I didn’t get to say good-bye to my dad.
Or tell him one last time that I love him.
I wonder why that matters.
He died; it wouldn’t have made a difference either way to him. And for me, why would knowing that I told him “I love you” one more time make a difference? And yet, I wish I could have told him good-bye; held his hand and said, “I love you pop” one more time.
Over the years I’ve thought a lot about having someone you love die from a long-term death vs a sudden death like what happened with my pop. I’ve wondered if it would be easier to deal with a father’s dying if you knew ahead of time and had that time to both come to terms with the idea and also to get to share final moments together.
The flip side to that is you have to watch someone you care about wither away and change in sad and terrible ways before your eyes.
At least with a sudden death, the person will remain in your memory as that hearty person you knew. But you don’t get to say good-byes and you don’t get to make plans or prepare emotionally for that person not being around any more.
It isn’t a competition and there really isn’t a better way to go. There are just different ways of interacting with the fact of someone you love dying when you aren’t ready for it. Because, rarely, are you ready for it.
When my mom’s folks – grandma and grandpa died, I was ready. My grandfather died peacefully at home at the age of 92 after living a wonderful, full and honorable life. My grandmother died at age 96. Fiesty until the end. She also had a peaceful death at home surrounded by family. We were ready.
None of us were prepared for my dad’s death.
He called me the night before. I didn’t answer the phone and he left a message “just saying hi”. We talked almost daily. “I’ll call him later, after this show,” I remember thinking. Of course, after the TV show ended, it was too late to call New York. I was busy the next day and didn’t get around to calling him, and when the phone rang at 9:00pm that night, I could feel that something was wrong even before I answered.
I’ve heard a lot of old married couples say that they never go to bed angry with each other; partially because it isn’t good to sleep when you are angry – especially at the person next to you, but also just in case something happens you don’t want the last words to your spouse to have been angry ones.
Our last words weren’t angry ones, we had one of our usual silly conversations but (and you hear people say this all the time) I didn’t know it would be our last conversation.