The anti-bedsore mattress puffs in and out, the heaviest breathing in the room. He is framed now by metal bars of the hospital bed, cold to the touch. My father’s face has sunken into something I barely recognize, but still, his cheekbones retain their elegant architecture. I touch them, trace my hand around his sturdy brow, run my fingers through his silver hair.

A sticker by my bathroom mirror reminds me that, “Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of body.”  Not death, I learned this week.  Death is sheer physicality, the body’s brutal work.  First his sharp doctor’s mind gone haywire under Alzheimer’s cruel spell, then a hip fracture, then this fierce, swift descent into emaciated skin and bones I barely recognize.  It happened so fast.  While much of my focus was on my mother’s health, on work and whats-for-dinner?, and volleyball and soccer practices.

I’m practiced at tilling the emotional and spiritual depths of what illness, loss and living all means, dressing deep thoughts up with pretty words and ripe metaphor.  And yet it has nothing to do with blog posts and stringing sentences together, with whether I should have written “sunken” or opted for something more interesting, like “sallowed,” up there in the 3rd sentence. It comes down to a hospital bed in the condo’s guest bedroom.  A long, wrenching week as a strong heart and good lungs do the slow work of winding down.  Ambient music on the “Soundscape” cable channel, watching a concave chest rise and fall, holding a hand that still feels supple and able, a surgeon’s careful instrument.  Tender words whispered, memories shared, regrets visited and revisited and then somewhere, like a tear-wet tissue, like a last breath, dropped and let go.

In loving, complicated and dearest memory of Tom Wood — January 13, 1934 – September 2, 2010

~~ Stephanie

~ by Stephanie on 09/03/2010.

14 Responses to “Abrupt.Leaving.,Slowly”

  1. I am so sorry to hear that your father’s journey has ended! Your words describe so closely what I was feeling a year ago (my father Philippe Berthet passed away Aug 28, 2009) and I was holding his hand. Linette had just left his side to see about lunch and all I could say to him was “Daddy please stay with us, it’s time for lunch.” I insisted that he would love the green beans that I had just snapped! I begged him to stay with us just a little longer but he was tired and his hand just dropped just like your dad’s. You are in my thoughts and prayers!

  2. Stephanie, I am so sorry to hear of this. I am so sorry. My prayers and thoughts are with you. Sending comfort and hugs. What a beautiful woman you are — a real testament to your own mother and father.

  3. Oh Stephanie. I am so so very sorry. Your chronicling of his time here has been so breathtakingly beautiful, loving, poignant. Sending comfort. oxoxo

  4. You allowed a loving death for someone you loved.
    That is a holy thing.
    Let that give you comfort.

  5. May your heart, and the hearts of all who love him, be comforted day by day. Bless you.

  6. A moving and loving testimony to a man you so obviously loved.

  7. Stephanie, may God’s grace continue to sustain you in this time of loss. It is our hope that the stories and memories of years past become sources of healing, insight and comfort. With our love and prayers. Ellen and David

  8. Is it okay for a stranger to comment. A woman now in tears for your loss, for all of us, for life and it’s brief and endless.
    Prayers for you and yours.

  9. Stephanie, few people will grasp the true depth of your most touching words as well as those of us who were lifelong friends of your daddy. May he rest in peace and may peace soon find you.

  10. Stephanie,
    No words can easily express the complicated anguish of losing a parent, but they can serve as a symbol of your heart journey. Today I am sending loving thoughts to you and your family. May Grace surround you all.

  11. Stephanie, I echo the sentiments of sorrow for you. You described beautifully what I experienced in the last two days of my father’s passing as well. Thank you for doing so and honoring your Dad’s complete life. Love – Eleanor

  12. stephanie, debbie told me of your father’s death. i am so sorry. maybe we can walk and talk sometime. through all of this, i think about you often. love, rennie

  13. wow for both the post and the photo and the feelings shared

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