Facing the Darkness
My Dad died seventeen years ago. It could have happened yesterday as my mind vividly remembers every moment. Do you have moments in your life that slow down preserving every detail? I had gone on a trip to California and Vancouver when my dad began his journey to the end of life. I remember the last words he said to me, “You go and have a good time.” I had a fleeting thought that he was taking a turn since he was getting weaker, though my mind preferred the comfort of denial. In California, I stayed with a long-time friend and coach that offered me support by sharing with me her copy of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. She was more in touch with the possibility of my Dad’s transition than I was at the time. She knew I was still in denial. I opened the book to read how to accept death and to support the journey of dying. I thought my friend had offered this book to read for my dad. It soon became clear this book was for me, to prepare for his transition and, as his only daughter, that I too would go through a sort of death – my final role as his daughter. I recognized that we were preparing to face our transitions together, and the profound experience that lay ahead for us. I wanted to be a courageous presence for him like he had been for me on so many occasions.
Several days passed and I stayed in touch with my brothers who were at the hospital keeping me updated on Dad’s condition. He was stable except for some breathing complications that the doctors were able to quickly attend. The day I boarded the plane home I’d heard that Hospice had been called. What I thought would be a part business, part pleasure trip out West, had quickly morphed into a crash course for me to find the courage I needed to be with my Dad during his death.
The trip was exhausting and emotionally draining. I headed home from the airport to rest as I would be taking the 4am shift to be at Dad’s bedside to relieve my brother and sister-in-law to give them some well needed respite. When I arrived at the hospital I found my sweet Dad hooked up to tubes, in a brightly lit room with a blaring TV. Whether because I was still tired from my trip or due to some inner nudge for attending the soul’s transition - whatever the reason, I knew that the room needed to be cleared so that I could bring in loving comfort for my Dad. Lights out, TV off, door closed to mute the conversations from the nurse’s station – outside intrusions were reduced. We had a journey to take. I sat in the darkness looking at my Dad. I cried. I spoke softly of how much I loved him. I could sense he was already a few steps ahead of me. I felt too far away sitting in a chair so I thought since I was still a bit tired from my trip, I would lay down beside him in his hospital bed. I could then hear his breathing while feeling the comfort of knowing I was exactly where I needed to be.
I didn’t think I would fall asleep so I was surprised when I got a tap on my left shoulder and expected it was a nurse waking me up to scoot me out of the bed. It was still dark. I looked around, there was no one there. I heard silence…no TV, no nurses, and no breathing. I didn’t want to move. I could sense the darkness as a comfort. I could feel the sacredness of his soul still present. I will never forget that feeling…time stood still and I may have stopped breathing too as I lay there in awe, touching the sacred moment of his transition. My Dad waited for me to journey him across. And as if to jolt away the darkness with light, the sun burst its first beam into the hospital room declaring it was 7am on All Saint’s Day. My dear Dad had moved on, and it still feels like it happened only yesterday.
“Let the dark times season you.” Hafiz