I walked to the pay phone in the hallway. Everything was green, the walls, the floor, a dull green to match the mood. I picked up the phone and dropped my coin. I dialed the familiar number of the church. My call interrupted the merriment of an Afterglow, a time of fellowship after a Sunday evening service. Pastor Calloway soon said “hello.” I said, “my father is dead.” He said, “I’ll be right there.”
We stood in the hall. I don’t remember for sure who was there. I know I was there. I think my husband was there, but then he might have been with our son. I think my brother was there, perhaps his wife or one of his boys. Marta, the nurse my mother loved was probably there. We waited as the body was disconnected from the tubes and wires. A day before a young doctor knelt by his urine bag begging for it to fill with yellow liquid. That liquid was like gold. It meant my dad would live a while a longer.
People are amazed when I say my father died of complications with a gall bladder surgery. Pastor Calloway was there to accompany the family for our last goodbyes in the hospital. I remember he prayed. I don’t remember how I felt. I was so young. I was married. I was a mother. I was pregnant with a second child. I was the wife of a soldier. But I was so young.
As a small child people would think I was with my grandfather when I’d walk hand in hand with him on our great adventures. His walk was steady but slightly off balance. We thought it came from years on a rocking sea vessel. I could tell if my dad was coming up the street before I could see his face. I would look at that walk and say, yes, that’s my dad. I suppose I always thought he might die before I reached maturity. I thought I was mature when he was laid to rest. I wasn’t. I was still in my teens, still a child in need of her daddy. I still need my daddy.
For many years I couldn’t tell you the day of my father’s death. I simply didn’t remember. I knew it was in June. As I have matured, I have remembered. Forty years ago today my father breathed his last. He went home.
I didn’t understand the finality of death. Perhaps the young can’t truly understand death. I didn’t. I had lost my father. I had lost the one person in my life who loved me unconditionally. My mother’s love was more complicated. But my dad, he loved me, period. I was his “lilla venn.” My dad was not famous. My dad was a good man. He was kind. I can honestly say he was one of the few people that never said anything about someone unless it was good. You can read more about him here.
A few weeks before my dad had a death experience. He saw himself leave behind the medical staff feverishly working to revive him. He came to a river where his good friend Angle Jensen (sp?) was waiting for him. Before he could cross with his friend he came back into the room and into his body. My mother and I keeping vigil outside wear went home for some rest. We returned in the morning to hear his mild scolding that we had not brought the Sunday paper with us. A quick trip to the gift shop, and my father was happily reading the paper glasses perched over the oxygen mask. A few Sundays later, he crossed over Jordan.
I am probably the only one who remembers this day forty years ago. My brothers don’t care. And even if they did, the date is absent their memory. I suffered a loss that day that I have only become to realize. Rest in Peace Daddy.
Hvil i fred min kjære far, jeg elsker deg.