My dad died last week. It was awful and horrible and so, so very sad. And at the same time, it was a blessing in that my sisters and I, as well as two of my father's siblings, and several other people who loved him dearly, were all by his side as he left. That both of my parents died with all of their kids by their sides telling them how much they loved them is a gift I just can't describe. Greg said he hopes to be as lucky when it's his turn. I guess we all do.
Watching a loved one die, as you know if you've ever done it, is one of the most raw and transformative experiences we face as humans. It reminds me of giving birth in a lot of ways. It's a messy, painful process. It happens in its own time, and there's nothing we can do for the person going through it other than offer our hand, our love, and our support, and hope that the journey is as painless as it can be. That they have what they need—whatever that may be—to find peace, let go, and follow the process where it leads them.
Elliott was with me as I sat by my dad's side for the two days before he died. My father was mostly unconscious, but he'd rouse from time to time, look at his grandson and smile: "Beautiful baby boy," he'd say. There was something poetic about seeing them together—Elliott pure, bright, innocent, and joyful as he begins to figure out his place in this world, and my father—frail, tired, but, I hope, fulfilled as he relinquished his.
Another day I'll start to share the stories about my dad. And there were lots. Everyone who knew him had at least a handful of stories about him: about his generosity; his kindness; his incredibly short memory, which, while frustrating at times, gave him an incomparable ability to forgive. People remember his songs; he was always singing or whistling a tune—usually an Irish one, often with comically confused lyrics. They remember his easy laugh. How much he loved his family, his friends, and his community.
My sister, in her beautiful eulogy, discussed the fact every stage in our father's life was his happiest stage. What a wonderful and admirable trait—to see your life, flaws and all, and understand just how incredibly lucky you are to have it.
So today, even amidst the grief at having lost both of my parents at a sort of young age (bite your tongues), I need to look at what life gave me—two loving, smart, funny, unwaveringly supportive parents—and realize what a lucky, lucky woman I am.
Me, circa a thousand years ago, with the greatest dad a girl could ask for.