We grow up. We grow old. But the pain of loss never quite leaves our minds, our spirits, our hearts. It was thirty years ago today that my father passed to another existence after a painful death from Hodgkin’s Disease. I recall seeing him in the hospital bed, stomach expanded, unable to speak but making sounds of anguish from the intense pain he was feeling just hours before his death. I had to leave…I could not watch him suffer. I left my mother at his bedside and drove home literally blinded with my own tears, trying to expiate any sins, any pain he had left in the vestiges of his corporeal form. As I ran into the house and closed the door safely behind me, I cried out to God, “Please take him, don’t let him suffer anymore!” Truly, no sooner had I uttered those words than the phone rang. The hospital had called to say he had just passed away. I broke down to the floor on my knees.
Later, I wrote this poem in tribute to the days and nights both my mother and I cared for him, as he had wished, at home until we could no longer. We took turns – mornings and afternoons – keeping watch and going to work or in my case, university. The oxygen tent at home, the tears that would suddenly fall from his eyes made life almost a numbing routine for us. And of course, watching someone loved suffer remains always a slow deterioration of everything normal.
So as I prepare to leave this early morning for work in the semi-darkness, I choose to touch my father’s soul another time. I choose to try and connect through the feelings of familial love and all his sacrifice for me, for our family, for his life. And I end as I start, with this prose for him. Riposa in pace, papa.
Screaming eyes, wild with pain, breathing plastic and conscious tears, wordless noise, dripping blood
metastasized rising…to surface and give up a spirit.
That same spirit used to take me to baseball games,
call me “names” in jokes and jest, play a hell of a game of pool.
Still…to buy us presents under the tree.
Still…to relax with melting ice cream and smiles.
Just a dad, but he was mine.
Just the why…I can’t forget.
‘Cause his pain hurts me
For all the spirit is inside.
The “why” I live and seek to strive.
His spirit in memories as I die in them again and again.
They live in me and I in them as all is fulfilled .