The last perfect day

Hello, you. Thanks for stopping by.

I have 11,000+ followers for this blog now. It wasn’t always this way. When I first began it, I was lucky if half a dozen people were reading–and that’s likely counting family members. 

So I feel like I can republish a post from my early days that has new meaning now. Stick with me. I’ll keep the intro short. 

A friend’s father passed away recently. She couldn’t go be with him, a state away. There was no holding his hand, no last kiss on the cheek, no last words expressed while looking into his eyes. She couldn’t hold a proper funeral. She can’t even say his name without crumbling, even now, a couple of months later. There wasn’t any closure.

Welcome to the age of coronavirus. I know you all are well aware of what’s going on. You don’t need me to tell you.

But as you read about my last day with my dad, circa 2012, please think about it. Even if we have differing political views, think about masking up for humanity’s sake. 

Everybody should have what I had. It makes what’s hard still hard, but easier to bear. 

Sending you all love, light and wishes for phenomenal good health. Thank you for honoring me by reading. Means more than you know . . .

In the end, what he gave me was one last perfect day.

When I visited my father in Ohio over the last 18 months of his life, the visits were short.

If I’m perfectly honest, it wasn’t just because of my schedule. It was because Dad and I could have a perfect 24 hours. After that, it could get a little dicey.

I’m feeling the need to reassure you that we loved each other dearly. And we did. But, in some ways we were cut from the same cloth. Patience was never one of our finer virtues. We could be dynamos when set on accomplishing something, but God help the person who got in our way. And after about 24 hours, we seemed to get in each other’s way.

Had I lived closer, this would not have been an issue because our time together would have been much more frequent, but not 24/7. But, the situation was what it was.

Nevertheless, goodbyes were tough. I wondered if each goodbye would be the last one and Dad worried about me (as he had since I was a little girl). For some reason, he felt if I was in close proximity to him, I was safe. He seemed to believe this even as he lost well over 50 pounds and wheeled an oxygen tank everywhere. His image of himself as my protector held firm. I must admit, I love that he never doubted his ability to defend me from whatever nefarious forces he thought were out there.

As I would leave, he’d say, “It went too fast.” My pat response, “But we had a whole day together. Isn’t that wonderful?” And he would always respond, “Yes, we did. A perfect day.”

So when my sister called to tell me that hospice felt he was entering the “active dying” stage, a stage I hope you don’t have to know the particulars of any time soon, I knew I had better get to him as quickly as possible.  I had missed my mother’s passing and wanted him to know I was there to hold his hand.

I got there late in the evening. A family friend was watching my little one and my sister left to get some much-needed sleep. I whispered in his ear when I arrived, “Dad, it’s me. I’m here. I love you and I’m here.” It was really all I wanted him to know. And even though he was unconscious, he indicated he had heard me. A fleeting look of relief seemed to cross his face; now I know why. He was waiting for me.

I took the overnight shift, alternating between whispering to him and trying to catch some shuteye in the lounger next to his bed. We didn’t know if he would be with us for hours or days, and I wanted to be sure I was there for the marathon. I wanted to see him through this, as he’d seen me through so many of my own tests in life. I wanted to see him through this in a way I hadn’t been able to see him through the previous months.

If you’ve ever watched a loved one die, you may recognize what I did that night. I gazed at his face, his hands, the shape of him under the blanket, trying to memorize it all. Trying to commit it to memory so indelibly that neither time nor death would rob me of the memory of it.  It’s still with me, five months later.

I can’t say the same for my mother. She died almost two years ago and it pains me that I am losing the sound of her voice. I used to be able to replay it in my head but it’s getting harder and harder to do. Perhaps that is why I’ve saved a voicemail from my father and continue to play it when I need to hear his voice. It was left on my birthday. My sweet sister dialed for him (he never did master the art of the cell phone) and he said five simple words: “Party big. Love you, Peanut.” Maybe I save it because I just need to hear someone call me Peanut every so often. Whatever the reason, it reminds me of a love that is still real, but harder to feel across whatever divide his soul has crossed.

When morning arrived, so did another sister. I left reluctantly to get sleep and tend to my duties as a mother. I was back later that day and then again the next morning. Our time was broken into bits, but I didn’t care. I was lucky to have it. He opened his eyes only once, but saw me. Saw me calm, saw me comforting, saw the love that felt like it was just pouring out of me. It was enough.

The morning of his death, I had brought my youngest with me to say goodbye. He patted my father’s arm and hand as he had just a month or so prior on Father’s Day. He told Dad he loved him, and he sat in the room to read silently next to my father’s bed. We gave them a few minutes alone so my son could have this last gift of time.

A few minutes later, my sister and I took my son down the hall for a quick game of chess and lunch. We were giving Dad some privacy as he was about to be bathed in bed. Before we left the room, we kissed him. I told him we loved him so much and would be right back after his bath.  He was still ruddy in the face, breathing peacefully and looking like himself, although unconscious.  Science told me he was with us for a day or two longer.

