When my father was getting ready to leave his body twenty years ago, he was very intentional about saying his goodbyes.
I was the last one he asked to come.
I flew alone from San Francisco to Naples, Florida with two flights in between. It was a long journey on many levels.
My father no longer looked human.
My father and I had never spent more than a few hours with each other at any given time over the course of my lifetime. We mostly exchanged silences and arguments, entirely initiated by me, followed by further silences, initiated and terminated by him. But when he became ill, he was lucky to have a daughter who would push through all of those patterned behaviors.
Even though he didn’t look human, and even though I was quite young, I had the wisdom to commit to seeking the essential pieces inside of him which were calling for the love from his daughter as he was about to leave a body which was failing him on every level imaginable.
In those final days, my father became a man who leaned into me for love. Love which I was able to give and which then flowed between us because there was nothing left to do but that clearing.
We were no longer arguing over pride or pain. Even as we had hugged each other only a few times in our lives, and even as hugging him them was the closest thing to death I had ever seen, nearly breaking several of his bones, there was simply no veil.
Even as his wife was shouting and cursing at me from the other room, like a tormented character from an O’Neill play, nothing else mattered but these moments of pure seeing. Seeing past the fear in his eyes, eyes which no longer resembled anything real. And finding a quiet in me, which only could have been borne from a love we had come to heal with each other and were able to finally show.
Those years of his illness changed how I lived and he knew it, even as it scared him. But I believe it also soothed him to have me by his side, not seeing him as broken, but learning something about what his own essence felt like and how it came to breathe what would become known as a real life.
What are the essential pieces of ourselves that we cannot see but that we deeply feel about those we love? Can we find a way to lean into those places and remember?
This is my practice.