A common ritual for some survivors of loved ones who have died is to look for signs of their continued presence; hoping a part of that loved one will stick around – one foot on the other side, and the other foot amongst the living. It helps us deal with the loss. My father passed to the other side March 16 of 2012 – we never saw it coming.
He had contacted a common strand of Streptococcus, which, if under the proper care of a physician, is normally treatable. Uninsured, he was not able to acquire medical attention and within a short time went into septic shock. Ten days after being admitted into the hospital it became clear death was imminent and would soon be knocking at his door. I knew my dad would need help answering it.
My father’s passing was graceful; death itself was not. With tubes everywhere and an eventual rapid drip of morphine, my dad finally made the journey. Funny how a loved one’s last breath can bring such relief. He was better off. His last breath was his final surrender.
The two-week vigil prior to his passing scarcely afforded us opportunity for verbal interactions given his half-conscious state of mind. However, I soon discovered vigil’s generosity of time, as I was graced with several opportunities to make necessary soul adjustments, and to say my goodbyes. There were a few humorous moments too, if you can imagine it.
On one particular day a male nurse came into my dad’s room to check his vitals. Attempting to make small talk, because that’s about all most people can muster up during these situations; the nurse started commenting on the baseball game that I had put on for my dad. He asks my barely-conscious father, “how do you like them Dodgers?”
Thinking my dad would have difficulty answering, and wanting to make him proud, I began bragging about the Dodgers and how long my dad had been an avid fan of theirs. The nurse smiled at my dad and made an approving gesture; apparently he liked the Dodgers too.
This time, though, he seems even more irritable. I then become irritated myself, at him for continuing to refuse pain meds, at which point he grabs my hand and pulls me in real close. Oh no! I think…this is it – he’s about to pass to the other side and I’ve gone and upset him with my impatience.I take a deep breath and attempt to get present for what is certain to be an epic moment for the both us.
He whispers loudly in my ear, “No! Mija, not Dodgers! Yankees. Yankees!” My memory was jolted the moment he said Yankees. Of course, I knew that! And then I chuckled. To my dying father, whose loyalty to the Yankees spanned well over 50 years, he felt it essential to gather some of his last words in order to declare his undying love for them – he died two days later.
The first birdie showed up several months after his death. That’s about how long it took to metabolize the reality of my father’s passing. I could handle him dying, what I couldn’t handle was him staying dead forever. I knew forever and I would have to get acquainted. Little birdies have helped make sense of such an abstract concept, as death. There have been different birds at different times, but each time I know it’s a sign, because there’s no denying the presence of my dad.
Today a little bird landed on my patio fence. What a beautiful moment. As always, I whisper softly, ‘hi, dad’. A gentleman comes knocking at my door a few minutes later to look at a rifle-scope I had posted on Craigslist. I had inherited it from my grandfather. He died too.
We both hesitate on the introductions and wondered if we had met before. He looked and sounded familiar. Eerily, it occurs to me he is a dead-ringer for my Uncle Joe, who died the year before. So apparently, some go to the other side, leaving one foot or beak on this side, while others simply take up full-time residency through one of the living. More abstract. Hi, Uncle Joe, I think to myself.
The gentleman takes a look at the rifle-scope, and after adjusting the lens a few times says he’ll take it. I ask him what he plans to use it for; he replies, “to scope birds. I spot them, shoot them, then eat them.” ‘Ah’, I say. Have a nice day. I smile, hold my hand over my heart – and say softly to myself, hi, dad.
Birdies are a welcomed sign that my dad is still around, but truth be told, he is in my heart, forever a part of me.
NOTE: Article was originally posted January 11, 2014 ….this post, in honor of my father’s birthday today, is an updated 2nd edition to the original post. Enjoy!