To Everything, There is a Season

By Erika Hoffman

I read the cards. I smell the flowers. I browse the e-mails, kind and concerned. The phone rings. I answer it with a voice so small that it surprises even me. I hear a man say: “Let the memories begin,” and I wonder who this person is who begins his condolences this way. Then, the voice continues: “Your family has been selected to receive an all inclusive…” I hang up after pressing “two” to be removed from the list. I place the receiver back in its cradle. With chin in hand, I glance out the window at the smiling sun and the trees swaying as cars drive past, and I think: The world goes on as if nothing has changed. Yet everything has changed.

Sometimes, I feel silly when I tell folks how old I am and how old Dad was. “What did you expect?” they look like they want to ask. He‘d had a stroke. I knew the odds. Yet, he seemed to be recovering. He was supposed to be moved from the hospital to rehab at a nursing home the next day. I was preparing for this phase of my care giving. I was pondering the adjustments I’d make to the house when he got released from the care facility. I was thinking about options, and if I’d need to hire someone to stay with him when I couldn’t be home. I was preparing myself mentally for this adjustment in parental care giving. I didn’t consider his dying.

I recall long ago when I was young how sad my father-in-law was when his own father passed at the ripe old age of 96. I recollect how astonished I felt witnessing his grief. I thought about how long a life my hubby’s grandpa had lived and didn’t everyone have to die someday? I looked at my husband’s grandpa’s death with objectivity.

Now I see things differently. Just because you are old and just because your parent has beaten the actuarial odds – neither fact diminishes your grief. If anything, it is compounded. You’ve had more years with him to know him through your adult eyes. Or, as a buddy. You may have had the experience of caring for your elder in your own home, and he may have now seemed like your child. You have shared simple pleasures with him. If your elderly parent lived with you as my dad did, then he is part of your daily routine and now you search for him. You see the dent in the armchair where he sat or the spot on the sofa’s back where he laid his head or the crossword puzzle lying on the end table not yet finished with pencil posited across it, waiting – waiting for his return. You see his cap and jacket on the hat tree. You see his slippers by his bed; his clothes in the closet. You still have his winter coat to pick up at the dry cleaners. Things look the same. Yet all is different and never will be the same again.

The cards help. The bouquets help. The calls asking you out to lunch help, but you don’t want to go. You feel sluggish. Not depressed, just sad. You miss his asking you for a glass of water or to help him locate his cane or his asking you to turn on the TV as you watch him fiddle with a remote held upside down in his gnarled hands. You flip on his favorite channel, and he thanks you and studies you as if you are a technical wizard. You remember all these little things. Now, your eyes water. You sniffle.

Today you have chores to do but not those banal ones you complained about before. Now you have the business duties that come with death. They weigh on you as busy work that constantly reminds you of your loss. You hate how you felt aggrieved before because you had to do  all the work for your elder, and now you think you’d gladly strap on the backpack of care giving if you could only hear his voice again, see him smile again, and if you could once more say, “Good night Dad. I’ll see you in the morning.” You’d hear him say: “Okay, Erika. See you then.” And he’d painstakingly mount the stairs.

Tears stream down. Your friends tell you, “You did everything you could. You will have no regrets.” No regrets except the big one – that he is gone. And it is then that you open your Bible and you read Matthew 5:4KJV: “Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.” I sit with the book in my lap. I know the words are true. The Bible says there is a season for everything, and I know that also is true and a season will come when I can once again laugh remembering Dad’s stories and jokes. When I remember then, his presence will be there for me. But now, my lips turn downward. I feel a heavy heart, and my shoulders sag. God gave my dad a peaceful death with me by his side holding his hand. Dad got the death he deserved. God was gentle with him. And, I thank God for that blessing and for His giving me the kind of father that everyone wants. I am a lucky gal.

About this writer

  • Erika Hoffman Erika Hoffman views most travel experiences as educational experiences and sometimes the lessons learned are revelations about oneself.

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