The Long Good-Bye

Thomas J Duffy, Jr

Dad died on November 21, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, so we delayed his memorial Mass until November 28, a week later.  Since Dad is from Concord, NH, we couldn’t bury him until Dec. 2, 11 days after he had died.

I learned when you lose someone near and dear to you, like Dad was to me, this delay puts life on hold, since it’s really hard to concentrate on work or anything intellectual. Plus you have to deal with changing all the heir’s financials around according to what makes sense, and to visit financial institutions in hopes that these changes are made correctly, as it’s really easy to make mistakes on the Internet. We are not estate planners any more than we were medical professionals taking care of Dad, although my brother, Steve, came pretty darn close with no medical training!

My sleeping patterns changed and I found I couldn’t sleep well, and had lengthy and deep nightmares about Dad every night, and woke up sweating in the early morning, when it was still dark. It took a while to fall back to sleep, and it was not that delicious sleep that relaxes the body and the mind. When I shared this with friends, they told me this is not unusual. The first night after we buried Dad, I slept pretty well, and didn’t wake up sweating in the morning, although I was incredibly anxious.

In our culture we don’t talk about death enough: we’re so wedded to birth, babies and youth that it seems like we avoid talking about the side effects of death to dear friends and family, and this delays our ability to pick up the pieces and live anew.  Everyone will die: why do we avoid this? It’s such a healthy discussion to engage in, and can be so constructive, and helps reduce the pain of loss.

I have overheard people say that someone’s passing was beautiful: I did not have this experience with Dad. I felt like he suffered terribly at the end as he gasped for air until we figured out the right blend of morphine and oxygen. But his end was not beautiful: it was more of a relief for all of us since we hated to see him labor so hard the way the body does until it breathes its last.  My gut was totally wrenched up and I was practically hyperventilating. Just after he died I realized that I was breathing normally again, which is when I noticed how I had been stressed out in empathy.

Until we got Dad into the ground, I just couldn’t move out of dwelling on his last week of life, and what I would have done differently if only I had known better. Just today the day after we finished our long good-bye, I am not dwelling on that and am starting to remember the good times more, which is what I would much rather do. For about 48 years of my life with him, Dad was in great shape, mentally and physically.  Spiritually I felt like I could connect with him on some level almost until his dying moments, and that was very beautiful.

This blog is about cooperative intelligence, and I realize that I must have gotten this idea by watching my Dad live his life. He was not a collaborative player: he was cooperative. It was all about helping the other guy: always! He was not about drawing attention to himself and looking for praise when he did wonderful things, whether excellent work or helping the less fortunate.  He had such a gift to make you feel like you were his favorite person. He would often say, “you’re the best” or words to that affect with the accompanying body motion.  Several people said he had told him this, and when they heard that he had used the same words and actions with others, they jokingly said…”I thought I was the only one he thought that way about. Not really….” But Dad did make people feel important because he told them how great they were, and he listened, and inspired them to do wonderful things!

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5 Responses

  1. This is a wonderful tribute to your father! I suspect that you will find times during the holidays when you want to talk to him, and I found with my dad that you still can. Just find a quiet place and say what’s on your mind. It will help.

    I also found it helpful to put a photo of him in a conspicous place, so you can see it as you go through your day. It helps make him present.

    Wishing you peaceful holidays!

    Dale

  2. I agree with Dale, it’s a wonderful tribute to your father; and I recently read on a blog that everyone in the next life has super high-speed broadband.

    Alan

  3. I’m pretty sure I’m your dad’s favorite
    Love, Sherrie

  4. I am just now getting to this and reading it after several days. What a wonderful tribute and what a wonderful man. I have you on my mind and in my prayers in this the holiday season.

    melanie

  5. The holidays are tough without Dad, but it does help that I have many pictures of him, and am putting together a memorial album of his life! Thanks everyone for your caring comments. No, Sherrie, I’m his favorite…Ha Ha

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