But my father had other ideas. No more than a couple of minutes after we left his room, his aide ran down the hall, yelling for my sister and I to come to him immediately. As I began to run down the hall, reassuring my son I’d be back momentarily, I really still didn’t think it was the end. And yet, when I reached the room, there he was—completely drained of color, as he would look in the casket several days later.

I provide the detail only because it was a purposeful death. He went from his warm, fully alive self to leaving us in a split second.  My father, a gentleman to the end, had waited for us to leave before he agreed to go. And he had given me almost exactly 24 hours of time with him, scattered as it was over a couple of days. Dad had allowed me to hold his hand and whisper to him of God not waiting on the mountaintop for the weary traveler, but meeting him on the final climb to escort him home.

I know God met my father on this climb. But I have a feeling Dad asked him for a bit of extra time—time he knew I sorely needed to get to him and spend one last perfect day. For that, I’m grateful to both of my fathers—the human and the divine.

As he took his last breath, my sister and I were by his side. It was peaceful. Sacred. A privilege I’ll never take for granted. To witness the ushering of a soul into God’s arms is not what some would call a perfect end to a perfect day. But for my father and me, it was. If he could have spoken, I think he would have said, “It went too fast.” And I would have answered, “But we had a whole day together. Isn’t that wonderful?” And of course he would have answered, “Yes, we did. A perfect day.”


53 Comments Add yours

  1. modestly says:

    Beautiful thoughts , and I wish I had had as strong a bond with my own father – sadly I had lost that nearly two decades before he died, unexpectedly of complications following a common procedure in hospital. so memories of him are not what I would choose – my family ties are connections that bring a certain amount of pain as well as reassurance.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, I’m sorry. That sounds very painful. I do know that you’re not alone. So many people have family connections that are a mixed bag. I think so many times we look for clean emotions around our families. And the reality is that most people fall somewhere on a spectrum that has more shades of gray.

      1. modestly says:

        Life is definitely a mixed bag – as I know you appreciate from your writing. I am currently listening to a wonderful series of lessons from Stoicism – I find it helps!

  2. I’m just reading this now and what a beautiful story! What a wonder memory to have with your father. ❤️

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Rachel🙏🏻. I have so many wonderful memories with him and am so thankful. But yes – being able to be there for his final hours meant the world and more.

  3. What a beautiful story Kristine, so pleased you managed to be with your dad and embrace him so you’ll never forget! My dad waited for me to arrive this last January, on my birthday! I don’t believe we ever get over it, or would want to❤️ I actually feel closer to him now than before, living across the seas for most of my lifetime. AND I’m so glad he went before this dreaded virus… how cruel life is now not being able to be with them❤️ Thankyou for sharing your very special moments… much love to you x Barbara x

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Barbara! I’m so glad that your dad didn’t have to deal with this virus. And I love that you feel closer to him, even though his energy has moved on from his human body. That’s such a gift!

  4. I’m so very sorry for your loss. How wonderful to have spent that day with your dear father … I have tears flowing.

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m sorry to have made you cry! And yet, it’s been eight years. I do still feel his love. And for that I am very grateful. He is so a part of me because he helped shape who I am. Hugs to you. I hope you are looking forward to a gorgeous summer on your beautiful farm!

  5. Masha says:

    WOW so great that you have that recording, a sweet something to keep forever. I never had a chance to say goodby to my father, he passed suddenly when I was 13, it’s been many years now, I don’t think of him every day like I used to, but in a way I do, in a way I feel him with me all the time. So sorry for your loss xo

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, Masha, I’m sorry. You had far less time with him than I’m sure you wanted. And yet, I love that you feel him with you all the time. That’s what matters. That the love remains. Thank you for your kind words, as always.

  6. In this age of the pandemic: “Everybody should have what I had. It makes what’s hard still hard, but easier to bear.”
    I’ve often thought that too. Your shared experiences are relatable. My heart goes out to all those who are going through the hard times of end-of-life and grieving during this Pandemic…

    1. candidkay says:

      Welcome to my blog and thank you so much for joining in the swim. I appreciate your thoughtful comment :-).

  7. Librarylady says:

    Wow, what a tear jerker. Very sweet post and tender memories. My Dad gave me several perfect days at the end. He knew he was sick long before I did, so made a point of spending more time with me. I thought it odd that he suddenly wanted to antique store hopping and grocery shopping with me. But later I realized what was going on and cherished the memories of time well spent with my Dad.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, I love that he knew that he needed to make memories while he could. So many of us wait too long and by the time we realized the memories need to be made, our loved ones are too sick to make them. I’m so glad you had that special time with him.❤️

  8. markbialczak says:

    My heart goes out, Kay.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, Mark. Eight years since dad died and I got divorced. Nine years since mom died. That’s a lot of change in a couple of years, but onward and upward. And the love remains.

  9. Anne Peters says:

    And to this day I still tear up when I think of mom & dad’s passing.

  10. Inkplume says:

    Simply beautiful.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you so much. I appreciate the virtual visit!

