Dixie Peach: Ten Minutes

Cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ten Minutes

My father died at home. He'd been stricken by an aneurysm in his brain that left him in a persistent vegetative state. While we didn't know how long he'd live we knew as a family that we didn't want to put him in a nursing home so he was brought home for us to care for with the assistance of a local hospice group.

As it turns out he survived for nine months after his initial aneurysm. In the week before his death his body began to shut down and we knew the end was near.

On the day he passed he was surrounded by his family. He simply took a last breath and it was over. His eyes were closed and it seemed as if he were only sleeping except that the sound of his breathing had stopped.

The moments after that - they seem jumbled to me now. I know we talked among ourselves for a while, cried...I remember calling my now ex-husband to tell him to come to my parents' house. I remember my brother telling my two oldest nephews that Granddad had passed and the five year old slapping the back of his hand of his forehead and staggering a little as if he were going to faint. He was always a bit of a ham. That would have cracked up my dad.

The one really strong memory I have was being alone with my father for about ten minutes. All of us had come in and out of the bedroom in the time after his passing and before the funeral home was called and at one point I was alone with him. The late afternoon light was fading and I switched on a lamp beside his bed and sat in the rocking chair next to him.

I'd seen dead people before at viewings and was never comfortable with it. I wasn't scared of them but those I had seen laying in their caskets didn't seem to be real to me. Instead they seemed to be more like creepy wax figures.

Sitting with my father was different. He seemed to simply be asleep. I didn't say anything to him - I don't even remember thinking about anything special at that moment - but I remember a peaceful feeling. I was so content just to sit there with Daddy. After the years of distance between us, it just felt right to sit there in silence with him.

After a while I reached over and put my hand on his cheek and could feel that the warmth had begun to ebb away. That's the moment when his death became real to me. Before then it was simply academic - I knew he was dead and felt relief that his suffering was over but feeling his cooling cheek made it...I don't actually know what it made. Final. Maybe that's what I felt. The finality of it all. It was sad and still I had that feeling of contentment sitting there next to my father. It was as if then I could begin to let go of the need to avoid him and I didn't need to feel distanced from him anymore.

My father passed fifteen years ago today and while I have memories of that time - memories that sometime don't make much sense on their own but somehow fit together to make a whole picture - the one memory I have that is as strong today as it was then is the memory of sitting with Daddy and touching his face for the last time. I still remember how grateful I was for that feeling of contentment.

Even now when I'm back in my hometown I go visit my father's grave and really prefer to do it by myself. He's headstone is one of those big double headstones and I like to sit on it and just be quiet because I can always get back that feeling of contentment I had when I had him to myself for ten precious minutes and had no fear.



Anonymous hambox said...

Dixie: your gorgeous entry about your dad hit me like a ton of bricks just now. Not only was your experience with your dad's passing so similar to mine and my dad's (I lost him at the end of August last year), but you write this the day before the anniversary of my mother's passing. Wow. Loss on the brain. If you'd like to get the password to the protected entries about my dad, feel free to write me (email address avail. on my blog). Big hugs to you! Thanks so much for sharing. Becky

12:17 AM  
Blogger Miz said...

Is strange how it stays with you, my father went off to work one day and never came home. I wouldn't go to the viewing so my last memory was him the night before watching TV. After 25 years I barely have that memory.

2:57 AM  
Blogger The Lone Beader said...

I am very lucky to still have both my parents....

4:04 AM  
Anonymous Lisa said...

That's beautiful Dixie. :´(

7:53 PM  
Blogger Hilda said...

Ok, so I'm crying. And that's OK -except I'm at work. Oh well, they should know me by now.

As we've *discussed* before my father died of pretty much the same thing, only he went much quicker.

I too sat alone with my father for a while after he died, but I did talk to him. I thanked him for being the best father a girl could want, I told him I would try my best to take care of my mother, and I told him I would be OK. And then I told him I would miss him terribly and I would love him and think of him forever.

I think I know how you feel and I'll light a candle for both our dads tonight.

10:10 PM  
Blogger sari said...

tears. tears!


12:23 AM  
Blogger Dixie said...

Y'all are always so good at helping to hold me up. Thank you.

Hilda, sometimes I am so amazed at how our lives parallel one another's.

12:29 AM  

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