Sunday, April 26, 2009


"if you knew that it was the last time you were ever going to see your dad, would you have done or said anything differently, dawn?"

this was asked of me by my friend tracy.
i have been lucky enough to know tracy through her life of
becoming engaged and then married to her wonderful mark,
the heartbreak of a miscarriage
the profoundly moving adoption of her daughter,
the joyful birth of her son,
the tragic death of her mother
and now the anguish of her father's progression into alzheimer's.
a lot of living this friend of mine has had.
and she moves through this living in grace and love.
i know she's hurting
and there's not a damn thing i can do about it.

i've thought a lot about this question.
i've had my share of deaths, both personally and as a hospice social worker.
i've witnessed hundreds of families as they struggle through grief and loss.
the "what if" question always comes up.

when my father died suddenly, would i have given everything i own for just one more minute with him?
yes.
would he have known that i loved him any better than i did?
no, i don't think so.
for me, it's the yearning.
it's the not wanting to say goodbye.
because when we love people, there are always going to be
the good parts
the bad parts
and the ugly parts.
that's part of loving someone.
but i don't care how prepared we think we may be,
when death comes, we're hard pressed to let go.

for me, it's the wishing.
it's the heartache.
the "what if" is a way of us trying to make sense of it all.

i told tracy that i was going to write about her here.
and i told her that i would ask you all on her behalf if you would please share your thoughts on this question.
so if you would please,
take a minute.
let her know what you think.

7 comments:

Char said...

I was lucky enough (if you call it luck) to know my parents were dying and getting to spend their last hours with them. Though my father was unable to speak, I saw understanding when I whispered to him that morning as I kissed him (you know how much I loved you, right). He died planning his own care and refused treatment - choosing quality over quantity in his opinion. My mother on the other hand fought kicking and screaming - trying every treatment or hope through her three bouts with cancer (breast, colon, and secondary breast). The last month in the hospital, though the doctor said death could be immenient and the treatment had less than a 10% chance of extending her life, she started chemo again. She died a week later. Kicking and screaming.

Still - having that chance - if I could have them back healthy and whole, would give anything. anything. yes, anything. But, to have them back suffering - no, I couldn't be that way. I grief for myself and my family because we no longer have these special people. Just as anyone else does.

Death is just so permanent - those we love, no matter the time we have - we always want more. Love is greedy in that way...we want to drink it all in. That is the difficult part.

sorry for being so longwinded.

Tracy said...

Oh, thank you, thank you, D. For everthing--and for being there during all those periods in my life. What happened with your dad was as cruel as anytime a parent is snatched from us, either physically or mentally. Where so many of us would let that anger fester, you turned into positive, healing energy and blessed so many families with your kindness and understanding.
And thank you, Char, for sharing your story. In a funny way, your folks demonstrated how much they loved life, in death. One didn't want to let go, and the other seemed to want to make the most of the last few moments.
I'm blessed to occasionally see glimpses of the guy my dad once was, and those are the moments that keep me going.

Heidi said...

I am really moved by this post and by what your friend is going through and what you've gone through, Dawn.

It sounds like your Tracy is a wonderful person that is doing her best and...living in grace and love? You can't do better than that - in life and with your family.

Summer said...

I think i know how this feels.Knowing that someone you love is leaving you any moment..Coz it did happen to me,when my mom is fighting for her life last year.And that was just the time that i realize that i need to show to my love ones that i love them dearly...
And i need to do something just to show them that they are important for me and to make them happy..:D
And luckily my mom is alive,she had passed all those treaths on her life..;D And i am very with that..
And now i know that even if they are still with us,show them that we love them and we care for them..
And if you can't do anything for their lives,just tell them that leaving is not the end of their lives.But it's the beginning of their new wonderful and happier life with our creature...=)
Have a wonderful day..;D


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Solo said...

I am touched by this post..
But in life there is death,but before that day will come,show your love ones that you love them so much..This post is inspiring..

cait said...

Very poignant piece to think about. Kind of puts my stomach in knots.

I guess I like to think of all the things he taught me. How he helped me be a better person.

LMN said...

I am actually left not knowing what to say. Having lost my mom at a young age (HER young age of 45), a tall, slender, perfectly fit woman who never drank or smoked or did a halfway questionable thing her entire life (pure grace and loveliness), there is no way to say goodbye to someone like that. Or anyone we love with our whole beings, for that matter. And it is okay. In the end it is okay if we didn't say good bye in the perfect way, or in the way we thought we should have done after they are actually gone. We have to be gentle with ourselves and realize we probably did the best we could do in the moment, and that's all we would expect of anyone else. Not perfection, because that is not life. Love forgives a lot of things, even botched goodbyes.