What If Today… Goodbye Was Imminent?


“Hey, Dad. Here’s your milkshake. Dad? Are you coming out?” His roommate eyed the chocolate ice cream with big eyes and admitted that he would have loved some, too.

“Maybe. If I feel like it, ” said the muffled voice from under the blanket stretched over his head. He always sleeps like that.

The mother in me uncovered his head as the doctor walked in with a need to talk. I don’t like talking over covered people. Seems the doctor didn’t mind at all. He was blunt and unemotional.

“We’re sending him home. There’s nothing more we can do for him.”

“Could you come in the hallway,” I said as tears started to well. ” You can give me a list of things to do,” I said, making something up just to get him to stop talking as if my father didn’t understand, and to give me a minute to process what he was implying but refusing to say out loud.

“What if he panics and wants to come back to the hospital? Will he come back?”

“No. They can make him comfortable in the nursing home. It’s just a matter of time.”

It’s always a matter of time. It always has been. Hasn’t it?

When my sister died suddenly in 2005, there was no warning light that switched on that called for a sprint to make a few last memories. This time is different. I have time. The question for me is how to spend it?

Later in the afternoon I stood by his bedside an hour afer he’d arrived “home” by ambulance. I’d treasured watching and listening to him as he spoke by phone to my two brothers. He was so content.

We have a routine when we’re together now. We don’t talk much. He closes his eyes and I gently trace his face and forehead with my fingers. If we talk it’s about the upcoming football game or his favorite Alaskan Adventures show.

“Thanks, Bets,”  he says a few times. They’ve become my two favorite words.

As I sat at the beach, watching the waves of the ocean, I remembered Kathy, my youngest brother, Kenny, who died when he was a few days old, and a few other people who’d been  enjoying life on the other side for years. It was then that I realized that another homecoming is being prepared.

This time it’s for him.

“Kathy, he’ll be there soon,” I said, knowing she was there, grateful that I was finally opening up.

” Make sure you bring Kenny. I miss you guys. I wish I could be there to see his face,” I cried and laughed as I was reminded that there are always two sides to a story.

I’m not sad. I’m grieving. My heartstrings are stretching to bridge two worlds, as they should.

But my grieving is their anticipation. I’m excited for my dad and for them.

For now I’ll bring milkshakes and stroke his forehead, share phone calls, and collect stories- stories that will last me for a time.

My daughter was right. “It’s time. He has suffered a lot.”

So, the waiting game begins. The doctor said two weeks or so. But it could be years. You know?

Do you?




21 thoughts on “What If Today… Goodbye Was Imminent?

  1. The tears come again as I’m taken back to my beloved mum’s passing in 2007. The “waiting game” is difficult indeed. Thinking of you Betsy and sending lots of love, and healing energy, to you and all who are finding their own way to come to terms with the death of someone so precious and so deeply loved .

    • It’s very humbling. Isn’t it? I saw my dad again today, milkshake in hand! He was chipper but visibly thinner and having a harder time breathing. The first thing I looked at when I came in his room was his bedside table with three piles of Danish shortbread cookies lined up, ready to be consummed. I had to laugh! I’m noticing all of the quirky things that make him who he is and what I’ll miss the most. Thanks for caring Catherine!

    • Catherine, forgive me! I’m sorry about your mom. I’m assuming she suffered with a chronic illness and you were her caregiver? It’s an interesting position to be in. But I feel so blessed to be close by.It’s the main reason I came home. I can’t imagine saying goodbye to a parent. But we have to, sooner or later.

      • No worries Betsy… Mum’s body was simply aging and breaking down one thing after another e.g. heart valve re- placement, chronic osteo-arthritis and particularly a number of strokes (bleeding on the brain) culminating in a massive one. Her final years were spent being cared for in a nearby Nursing Home which is where she finally passed on with myself and my daughter at her side. Know that you, your dad and all who are grieving are being sent lots of loving care, and healing energy, from so many. Take care.

  2. I read your posts in the reader but somehow I never comment. If I hadn’t commented for this one, it would just be so wrong. I am here for you. My prayers and thoughts for you and your family.

    • Thank you, Hajra. It means a lot to me that you would stop by and say hi and your good wishes to me and mine. I understand that things that are easy for me to be open about are sometimes difficult for friends to process and respond to. I’m feeling the good vibes! And that, my friend is way more than enough! 🙂

  3. You’re a good girl, friend of mine. A good woman and a good daughter. No one can take a pain that lives inside another person, just simply “be there” somewhere outside, blocking the wind. He’ll trace the shape of Kenny’s face with his fingertips and hold Kathy close. As the waves break, you’ll hear them laugh or the rise and fall of their conversation and you’ll know you understood in time.

    • You just made me cry. Thank you, Amber-Lee.I went to see him again today. He seems like he’ll live another year! I don’t know what to hope for any more. But I’ll tell you one thing…he’s cleaning up on chocolate milk shakes! LOL!

  4. No, we don’t know and I don’t think I would want to even if I could. I would rather try to live each day with some type of meaning, some purpose and feel like my day was worthwhile. Hopefully I was able to ‘touch’ someone in a way that brought meaning or at least smile to their face.

    Be strong; enjoy what you do have for now. I’ve been in your shoes for both of my parents and it’s a very emotional time indeed.

    • Hey, Bill! Today was a good day. He said to his nurse, “Hey! You fixed me!” She gave him some pain meds. But they’ve made all the difference.
      Not only do we have to come to grips with being mortal ourselves, but also with the fact that our parents are too…

  5. Hi Betsy,
    A timely (and sad) post. My sister is facing this now with her husband – nothing they can do and all that goes with it. She has two teen-age daughters. We’re bracing ourselves.
    I admire this:”I’m not sad. I’m grieving. My heartstrings are stretching to bridge two worlds, as they should.” I know who is waiting to greet him. It’s hard to stretch your heartstrings between two worlds. I’m not as strong as you.

    • Yikes! Lori I don’t know how strong I’ll be going through something that I’ve never experienced. We’ll see. I’m so sorry about your sister and her husband and kids. I’ll be thinking of you guys. 🙂

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