Trigger warning: non violent death
The overhead light on my bedroom ceiling fan flickered. Odd. It didn’t often do that. It was as if someone or something was trying to send me a message. I had fallen asleep again with the light and TV on in my bedroom. It is hard to sleep, knowing that someone you love with all your heart and soul is dying. Sleep had become elusive and knowing that the cancer my Dad had was slowly killing him, had me in a vigil like state. My sisters Katherine and Anne, Mom, and I would structure our days so that Dad always had someone at the hospital and on weekends when we weren’t working, we would sit together with Dad and keep him company. My shift during the week was from 5:15 to until Dad would fall asleep. He would fall asleep, and I would sit and watch him sleep. I remember one night he urged me to go home and get some sleep.
“I’m going to sit here and watch you sleep like a creep”, I said with a smile. It got a laugh from my Dad.
This night found me awakening to the light flickering, after a dream. I’ve always been able to have feelings and visions about future events, and sometimes snippets in dreams of the future. The dream I awoke from was a dream of me, in the library of the school my Dad had taught at, the school I had attended and also substitute taught at. My father was in the library, and he was wearing a suite.
“Dad, what are you doing out of bed and all dressed up?” I asked.
“I’m waiting for Bob, and then we’re going to a funeral”. My dream ended there, and I felt an eerie feeling as I awoke. The flickering of the light made things feel surreal, like I was in my own David Lynch film.
The words echoed in my head “I’m waiting for Bob and then we’re going to a funeral.” I took my journal out and wrote the dream in my journal. Maybe getting it out would help me to get back to sleep. I turned the light off after writing, but, left the TV on. I fell asleep to re-runs of an 80’s TV show.
The next day, when I showed up to the hospital after work, my Mom was there. My parents were divorced, but, my Mom being a nurse, decided to make sure my Dad was getting proper care, and was also there as a support for my sisters and I. We were out in the hallway alone.
“When is Bob coming to visit?”, I asked. Bob was Dad’s lifelong best friend who lived in Virginia. They were total opposites, my Dad a rule follower, Bob a rule breaker. My father, quiet and reserved (unless he was coaching a high school basketball game. He could get loud then) and Bob was loud and boisterous.
“He’s coming the 28th, why do you ask, Elizabeth?"
“That’s the day Dad will pass. He is waiting for Bob”.
“Oh?”, My Mom questioned.
“It came to me in a dream last night”.
“Oh. Ok.” She wasn’t surprised by this at all. I was more surprised that I had dreamt it than she was. I wasn’t sure what to call my future sense. So, I just called it the cunning, a term I had heard on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. I didn’t tell anyone else about my dream but my boss as I took the 28th off work and left work a bit early on the 27th. My boss didn’t think my dream was odd either. Bob ended up not being able to visit due to a heart problem, but, I was certain that the 28th would be the day we would say good bye to Dad. My sisters and I spent late into the night at the hospital. Dad was on hospice care. The pancreatic cancer had ravished him. The chemo had done the same. He had decided to stop chemo, and just live out his days. I sang the Irish lullaby to him that he would sing to me as a child. I just talked to him about everything, letting him know how much I loved him. My Dad had always been my best friend and one of my biggest supporters. He understood me. He accepted me just as I am. I had come out to him as queer in my late 20’s, and all he did was try to give me a lesbian safe sex talk. He didn’t quite know what to say, but he wanted me to know he cared. I stayed at the hospital the night of the 27th until close to 11pm. I was tired, and hungry. I kissed Dad, said good bye, and told him I loved him. I was hoping that I’d come back in the morning, and he would still be alive. The nurse I spoke to said it was a possibility. My partner picked me up from the hospital and we stopped at an Applebee’s, as it was the only place nearby that was open. We were seated, and I went to wash my hand in the washroom. I looked at myself in the mirror. My dark hair had a bit of grey in it from not going to get it done. My green eyes were dull and tired. I feel like I looked older. I felt older. I was tired. I was tired in my soul and tired in my bones. I felt like I could sleep for an entire year and would wake up still tired. When we got home from Applebee’s, I set my alarm to wake up at 8am and go back to the hospital. I just needed a shower and a little sleep.
My phone rang at 7:24 AM on Tuesday January 28th. It was my sister. Dad had passed away. My youngest sister, and my Mom were with him. It was as if he waited for a time, he knew I wasn’t there. He knew on some level that I would lose it. My Dad was free. He was free of the cancer, free of the suffering. I was glad I had said my goodbye. I made the journey up to the hospital to see Dad one last time before the funeral. I gave him a kiss. I thanked the universe for the dream that had allowed me to know when Dad was going to leave us. I thanked God for having given me such a wonderful Dad, and then I got to the business of living. I felt I had to live and carry-on Dad’s legacy. I intended to live every day to the fullest, because my Dad no longer could.