Good Bye, Dad. See you in Heaven.

Holding Dad's Hand

My dad passed away seven years ago today. It’s hard to put into words how much I miss him or how often I think of him. Like all of us, he was not a perfect person. He was flawed. Yet, I knew without a doubt that he loved me and was proud of me. How did I know that? Because he got pancreatic cancer that ultimately took his life. But, in the six weeks between his cancer diagnosis and his passing I was able to spend a lot of time with him. At that time I lived two hours away, so I was able to make frequent day trips with my two year old son (pictured) to visit him. y dad was about 10 days from his death, and his body was being ravaged by the effects of the cancer. His skin was turning orange. He lost so much weight that he looked like a concentration camp survivor. And his once-sharp mind was failing, leaving only fleeting moments of lucidity. It was so hard to watch this man I loved all my life suffer while there was nothing I could do to help him. It was during one of those visits at the Hospice facility that my dad had a brief but oh-so-meaningful conversation with me.

He awoke from his sleep and smiled upon seeing me at his bedside, not remembering that I had been there for several hours already that day. I didn’t know if he was going to talk or go back to sleep, but he spoke, asking about how my family was doing. After my reply he proceeded to tell me that he was very proud the man I had become; of my choice to become a Stay At Home Dad six years before. He continued to tell me that he thought I was a good husband and father and that he was pleased with me. This was new to me, as he had not been very verbally supportive of either my college major (Elementary Education) or my career change (teacher to SAHD). He finished by looking me in the eyes, pulling me in for an embrace, and whispering faintly into my ear, “I love you, Carl.” It was the last meaningful conversation I would have with my dad.

Nine days later, on the evening of May 12, my mom called to tell me that the Hospice staff had called her to let her know that they didn’t think my dad would live much longer. Since the next day was Mother’s Day, I was already planning on driving up to see my mom (and dad). But, after her phone call, I left a bit sooner, arriving at the Hospice center around 11 pm. I entered my dad’s room to find my mom and younger brother (and his wife and young son) already there by his bed. We exchanged hugs and kisses and chatted for a few minutes. After a couple of minutes of silence, we decided to sing a few hymns that were among my dad’s favorites, as music had always been a big part of his life. Once the songs were sung, my brother left to take his family back to my parents’ house so they could sleep (my brother would return). My mom and I sat quietly on either side of my dad’s bed, each of us holding one of his hands as he lay in an unresponsive slumber, the silence only broken by each of his labored breaths. We knew that his time was near. As it was already well past midnight by this time, I quietly noted “Happy Mother’s Day” to my mom.

A little after t 1 am that night I noticed that my dad’s breathing had slowed considerably. I held my mom’s hand while we both held my dad’s hands and said a quick prayer, asking God to take my dad home soon so that he wouldn’t suffer any longer. Minutes later, while we were singing a solemn “Amazing Grace” between tears and deep breaths, my dad breathed his last breaths and entered his new home. It was the most sacred and solemn moment of my entire life, to be with a loved one, praying him into the Kingdom. I take great comfort in my faith, believing that I will see my dad again, only this time it will be in Heaven and he won’t be suffering. Later that day, while talking with my kids on the phone about what had happened during the early morning hours of Mother’s Day, one of my kids said something that changed my perspective about the sadness of him dying on Mother’s Day. “It’s okay, Daddy. Now Papa gets to spend Mother’s Day with his mommy in Heaven.”

Good bye, Dad. See you in Heaven.

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13 thoughts on “Good Bye, Dad. See you in Heaven.

  1. I’m sorry for your loss, Carl. I lost my dad seven years a go as well, and while we had a different relationship than the one you described, talking about it has always made me feel better. I’m glad that you got to have that final conversation with him.

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  2. Thank you for writing this. It is incredibly beautiful and has me in tears. I’m grateful you were able to connect so deeply with your father before he died. I love the picture of you and your son. I look forward to meeting your dad and singing with him too. In September it will be seven years since my dad’s death. I say I no longer mourn just the loss of my father, but because my son was born just a couple of years ago, I mourn my son’s loss of his grandpa. I wish they could have met. I know it’s my job to tell my son the stories. Thanks again.

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    • Thanks, Tyler. And sorry for your loss as well. Probably the hardest part of his death is that my kids won’t have the fond grandpa memories like I did as a child with my two grandpas. Looking forward to seeing him again.

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  3. So beautifully written, and I’m sorry for your loss. It’s wonderful that you had that last conversation with your dad and could say goodbye to him, knowing he was proud of you. Dying seems to strip away all the trivial things that come between people. It was the same for my dad and me. The only time we got along well and really talked was during the last few months of his life. Those times are a precious gift, because they gave me a glimpse of who my father really was. Sometimes I imagine that the purity and clarity of those last days are a little preview of heaven, when all the things that drive us apart will be gone, leaving us only with the essence of who God made us to be.

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    • Janet, I appreciate your kind words. I’m glad that you were also able to spend time with your dad and gain some healing and closure before he died. Thanks for sharing your story as well.

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  4. Beautifully written and so touching. What a lovely sentiment by your son.

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  5. Carl, my dad passed just a couple of years before yours but it’s so apparent that time is meaningless in these moments. Those labored breaths. Those labored moments when their breathing slows and stops your own. I remember it too well. We carry the best of our parents, if we are diligent. Tell his stories.

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  6. So true. It’s weird how certain things stick with us when we think about past experiences. The labored breaths and suffering were really hard for me to see and hear because I was helpless to change it for him. I hope to honor my dad and his memory by sharing his story with my kids. After all, that’s really the only way that they’re going to know him. Thanks for the insightful comments.

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