TWO DEATHS AND DEGREES OF SEPARATION

By Lisa Huddleston

 

I held his hand for hours the day my father-in-law died

Not continuously but anytime others left that spot on the side of the bed empty

I jumped up to fill it

I hated for him to open his eyes and not see two eyes looking back

Understanding and showing compassion, giving honor to his final day of hard work

They said he wasn’t aware, but when I said, “I love you,”

He patted my hand

Releasing his still-strong calloused grip long enough to pat, pat, pat

He heard me and

He knew

 

 

When my father died I was not there

He lived two states away and the distance between us was great

When I did visit we made bawdy jokes and laughed with wide-open mouths and teary eyes, coughing and gasping and spitting out our love, trying to breathe

But in the end I could not talk on the phone

Not understanding his mumbled words, not knowing what to say, or how to bridge the gap

So when she begged me to call I didn’t

I wrote instead sending my final words by email for her to read to him in another voice

I could not go, I could not call, and I would not be there when he died

I hope he knew

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