I remember the morning the hospice called to tell me Dad had quietly passed away. It was relatively early—like a few minutes after 7 a.m. I don’t even think I’d had coffee yet, but I started rushing around and throwing on rumpled clothes so I could hurry up and get down there. The hospice nurse paused and sweetly said, “Honey, you take your time this morning. I mean it. You get yourself together, make some calls, and when you’re ready you head down. Okay? We’ll be here.”
And so, after we hung up, I stopped—because the world had stopped. I felt it.
I don’t remember much of anything after that. I made coffee in a haze. I took a shower on auto-pilot. I called my aunties and have no idea what was said. And then I went down to see Dad. The only thing I distinctly remember about that entire morning? Looking up and seeing three hospice nurses furiously embracing me in a big group-hug. Apparently, I had been wailing so loudly they heard me from the nurse’s station—on the other end of the building. Slowly, everything sort of clicked back to real time. I heard the faint din of Frank Sinatra playing in the background—which I had left on because Dad was a fan. I smelled the flowers—gardenias, I think—that someone had left in Dad’s room. And I looked at my dad—I mean, really looked at him. He looked blissfully serene, in a sharp little white and blue polo shirt the nurses picked out for him.
I read somewhere that “grief is just love with no place to go.” Man, that rings true. To this day, I miss holding my dad’s little hand. I’m not exactly sure when that started—sometime after Mom passed away—but it always gave me a sense of peace. (And, more times than not, reminded me Dad needed to be using any of the 94 gallons of hand lotion I’d strategically placed around his house.)
For the next six weeks or so, I phoned in life. Oh, sure—I was physically present, but my mind wandered. I think the term I’m looking for is bereft. Yup, I was bereft. All bereft, all the time. One day, my dear friend Dana called and mentioned she had a gift for me. When I swung by to pick it up, she was already teary-eyed. Seems almost a year earlier, Dana somehow cajoled my cousin in to procuring Dad’s thumbprint, which Dana then had transferred to a now-cherished pendant.
I sobbed. Dana sobbed. Where were those damn hospice nurses when you needed ‘em? But after that day, I had solace. I keep that pendant in my pocket at all times—and when I need a bit of reassurance, I reach down and feel the grooves in the silver. It’s not the same as holding Dad’s hand, but it reminds me he’s always with me. Cue insta-serenity.
Looking back after Dad died, it was as if the universe had a master game plan to ensure I stayed sane. For example, every single important document my family lawyer needed—all 16,974 of ‘em—I found in Dad’s safety deposit box. My folks’ house, meanwhile, sold in 18 hours—for full price. The guardian angels of serendipity were doing their thing. And as I started coming up for air, my friends dutifully continued to check in on me—and ply me with edibles when warranted.
Just a few weeks ago, my friends dropped off the smattering of furniture I wanted to keep from the house—which included my childhood bed and my favorite oversized, burnt umber chair. It promptly went into my very empty spare bedroom. Sometimes when I need a cosmic reboot, I’ll just go in and sit, be quiet and reflect. In fact, a bit of this blog originated from there.
Yesterday, I noticed the room has a super-faint scent—like a pleasant combination of citrus and cloves. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it—until I realized it smells like Mom and Dad’s house. I melted. If anyone needs me for the next six months, you know where to find me. It’s become the perfect room to hold on to my past—and embrace my future. Dad would wholeheartedly approve.