“I am going home to Denmark, Son, and I just wanted to tell you I love you.”
In my dad’s last telephone call to me, he repeated that line seven times in a half hour. I wasn’t listening at the right level. I heard the words, but not the message, and certainly not their profound intent. I believed my dad would live to be over 100 years old, as my great uncle lived to be 107 years old. I had not felt his remorse over Mom’s death, understood his intense loneliness as an “empty nester,” or realized most of his pals had long since light-beamed off the planet. He relentlessly requested my brothers and I create grandchildren so that he could be a devoted grandfather. I was too busy “entrepreneuring” to really listen.
“Dad’s dead,” sighed my brother Brian on July 4, l982.
My little brother is a witty lawyer and has a humorous, quick mind. I thought he was setting me up for a joke, and I awaited the punchline – there wasn’t one. “Dad died in the bed he was born in – in Rozkeldj,” continued Brian. “The funeral directors are putting him in a coffin, and shipping Dad and his belongings to us tomorrow. We need to prepare for the funeral.”
I was speechless. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to happen. If I knew these were to be Dad’s final days, I would have asked to go with him to Denmark. I believe in the hospice movement, which says: “No one should die alone.” A loved one should hold your hand and comfort you as you transition from one plane of reality to another. I would have offered consolation during his final hour, if I’d been really listening, thinking and in tune with the Infinite. Dad announced his departure as best he could, and I had missed it. I felt grief, pain and remorse, Why had I not been there for him? He’d always been there for me.
In the mornings when I was nine years old, he would come home from working 18 hours at his bakery and wake me up at 5:00 A.M. by scratching my back with his strong powerful hands and whispering, “Time to get up, Son.” By the time I was dressed and ready to roll, he had my newspapers folded, banded and stuffed in my bicycle basket. Recalling his generosity of spirit brings tears to my eyes.
When I was racing bicycles, he drove me 50 miles each way to Kenosha, Wisconsin, every Tuesday night so I could race and he could watch me. He was there to hold me if I lost and shared the euphoria when I won.
Later, he accompanied me to all my local talks in Chicago when I spoke to Century 21, Mary Kay, Equitable and various churches. He always smiled, listened and proudly told whomever he was sitting with, “That’s my boy!”
After the fact, my heart was in pain because Dad was there for me and I wasn’t there for him. My humble advice is to always, always share your love with your loved ones, and ask to be invited to that sacred transitional period where physical life transforms into spiritual life. Experiencing the process of death with one you love will take you into a bigger, more expansive dimension.