It’s been a year since Donald passed away in his sleep. Only forty-years old, his death was expected and unexpected. Even when the dark shadows loom over someone in terminally ill health, their passing is still an unwelcome surprise.
We knew Donald did not have long to live. His failed kidneys contributed to his failing heart. But, we hoped.
No parent (and Donald was a son to me, not just a son-in-law) should outlive their child. No child should grow up without their father. My youngest girls were five and seven when their own father died. Life was unfair to them then, and it’s unfair to my granddaughters now without Donald in their lives. Why does God allow such a horrible thing to happen?
The answers I’ve found are mixed. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s whatever you want to believe. Belief in the unseen is the rock of faith. Mine has been shaken over the past years. Little crumbly bits of that rock have fallen to the ground.
But, I still believe in the afterlife. I believe we go on. I don’t know what form we take or even if we have a form. At some point in the future I’ll know Donald, Daddy and Mom, Dan and Chuck, and so many others who are already free of this life.
It has been a year. There is still grief for his passing. There is sadness because the rest of us continued with our lives and an entire year passed without Donald in the world. Some days it seems a short time has passed. Other days, it feels so long ago. After a death, time loses its structure and becomes a wobbly top.
I remember the good times and the bad times, the happy times and sad times, the well times and the unwell times. Donald was a good man who tried to do good things for his family and for those in need.
He was not perfect. Like the rest of us, there were things he should not have done. There were things he regretted. There were things he wished he could do over again.
But, the core of Donald was good. He loved us and would do anything for family. He proved himself a good son, over and over. He sacrificed his health when he should have been taking better care of himself. He did this for family.
Donald tried to protect his close and extended family, from internal and external forces. He tried to do right and keep his loved ones safe. He died looked forward to the next day when he would visit his wife in the hospital.
Something inside him, not consciously, knew his time was ending. He was adamant that I be there for his wife (my daughter) when she had her surgery. “I’m scared, Ma,” he kept telling me.
I look back now and wonder if his fear for his wife included fear for himself. He may have subconsciously felt the end was imminent. And maybe, also subconsciously, he trusted and wanted me to be there when he crossed over.
The night after her surgery when we went back to their house, everything was normal. It was late and we were all tired. He helped his daughter with her homework while I fixed her school lunch. We said good night.
Was it a good night? Not for me. It was restless and I kept telling the dawn to hurry up.
When I found him the next morning, his face was peaceful and his body was relaxed in a way I rarely saw him. The image is still strong in my mind. It will stay with me until my own time ends.
I am grateful that he had one more day with his family. I’m grateful that I was first to gently touch his face and say goodbye. I am grateful I was there for such an important event in his life. I am grateful.
One breath in, one last breath out.
Donald, your earthly presence is missed, though we feel your spirit around us. In the midst of our sadness, we rejoice that you are in your heavenly home.
Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace.