My Father is Dying


            He lays in the hospital bed, sedate, serene, and perhaps drifting in and out of sleep. Where once, bright clear blue eyes shone openly, attentively and resolutely, now they are gray and dim, panning effortlessly across the room with nowhere to fixate. My father is dying. There is no mistake about that. The room is silent. There is only the soft hiss of the Oxygen flowing into his nose. Nothing is moving except the drop of liquid that collects in the I.V. tube. I notice how it grows slowly and surely and then when it is large enough it falls into the little plastic collection tube before moving into his arm. The water is life. That is all that keeps him alive this moment. He has not eaten much for a week now. He wants to be home, finally.

            I do not wish to startle him so I quietly sit on the edge of the bed. He does not stir. I slowly reach to touch his hand, mixing the warmth of my relative youth with the cool of his feeble body. He opens his eyes, looks at me and smiles gently. There are no words, just a smile imbued with great affection. Everything is, as it should be. There is just this moment.

            With a soft voice, I ask him the perennial question asked of one who is ill, “how do you feel”? Rather directly and with great sincerity he lightly replies, “Some chain has fallen away.” I blink, not knowing how else to react. “What do you mean, what chain”? I ponder. There is no reply, except for a sigh from him. “I feel lighter”, he says and in the next breath, “but I am afraid to die.” I squeeze his hand gently; he squeezes back. There is a tender moment of compassion. Both of us are now speechless in the moment. After a few seconds I say, “I know.” He smiles again and closes his eyes, back into that sleepiness, that drifting out of thought, out of ego. Again, there is only the silence permeated by his quiet breathing.

            He is 89 years old, 6’2” but now probably only 110 pounds. His visage looks like a concentration camp victim. I am not bothered by that. In fact, I am still and peace-filled through these events, these words and these images. He has given me this now. He has radiated the present to me. His presence has removed any remaining doubt in my mind. All is as it should be. There is nothing more than this. I am not afraid of his dying. I am only with him now. Soon he will be gone; soon he will be but a present memory. He is losing his chains. He is becoming lighter. In that, he is healing me of any fear, of any guilt, or any uncertainty.

            Soon I have to go, so I lean forward to hug him. There is not much left to hug so I simply kiss his cheek. As I sit straight again, he moves his hand to my cheek and tenderly touches me in a way he has not done since I was 5 years old. Then he looks deeply into my eyes with a small smile on his lips, his eyes barely slits, barely open and replies, “I know.”

            Moral: There is a gift given in every moment of our lives. Sometimes it is in the midst of pain, sorrow and yes, even dying and death. The gift IS this moment. All we need do is realize that right now and surrender to it. In that we can loose our chains, become lighter and finally know.

May all those dying today find peace joy in the Pure Silence.

(Dad let go completely of his separate sense of self on February 15, 2002, 5 days after his 90th birthday.)

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