The memories came flooding back to me today…holding my father’s hand, still warm with a gentle pulse, as I lay my head down at his side on the hospital bed inside the living room. He was finally sleeping after the on-and-off pain he endured due to the melanoma that spread blisters up his legs and the immense pain in his legs due to some ailment doctors could never pinpoint.
My father and I had been through so much in those last years of his life—trying to stitch together the pain of earlier years into peace and love. And here he was, in early February, this month two years ago, fighting for his life that was preparing to go. He knew. I knew it. Or at least his spirit knew it was time, for months earlier, when he lay in the hospital room, the day the doctors diagnosed him with melanoma, he came to me in my dream, and let me know it was time to go.
Today, I relived those last days, last minutes, as if yesterday. He lay in the bed, me listening to every breath, knowing each could be the last. I listened with my heart, the way we listen when we come from that unconditional love that knows how to be present and treasure this present that is still with us for a brief time.
That night, after laying my head next to my father in that eternal stillness, I went to bed. In the quiet of the night, and throughout my sleep, I could feel my father next to me. Actually, I felt as if I had become him, lying there, between the bars of the hospital bed, fragile, clinging to life. There was no separation. And the next morning, when I woke up, I ran to my father’s bed, making sure he was still there.
My father lasted a few more days, long enough to live his 79th birthday on February 20 and to see my cousin, Rogelio, who visited him from Argentina and whom he had awaited for eagerly before departing this world. But that memory remains with me so strong today—of laying my head next to his, and feeling his journey so deeply as if it were mine. And then finally being there with him until the very last breath.
I didn’t cry that day he left. I couldn’t. A part of me had left as well, so I didn’t feel him gone the way we do when we finally let go and step back into our ordinary lives. There was nothing ordinary about being with someone so dear to me until the very end. There was a tenderness and an appreciation of life that was so profound that I didn’t want to ever let that go.
Yesterday my boyfriend, his sister, and I made a dinner to honor their mother who left this world this past May. We placed two bouquets of white flowers on the table with a place for her to eat as well. She was a beautiful woman, one I felt so honored to have known during the months before her passing. As I felt those last days with my father, laying there next to him toward the very end, I recalled how my boyfriend’s sister lay next to her mother to keep her company in the end.
When we feel the ones we love so close that we can hear their every breath, knowing it could be the last, how do we ever forget that? How do we ever grieve the preciousness of another who has now left for another world?
Today, I feel the grief that lives inside all that love and loss. And I pray for those who have lost someone so dear, as my boyfriend and his sister did more recently, to be able to take that great love and live again as one more angel flies in the sky above us. May we all cry that grief of beauty that has left us, and, in return, bring a bit more heart into this world.
Michelle Adam is an experienced writer, teacher, and healer. She recently published her novel, Child of Duende, after twenty-plus years as a magazine and newspaper writer. Her articles have appeared in The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine; Hibernia Magazine, an Irish magazine; Vista Magazine, a Hispanic insert of major national newspapers; and multiple other publications.
Michelle has also been a photographer and artist; has taught middle school students Spanish for the past dozen years; and has worked as a healer and shaman. Michelle has created healing and teaching circles of song and sound, assisting others in awakening the spirit of the earth, “duende,” within them, and creating a space for the celebration of life.