It’s been two weeks, and I still cannot believe that it happened. Something felt off when I tried calling you for two days straight with no answer. In a last ditch effort to reach you, I called your wife after one of my sessions. What I did not expect to hear was a frantic cry followed by her handing the phone over to a paramedic. This poor stranger shared the news with me. “Sir, I’m sorry, but your father has passed.”
I pulled over as fast as I could into the nearest turnoff. With my mouth agape, I took in those words. I hung up the phone. Almost immediately, tears streamed down my cheeks. I called mom to let her know what happened. She somehow made out what I was saying behind the muffled whimpers.
I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t. I pulled myself together enough to make the hour drive to your apartment. The only thing that kept me sane for that hour was the fact I had my own therapy appointment scheduled fifteen minutes after I called your wife. My therapist helped me keep it together and develop an initial plan for what I was about to get myself into.
I finally got there only to be greeted by your wife, mom, and a police officer. It turned out you were sick. I mean, we knew that you’ve been sick. We just didn’t think it would happen so soon. At the end of the day though, you just couldn’t put the bottle down. We all begged and pleaded with you to go into treatment or go to the hospital. However, you did not listen. You held out until the very end when your liver suffered its untimely demise.
They asked me, “Do you want to see him?” I won’t lie to you. I was worried about what I could be walking into. I thought hard about it. I wanted to see you one last time. I bravely walked into your apartment – alone – and down the hall to your bedroom. I gently pushed open the door, half anticipating that I would wake you. This time you didn’t wake up.
This can’t be real. You are kidding, right? This has to be some type of cruel prank. Fuck. This was real.
I looked down at you laying in bed and sat on the other side next to you. With the first bout of reality setting in, the feelings just all came out. I bawled my eyes out. I just sat there holding your hand saying how much I love you and miss you already. After a few minutes with you, I calmed down. You looked oddly… peaceful. For the first time that I could remember in years, you finally looked free of mental torment. In fact, you looked like you were sleeping. I knew you suffered long enough and that it was finally over.
I went back outside until the funeral home arrived. Once the initial arrangements were made, mom and I went to a local diner. I went in first, while she and her husband had a smoke outside. It didn’t dawn on me until the hostess sat me down that the last time I was at said diner was a year and a half ago with you at the booth across from where I was sitting. That hurt.
Mom and hubby finally came in. Mom could barely hold her composure. You two were together for 26 years, so I do not blame her. You both managed to stay friends for all those years afterward, which still boggles my mind.
For the week between your passing and your memorial, I had one goal in mind. I had to keep it together just enough. I took on 90% of the responsibility for your memorial. There was nobody else in the right state of mind to take it on. Trust me. Not gonna lie to you. It sure as hell wasn’t easy balancing out my own grieving process, family drama, and planning your memorial. Someone had to do it though.
So many family members and friends reached out after hearing the news about you. Despite your flaws, not one person had a bad thing to say about you. All they could talk about were the good times. Everyone brought up how much you made them laugh despite how you felt. They mentioned your kind demeanor to the point of fixing cars for free and taking people off the streets. Most importantly to me, every last person saw how great of a father you are and the kind of bond we have. I saw it firsthand in the outpouring of love and support.
It was still one of the hardest weeks of my life regardless. There were little signs that you were still there though. As I was writing your obituary at a local café, I got up to order a cookie and hot chocolate. Naturally, the total came out to $6.66. Even the barista said that it was the first time he saw that happen in months. This would be something you’d do to screw with me.
Then, two nights before your memorial, I had a dream where a bunch of family gathered in the kitchen at the old house. Out of nowhere, you popped up and said something to the tune of “I’m here.” I woke up from that dream and nearly cried.
The day of your memorial came. I couldn’t sleep for the life of me. I woke up somewhere around 4:30 in the morning. I laid in bed for a while and finally got myself together enough to go out to breakfast. While at breakfast, I wrote out my speech for you. I had out my little index cards and an erasable pen. In the midst of chowing down, your daughter texted me, “I can’t come today. I can’t do it.” I was immediately livid. All week I planned the memorial with her in mind and even woke up early to pick her up. Somehow the planets aligned again, or you sent me a sign from above. I scrolled through Facebook while being rightfully pissed off. I saw the below picture on my timeline, and it reminded me to stay focused on the day’s goal.
I wrapped up breakfast and drove the hour and some change to the funeral home. I got there super early compared to everyone else. You know how I am. I was greeted by the staff who showed me the space we had for your viewing and memorial. It was a beautiful hall with about fifty chairs lined up. The staff turned on the lights and set up some candles for you. Front and center was a table with you on it. To your left and right were flowers sent by your siblings who were unable to make the long drive.
I put out the big trifold I made the night before with old pictures and your obituary. I laid out a notebook for family and friends to put their memories. Everything was ready after about fifteen minutes, and I still had 45 minutes before the viewing event started.
Finally, it was just you and me.
I sat down on this white couch set up directly across from your beautiful little memorial. Melodic symphonies played in the background. It was finally a reality. Physically, you were no longer with us. All of the emotion I kept in check for the better part of a week finally came forth. I let my guard down willingly. I could just finally exist in the moment and be there with you and only you. I definitely needed that time with you, and, holy shit, I am grateful for it.
It was a solid twenty minutes before anyone came into the room. People gradually showed up over the next few hours. All I gotta say is that a lot of people loved you and will miss you. People I did not expect to come showed to pay their respects. Between the viewing, memorial, and dinner, it went great.
I wanted to see you out in the best possible way. One thing I learned from you and your side of the family was not to mourn, but rather to celebrate. That was just something we always did. That is exactly what I wanted for you as well. Everyone came out to celebrate the life of a great man and fantastic father.
Since the memorial, it has not been easy. I think about you all the time. I constantly want to call you between my sessions to tell you stories. I want to talk to you about a meal I just had that you might appreciate from your days of being a chef. I looked forward to having Thanksgiving dinner with you again this year. I can’t listen to Led Zeppelin without thinking of you since they were your all-time faves. What I will say to you though is although I lost you here in the physical world, I gained so much from you over the last thirty years. You taught me how to be a great man. You showed me the true definition of family. You always had my back. You provided for me as a child and with advice as a man. I have thirty years of memories, wisdom, and knowledge to carry on with me. For that, I thank you.
P.S. I love you, and you will be missed. I know you are still there watching over me. RIP.