My mother is sitting on the couch opposite me sewing up my younger daughter’s jacket, which is actually her sister’s old jacket. My younger daughter is sleeping, even though it is past noon. My older daughter is back in LA visiting her boyfriend after spending a few days with us. It would be a lovely tableau, except it is a very incomplete picture. My father is not sitting on the other end of either couch reading the Sports section because he passed away on Monday morning.
When I bought our tickets to fly down to Florida last week he was still at home; by the time my younger daughter and I arrived on Friday, he was in ICU waiting to be brought to hospice later that evening.
On Sunday his rabbi told us what a wise rabbi had once told him: at a certain point, you no longer pray for healing but for a peaceful journey. It appears that that is what he had. A peaceful journey for a man who was peaceful his entire life.
Both of his parents had emigrated from Russia with their families when they were young. There is one story of hiding in the back of a hay wagon. Who knows? No one talked of those adventures much. The focus was more on raising their three children, who in turn raised their children, who are now raising their children.
The wavy shock of my father’s red hair had rusted over the years and some on top was lost to two sessions of chemo. But his carrot-top days were still evident in back. As was his sweet tooth. He had not been able to eat for a few weeks due to his esophagael cancer (it was detected in late October), but while we were there we were able to feed him some Key Lime pie, raspberry jello, vanilla ice cream, and he could feed himself some watermelon and cherry candies.
What a thing it is to see a father die. But we spent our last day with him, and his last full day, watching football in the afternoon. It is a thing, though, to know that one’s father was such a good person. Everyone who came to his funeral or came to sit shiva with my mother or who called spoke of a man who was always sweet and soft-spoken. The man who told my mother after a couple of weeks of dating that he wanted to be together “for life” did just that for almost 55 years.
And now my mother will have a different life. And we who loved him will have a different life. But his kindness and gentleness will always be a part of our lives.