I remember everything about that day. I remember where I stood. I remember exactly what I was doing. I can feel the breath I inhaled when father took his last breath. I remember everything.
I wasn’t near him. He was in Thousand Oaks, at his house, sitting in his wheelchair at his desk. I was in downtown Los Angeles getting ready to yoga. Physically we were 42 miles apart but love linked our hearts.
As he took his last breath, I remember exactly where I was standing and who I was talking with. The exact details don’t matter, but the memory remains etched within.
After the yoga class, I took my usually shower and then opened the locker containing my belongings. I saw several messages from mom, and then I knew before I even listened to her words. My father was dead. He heart ceased to beat.
I remember everything about that day. I remember t hat I’d parked a few blocks away at hotel where my friends were staying. I didn’t know how I’d manage to walk there. And I had to get there. I had to get home while my father’s body was still in the house. I didn’t want to have to go see it in a cold mortuary.
I had to get home and fast. I remember running outside in my bare feet to find a friend. Loren drove me to the Bonaventure. Julie, Brenda, and Suzanne met me there and walked me to my car. I felt in such a daze. I had no idea how I would make it home.
It was around 1p.m. but I was in Los Angeles and traffic was everywhere, and all I wanted to do was to get home. But that desire didn’t make traffic lessen.
I’m so grateful for cell phones and cars that come with Bluetooth. I called my friend Kara in Scottsdale and she talked to me the whole drive home. About nothing and everything. I’m so grateful for that hour, that conversation, those words. They kept me sane. They still do.
I felt such terror the whole drive home. Every nerve ending inside and outside of my body felt the utter pain and terror that I wouldn’t make it home in time to be with him. But time was on my side that day. I didn’t know it at the time but the mortuary had run into some unavoidable delays and would be several hours late.
When I arrived at the house I ran inside and instantly stopped. There my father sat, dead but not. He was at his desk with his head tilted back and his mouth slightly open, looking as though he was taking a long nap. He liked to do that. Take short naps at his desk.
I walked over to him, pulled up a chair, placed my head against his chest right against his heart. I placed my hand in his and could feel how relaxed his hand was. For so long it had been constricted and crippled because of Parkinson’s but not anymore. He was free.
For two hours I sat there with my head against his chest. Two of the most blissful hours. When I close my eyes, I can still feel the softness of his chest, of his heart. I can still feel him with me. I am so grateful for those moments. That’s the best gift the universe could have given me. Such precious moments.
In so many ways, this has been one of the most gut-wrenching and painful years of my life. Without my father I don’t know where I belong anymore. I just don’t.
It’s also been a year where I’ve come to realize that I have some amazing wonderful people in my life, people who have listened to me cry, who have been there for me. I’ve also learned and still am learning that I need to love the people who love me and not put energy toward those who don’t. That’s a beautifully painful lesson.
My father loved me to the very best of his ability and that’s a very beautiful gift to have. The last words I heard from him were “I love you” and that’s another beautiful gift to have. He entrusted me with so much at the end. Last summer was the best summer of my life—the hours I spent just watching him breathe touch my heart more deeply than words can explain.
I’ve cried so many tears, and I’ll probably cry many more today, but I also know this: my father wanted me to be happy more than anything, so, on this day tinged with sadness and grief, I’ll go forward and celebrate life, my life, my happiness, and in doing so I’ll be taking him with me in my heart, and he wouldn’t want it any other way. Neither would I.