The Bittersweet Spot of Dying

I’d like to die in your house.

That’s all my father said. We were driving home from the hospital after one of his radiation treatments. We weren’t talking, just riding in silence as we did most days. So, I was shaken out of my driving reverie by the sound of his voice first. Then, the meaning of his words sank in. He was the quintessential man of few words. I was used to translating Sid-speak as I had done for most of my life. I knew the full meaning of those 7 words. “I’d like to die in your house” meant he was going to stay with me, my husband and my three little girls for whatever time he had left. It also meant he had no intention of going back to a hospital under any circumstances. Finally, and I mean that literally, finally he meant he would pass away in my house. To insure that, he basically never left my house. He wasn’t taking any chances that he might accidentally die somewhere else. So he just stayed in for the next 7 weeks until his expiration date.

But this post isn’t about how sad it was to lose my dad. It’s about how sweet it was to spend that time together. How wonderful it was to share that poignant time when you actually almost know your expiration date so much so that you can hear the clock ticking. For you caregivers out there, I know the pain and the hard work you are dealing with. But I also know that there is a reward. Seek it out now, while there is still time.

My dad’s last days were beautiful for all of us. We played with my kids, we played cards, we watched movies, we sat outside and marveled at sunsets, we talked a bit, but not too much. (See above about the man of few words. That didn’t change even with his knowing his words were numbered.) I had a chance to ask a few questions I had been wondering about and he had the chance to give me information previously withheld. He had been a private guy but maybe towards the end he felt he no longer had to protect his privacy. Secrets kept and feelings held back could be set free and he did a bit of that. We had time to share things we had put off because life just kept us too busy to spend time doing stuff that didn’t seem to matter much. We looked at his coin collection, taking the time to do the research on some of the coins we wanted to know more about. Previously, those searches had to wait for another day when there was more time. But that day never came and now, knowing there really wasn’t ever going to be more time, we just stopped putting it off and did it.

It can be lovely, spending the end of life with someone you love. Yes, you know you’re going to suffer their loss but don’t suffer it while they’re still here. Do the little stuff, ask the questions, enjoy the waning days, look for the moments to share and just be together. Don’t spend the whole time crying. You can do that later. While you can still find reasons to smile together, do so. You’re in the sweet spot, enjoy it, it won’t last forever but the memory will.IMG_3339

16 Responses to “The Bittersweet Spot of Dying

  • Debby, thanks for checking out my blog and following. I’m so glad it led me here to your blog. Your writing is wonderful and I love this moving post about your dad. Looking forward to following you and reading much more!

    • I am touched by your sentiment. I hope you keeping enjoying what you read here and thanks for the huge compliment about my writing. Total gratitude here!

  • Beautiful post, Debby. What a wonderful gift you had spending that time with your Dad. So many times death is so unexpected that no one has the chance to spend quality time with their loved one. I’m so glad that you did. Something to always treasure.

    • You are so right and I absolutely do treasure it. I never imagined that time could be loving and sweet and even fun in some moments. But it was and I hope others facing similar situations find a way to locate the goodness while they can. Thanks so much for your comment.

  • What a beautiful post Debby. You are so right about spending the last moments smiling and laughing; they are very precious and go so very quickly. I am glad that you all got to spend that time together, and your dad got his final wish. 🙂

    • Wouldn’t we all want to spend our last moments laughing or at least smiling with those we hold most dear?

  • With me it was the opposite way around.. I moved in with my Dad as did my sister.. We gave up our families for a time to take care of Dad who lived on his own by then.. He too had had enough of hospitals Chemo and prodding..
    He had Lung Cancer..

    We looked after him around the clock between us, and I too felt it a privilege and honour.. We laughed, we cried, and we all got to know each other over again.

    Being there and witnessing someone’s passing is far from sad.. I wrote about it somewhere on my blog.. The peace I saw upon his face replaced the pain and the struggles of breathing.. as each breath got further apart..

    Many thanks for connecting with my blog. You are a wonderful writer, and I hope to read more as I get time to explore your blog..

    Love and Blessings.. Sue x

    • My dad’s disease was also lung cancer and I wrote almost exactly the same words you did about the moment of death being more peaceful than scary. That struggle to breathe was one of the worst things I’ve witnessed. The peace was a relief and, honestly, seeing the passing from life to death reduced my fear of death quite significantly.

  • A wonderful tribute to your dad’s last weeks. You gave him what he wanted and you lived it to the best. Blessed were you to have the chance to do that for and with him Deb. My dad died suddenly while away on vacation, almost 25 years ago; much too young. I still shudder at the thought of that day I lost the closest family member in my life.:)

    • That shock resonates. Lost my mom the same way and I can feel it as if it were yesterday despite it being long, long ago. She was 63. I thought she was old but I’m almost that age myself now and I realize how wrong I was. Losing parents is so natural and yet feels so unnatural at the same time.

  • What a beautiful way to spend the last 7 weeks with your father. This was such precious time and your experience is a lesson for all of us to take time for what really matters. Bless you.

  • Hi Debby,
    You are an amazing writer and daughter. I’m glad to share in your thoughts, family and life, then and now!

  • Wow. This post had me tearing up from the first paragraph. What a lovely way to remember your father. It’s great that you had that time together, and he was able to feel so loved in his final days. That must have been an incredible gift.

    • It was exactly as you describe, incredible and a gift. Thanks so much for taking the time to share that with me. Love that you teared up. That wasn’t the goal but it makes me feel heard!

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