Dad came home one last time..
Word Count: 1063
The Final Good-bye
By Donna Lowich
My beloved father, stricken with a bad heart attack not even a year earlier, was back in the hospital. He had had an “episode” early on a Saturday morning in May. His regular doctor was not available. So, in the emergency room the attending physician decided it would be best to keep Dad in the hospital overnight for observation.
We discussed it as a family, the family being my father, my mother, my sister and me. We thought about the fact that tomorrow would bring Mother’s Day, a day that my father celebrated with his usual zest, energy and love. Each year he sent a Mother’s Day card to my mother along with a variety of gifts he would present to her at breakfast. When my father achieved the title of “Pop-pop", then I, too, received the card and gifts. This would be my sister’s first Mother’s Day, having given birth to my nephew, Kenny, the previous December. Tomorrow, the plan was that we would all celebrate together.
But for now, we decided that the doctor was right, that Dad should stay in the hospital for observation. We would come early on Sunday morning to pick him up and take him back home with us.
We stayed with him the entire day while he was in the emergency room. In the evening, when he was finally settled into his room and visiting hours were over, we kissed and said our goodbyes. I looked back before I stepped out of the door and saw my father, sitting on the edge of the bed, waving goodbye, with the saddest look on his face that I had ever seen. It was a look that I remember to this day; it has never left me.
Early the next morning, it was 4:44, to be exact, when I awoke with a start. I must have dozed off for just a little while, because I couldn’t sleep all night, worrying about Dad. I was thankful that the phone hadn’t rung. Things must be OK at the hospital.
I was getting up out of bed when the phone rang. I rushed to grab the receiver. “Donna, the hospital called. Mom and I will meet you there.” I hung up the phone, in a panic. I told my husband, Walter, that I was going, and to take care of little Jeffrey until I got back.
I don’t remember much of the trip to the hospital. All I remember is rushing into the hospital. I met my mother and sister in the hallway, surrounded by a doctor and several nurses. It was too late. My Dad had suffered another heart attack, and he had passed on.
I could hardly believe what I was hearing. My knees felt weak, and I swayed a little. I sat down but my head was swimming with thoughts about the last time I had seen Dad as he waved goodbye that last time, not even twelve hours before.
I hadn’t been there when he needed me; I hadn’t been there to say goodbye. I felt lost and very alone.
I called Walter and told him I was coming home. After Jeffrey got up, dressed, and had breakfast, we went over to my mother’s house, where we called family members and friends to inform them of the terrible events of the past two days.
That evening, once the house had quieted down and most people had left after paying their respects, there were several incidents that still remind me to this day that my father had come back home one last time to say goodbye. He couldn’t leave us without doing that, of that I am very sure.
I walked into the living room and sat down on the sofa. My hand was at my side, resting on the cushion. All of a sudden, I felt a sensation around my hand, as if someone were holding it. Dad! Of course! He was holding my hand to let me know that he was OK, that everything would be OK. He was being the same comfort and strength to us, his family, that he had always been.
As I sat there trying to comprehend all of this, Walter came in, carrying Jeffrey, who was 2-½ years old at the time. He walked to the center of the room, and, with a puzzled look on his face, said, “I just heard your father calling me…”
We would talk of this later, and contemplate what had just happened to us. But for now, we had to go home and get Jeffrey to bed. We would return in the morning.
But Dad was not done yet.
In the car, Jeffrey was a little fussy, tired and upset. All at once he quieted down. I looked back to see why he had gotten so quiet all of sudden. Jeffrey’s eyes were closing, and he said “The breeze, the breeze is all around me.” Then he fell asleep.
The strange thing was, the windows in the car were all rolled up. There was no breeze, at least none that Walter and I could discern.
Still, Dad hadn’t finished his visit…
The next morning, we were all in the car, with Jeffrey in his carseat in the back seat.
We pulled out of the driveway; no one was speaking.
Jeffrey broke the sad silence. “Know what, Mommy?”
I turned in my seat to smile at my little boy who was the apple of his Pop-pop’s eye. “What, honey?”
Jeffrey smiled. It was not the normal mischievous grin that he almost always wore, but rather, it was more of a contented smile at the memory. “I saw Pop-pop last night…”
I turned to look at him as directly as I could.
He nodded his head vigorously. “He came into my room last night. He said, ‘I love you, Jeffrey’ and then he closed the door.”
Then, with no further discussion, Jeffrey turned his head to one side and was soon fast asleep.
Dad had certainly returned to say his goodbyes, reassuring us that he was happy and at peace. I miss having him here, but his visits to us that day have let me know many, many times that he is still with us and loves us. There is great peace and comfort in that.
Thank you, Daddy.
Thank you, Pop-pop.