish is of note because it says nothing about life, death, prayer for oneself, or even prayer for the deceased; it only is a glorification of "the Name of the Holy One". Why do mourners read it, then? The answer is that it reminds us that we have business here other than to mourn. We reaffirm that there is goodness in living, and in the prayer that we're performing. We make one request for ourselves at the end, and that is for peace for us -- both for ourselves, and for all around us.
It is a reminder of who we are, even without our lost. After we recite it daily for 11 months after the loss of a parent, we recite it once a year -- on the yahrzeit. But even in the joy of the message, I can never make it through with a dry eye.. . .
As the years pass, more and more fades away. The first years, even the beginning of Spring would be a time of turmoil, as I remembered. Today, I had to be reminded of the date. I still have objects that remind me of him, but these are physical things that, like him, and like us, will fade.
But there is solace: for now, there are many of us who remember. We are still together in his memory.. . .
There are many more memories of him that I have not written down here. Maybe some will surface later. If you have any that you'd like to share, please feel free to.