  11. Amy says:

    Oh, my friend…. This poignant essay aches with honesty and love and beauty. I am quite without words to express how deeply your words have touched me…. Thank you for sharing once again this most tender of memories of your father. What a wonderful man he must have been… Sending you my love~ x o

    1. candidkay says:

      Your words about your own father always bring back memories of mine :-). I think we had similar experiences. Lucky us. Thank you so much for the kind words and I’m sending a huge hug through the ether to you.💕

  12. Karen Lang says:

    Beautiful post 💚💕

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! I’m glad it touched you😊.

  13. Su Leslie says:

    I don’t believe in a god, so can derive no comfort from notions of a “better place” but I do totally recognise in your story some of my own experiences. The thread between the dying and their loved ones can be incredibly strong and when it’s severed at the “right time” you really can see that in the faces of the dead. They have made their last choice and given their last declaration of love.

    1. candidkay says:

      I think we all need someone in that moment—and the millions of moments leading up to it. Was so happy I could do that for him.

  14. What a perfect last day with your father. As I read, my thoughts flashed back to 2012 when my own father passed away. He was across country, home with caregivers around the clock. Because he refused to talk about death and dying, terrified of what could be next (light’s out and then nothingness), I wrote him a letter that included letting him know he’d raised capable kids who, no matter what, would look after our mother. Just after he received the letter he began the lightning fast decent. I got a call from his caregiver who told me she thought he didn’t have much longer. Because he was the proverbial cat with nine lives, and then some, I wasn’t too worried. And because of the distance between us, and my responsibilities at home I couldn’t go rushing off to be with him. About two days after he read my letter he died. As hard as it was, he’d lived in pain for too many years. And the burdens he carried were too heavy. After he died, he let me know he was now free.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, your letter must have been the permission he needed. That is so lovely. And such a generous gift to give to someone. Sending you hugs across the miles. I know it’s been a while since they both passed. But sometimes the Reminders make me feel it all over again.

      1. Thanks. And yes, I believe it was the permission Dad needed. His sense of duty when it came to taking care of our mentally ill mother kept him here long after his body was done.

  15. bone&silver says:

    Oh that was stunning in its awareness and honesty, thank you for reblogging. I’m so glad you got to experience that with your Dad- mine died suddenly overseas so no precious send off here- but I hope I die like that with my only son beside me, pouring me out the love you describe 🙏🏼
    Well done for giving him a good death’ ❤️ A worthy reblog indeed. Blessings on you and your Dad always, G

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you so much. Really kind words. And you’re not alone in hoping that you can die similarly. I have often thought of what a comfort we must’ve been to my dad. And I really hope I have the same when I pass :-).

  16. Hi. You wrote a beautiful story, one very much worth re-posting. Losing parents is very difficult. We never really get over it.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks so much. I do believe I originally posted in the days when I was lucky to have anyone clicking on my blog–so I hope it gives some people solace now. Sometimes it just helps to know you’re not alone.

  17. mydangblog says:

    This was so beautiful–thank you for sharing:-)

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you for reading! I’m honored When you take the time out of what I know is a busy schedule.

  18. Michelle C. says:

    Kristine this was beautiful. It brought back memories of my mother’s last day in hospice and thankfully she waited for me to arrive before departing. What a true gift to be present when a parent is about to enter the gates of heaven and to be able to escort them. So beautifully written and a nice reminder of what is important during this holiday season.

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m so glad it made you feel, Michelle. And I’m glad you were there with her. I’m sure she was wonderful, as you are.

  19. says:

    remind me never to read 1 of your blogs again before bed as I could not stop crying – it was beautiful but brought out all sorts of emotions again that I have kept tamped down & only let leak out in small bits — i have still not recovered from moms death = love you

  20. My experience with my mother was similar. It was sacred and beautiful. She was lying peacefully in a hospice. After hours of silence and incoherence, she suddenly looked up, smiled, nodded her head and made her journey to heaven. I cherish this story and the privilege of knowing that the Lord took her hand and escorted her somewhere unimaginable and glorious. Thank you for putting your story to words and sharing with people that death can be a gift.

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m hoping this brought back memories in a way that wasn’t too painful . . .

  21. Tara says:

    Absolutely beautiful Kristine.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, Tara. Glad you felt it.

  22. Traci Millea says:

    Thank you Krisse for sharing wth us such a beautifully written and intimate time you had with your father. Truly a gift to have been with him in those last moments. Something you can always treasure and keep in your heart. And now You have touched the hearts of those who have read it. Hugs and Smooches darling!

  23. This is the most beautiful blog entry I’ve read on WordPress, truly. I can’t stop crying. I’m so sorry for your loss but you describe your emotions so poignantly and articulately. I butt heads with my father all the time–sadly I am a little clone of him– but this has stopped me in my tracks that I can go to his house any time I want and shoot the breeze with him…you don’t get that chance.

    Again, please accept my condolences and know your family will be in my prayers. You really do have a gift for words ❤

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Annie, for the kind words. I’m glad my writing touched you–that’s what it’s all about, right? Enjoy those visits with your dad. These are the times you’ll want to remember, trust me.

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