It is not possible to prepare yourself for that phone call. It doesn’t matter how hard you try mentally, emotionally, spiritually… When it comes, it shocks the body and numbs the mind.
And a day like that, you don’t have to look back at the calendar, to see what day of the week it was. You know the day. You know the hour. You know what the weather was like. You feel that day, as if it is forever etched in your very body and soul.
It was Friday, February 21, 2003. There was a nip in the air, but it was sunny, spring-like and beautiful. Living out in the country, on a farm, spring weather always brings with it a sense of urgency to clean windows, following the winter months. The weather was perfect for that.
I had spent my morning doing some other cleaning, tidying up, and immediately after lunch, I tackled the windows. I felt light, free. Energetic. It was a very good day.
This was noteworthy because I had started battling fatigue, muscle pains and joint pains some months earlier. I had seen a doctor but testing showed nothing. Chronic fatigue, maybe, or Fibromyalgia. But they didn’t think so, and they couldn’t know for sure. I was to take comfort knowing it wasn’t serious. I did. And I took advantage of the good days. Like that Friday….
I had seen my father several weeks earlier–the last week of January–for a family get-together. Our late Christmas gathering. We met at a small community centre, in Hawkesville, Ontario, just minutes away from the family who took me in and gave me back my life. Minutes away from the place of my healing, and from the people who had opened that door to truth and healing in the first place.
Alice had said, ‘The truth will set you free’. And it had. I spent time with my family that day, without the fears of days gone by. It was one of the only family gatherings, if not the only one, where I didn’t have flashbacks to childhood. The only time we were all together and I didn’t worry about Dad sneaking away to get a gun to murder us all. Yes, the truth had set me free.
And it was in the town where the healing took place, that I saw my father for the last time in his living years.
That day Dad looked pale. Tired. He sat back and watched his family. He and I chatted for a while. I could return to the precise spot where we talked, but for the life of me I have not been able to recall a word of the conversation. I remember we both laughed, but that is all. And I remember we were standing near the dessert table, a spot he was supposed to avoid. He never did well with following doctor’s orders.
But the memory of that day was the farthest thing from my mind as I scrubbed windows that Friday. I was in my own zone, playing music, watching children–the three who were not yet in school.
The phone rang, interrupting my productivity. It was my sister-in-law, whom I could easily chat with for several hours, if I wasn’t careful. It wasn’t something we did often, but every now and then… I answered.
The conversation is a blur. “Trudy, your father… heart attack… didn’t make it…”
“You’re sure? …He’s dead?”
She said he was gone.
The mind is a funny thing. I found myself thinking, “maybe at the hospital they will shock him and bring him back…. maybe they thought he’s dead but…. ” Even as the thoughts chased through my head, I tamed them. It was over. Dad was gone. I hung up the phone. The final words had been spoken. What was done, was done. What was healed, was healed. The rest remained, forever, as it had been left.
I finished the window. Numb. Really? Dad, gone just like that? Once strong, and invincible, now he was lifeless.
I called my brother Wil. Told him. It feels harsh when you speak the words to an unsuspecting sibling. We talked about going together to the hospital, later. He and I. Maybe another sibling or two. And our spouses, if they wanted to. We’d talk later.
I called Tim.
I finished the window. Halfishly. Dumped the bucket of water. Put away my stuff. I didn’t really cry much. It was all too surreal. I had decided years earlier how I would respond. But that was when things were bad. Very bad. I was simply going to shut off my heart and not worry about his end. My sanity would depend on it.
Now it was different. Things had changed so drastically in a few short years. Not perfect, but as good as they were going to get, given all that had been. I was at peace. Even so, there is always the element of grieving what was lost, of grieving what we never had.
Even though we had talked, forgiven, and things were as right as they could get in this life, I felt strangely empty and lonely. As though I had been robbed, one final time, of all that should have been in our family. Almost as if Dad’s death was the final declaration that what never was, never would be.
I found myself hurled into grieving life and death, simultaneously. Celebrating what we had, and aching for what we lacked. I cried out in thanks to God for the last several years, while feeling, keenly, the horror of years gone by. I was thankful we had talked things out, in The Living Years, and yet wished we had said more. So much conflict.
And that is how it had to be… It was the beginning of the last farewell…
To Be Continued…
© Trudy Metzger
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