windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (ocean heart)
I didn't get my brother's phone calls, I was sick and had turned my phone to silent. Yesterday afternoon, though, I got an email from Daniel that I needed to call my brother. I called him and he said, "Oh, hey Rachel. How are you doing?" and I said, "I'm alright, sick though. Is something wrong?" and he said, "Yes, something is wrong. Dad passed away."

As I understand it, staff at the assisted living facility he's at found him yesterday morning, having died in his bed. The coroner expects it is a cardiac issue, and given my father's medical history that is very likely. He was 69 years old.

My father weathered (and at times miraculously survived) a series of health crises. He has been code blue and resuscitated, on ventilators and then revived. We have sat at his hospital bed, in vigil, more than once and in more than one city. It is just unbelievable that he is gone, truly and irrevocably gone, and we didn't even get a phone call as warning. It feels like there has been a mistake. I didn't know that our last phone call was going to be our last.

He was really down last week. He only picked up my phone call because I left a rambling message that began with "Dad, are you there? If you're there, pick up! Pick up, pick up, pick up! Well, I'll tell you about me..." He hadn't seen much of my brother and was isolating himself in his room. He was having all his meals delivered so he didn't have to get out of bed or socialize with anyone. I bullied him, albeit good-naturedly, to take a shower, put on fresh clothes, and to take his next meal in the cafeteria with the rest of the residents of the assisted care facility. He said something about how he had nothing in common with those old people, those infirm and forgetful. I lashed back, in disbelief at his snobbery, saying he had everything in common with those people--he also had trouble moving around, needed care, was in poor health. (It turns out they all outlived him.) He said he had to go to the bathroom and he'd talk to me later. He was cagey, never promised to get out of bed, and I said, "Okay, well call me back if you want to talk."

Those were the last words I ever spoke to my Dad. His spirits did improve, though, and he went to dinner at my brother's mother-in-law's house on Saturday and then ran errands with my brother on Sunday. Things were fine, we never expected to lose him this week, no matter how fragile we knew his health to be.

I wish I'd been kinder, in my words and in my thoughts. I wish I'd known the last time we talked was going to be the last time. I wish he'd gotten to see our new home, the one we'd be staying in here in Florida. I wish he'd been able to go to Disney World with us, to experience it with his grandchildren after so many adventures there with his children. I wish his life had been better and more fulfilling. It is tragic that he died after decades of waiting for renewed health in order to live. The tragedy wasn't his death, as that was something he yearned for as a perfect respite from suffering, but in the waste of his life and his potential all the years before. What a shame, what a shame, what a shame how much mental illness stole from us all.

I was digging through boxes of old photographs, looking for something appropriate for the obituary or the visitation. A letter from my father, written on the back of a piece of church bulletin dated July 15, 2002, fell out onto the table and was overlooked until I'd repacked the rest of the box. His scrawled handwriting leaps off the page. It wasn't one of his cruel letters, but one of his kind. It says, in part,

"You are very special and a wonderful daughter--I am proud of you! If you get a little discouraged, just get healthy and think of Michener's quote on character!!!!"

(Which, with a little Googling, I believe is this quote from my birth year--"Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth times.")

He went on to say, "(never give up, you have great genes) (you have Viking and Scottish Highlander blood--great potential) (not to mention Irish grit and determination) (BRAINS +)".

He wrote about Vietnam after that before closing:
"LOVE,
FOREVER,
DAD."

It was kind of an extraordinary find yesterday, a letter I never remember receiving saying everything you'd want a Dad, forever gone, to have said.

He was so sick, so, so sick, and yet I know that he loved me. He really did.

IMG_6931

~*~
I had no idea how devastating his loss would be. I couldn't have imagined that I'd be surprised when he died, that it'd be so sudden, so unannounced, so final.

IMG_8764
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (nightwalk)
The familiar track winds down, through the roots of the World Tree and deep into the earth's silent shadows. I cross a forest of gray-tones, following an ashy path towards a flickering silver-blue fire. It is heatless, an otherworldly feature of the Underworld and the frequent meeting place, in meditation, of Death and I.

No matter when I visit, the god is waiting for me. He always has time for visitors.

New Moon Meditation under the cut... )
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (sacred)
In Lieu of Flowers: A Conversation for the Living by Nancy Cobb

I've been completely charmed and spiritually boosted by this slim little volume that I found in the death and dying section of Myopic. I wanted to highlight passages and write in the margins and transfer at least a tenth of it full-form into my Book of Shadows. Come to find, in one throw-away comment towards the end, that the author is a pagan. It is delightful and comforting--treating death as the everyday, everyman experience that it is and celebrating the love that continues on between those who die and those who are left behind.

I think everyone I know should read this. It is also the perfect book as a resource for those interested in priestessing through transition.

A few quotes I wanted, particularly, to share:

"Write as if you were dying. At the same time, write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case." Annie Dillard. (Cobb 84).

"At what point and for how long our lives intersect is far less important than what transpires when they do." (Cobb 110)

And finally, a longer quote from a professor of divinity at Oxford University that I would want read at my own memorial service, if you should ever have the opportunity:

Death is nothing at all--I have only slipped away into the next room. I am I, and you are you. Whatever we were to each other, that we still are. Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way you always used. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without the ghost of a shadow on it. Life means all that it ever meant...there is absolutely unbroken continuity. I am waiting for you--somewhere near just around the corner.
All is well.
-Henry Scott Holland (Cobb 55).

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December 2015

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