As we sat in the room silently weeping, I watched my mom place her hand on his heart. He had battled cancer bravely for six years, and his body finally was giving in. I watched through tears as he slowly breathed his last breaths and slipped away to walk the streets of gold. Mom cried as he left her. I know that the vows “till death do you part” were spoken, but I surmised that this was not the case. They will never part. Her memories of their 57 years of marriage would keep him in her heart always.
86 years of a life is long. His 86 years were truly lived. As I held his hand, I thought back on all the times he held mine. When I was little walking around an amusement park or holding me in a pool as I learned to swim. Guiding me on my first two-wheeler and then those strong hands letting go with a push and an encouraging word. Pointing to an equation as he patiently went through math with me so I could understand. Gripping the side of the car while teaching me to drive. Swinging to a song as we danced across the floor and then, years later, watching those same hands play patty-cake and peek-a-boo with my baby.
This man who is my Dad will also always remain in my heart. Heaven may have him now, but we will always keep that part of him that lives in our memories. Looking back brings bittersweet moments. I know that I won’t be able to see his eyes sparkle when reminiscing about his childhood. Or his days as a young, brave bomber pilot. He is whom Tom Brokow wrote about in the book The Greatest Generation.
Even as he grew older and frail, he enjoyed his life. Just before his 86th birthday, he came to visit us on Princess Cays. Seeing him sit on my front porch tapping his toes to the sounds of the Rum Runner band and waving as people walked by brought such joy to me. As always, he offered a friendly smile and hello. Another memory: Each time I moved he and Mom would come to help, and Dad always knew my neighbors before I did. The expression “never met a stranger” comes to mind.
I miss my Dad. I will forever miss his smile, his asking me about the weather, how my son and husband are, do I need anything. For 54 years of my life, I had the most wonderful example of love to emulate. I am blessed to have had him so many years. I will regret not having him more. The circle of life has ended for Dad, and I know he is at peace and no longer suffering. People keep telling me it takes time, but I know that my heart will always ache. As the days and months and years go by, it may be less, but the loss is permanent.
So until I too reach the Pearly Gates, I will love, cherish, and remember him.