That’s my dad, looking dapper in his signature bow-tie, working the room at the wedding of a family friend in 1982.
The photo is, in many respects, unremarkable. Except that it was taken the day before he died.
The bride found the picture of our dad among her wedding photos, and so she very thoughtfully shared it with us recently.
I have studied the photo, over and over again, to see a glimpse of Dad’s last day of life. I search for some indication of his thoughts and feelings. Was he happy? He looked it. Certainly he had no idea it was his last full day of life, or that he would be gone within 24 hours of this photo. Did he feel any twinges or signs of the heart attack that would stop his heart the next day? Does he look like his arm or his chest hurt? I cannot tell. It doesn’t appear so.
One day he’s at a wedding, dancing and talking and celebrating with friends. The next day, he’s gone. Just like that.
It was pouring rain that day my dad died. My mom used to say it was “morose” to think about that day, that I needed to move on.
I’ve moved on. Still, so many years later, sometimes it actually helps to remember the rain and the pain of that day. The rain seemed almost apocalyptic. Or maybe that’s just how I remember it. The rain was pouring into our basement, as dad took his last breaths. My mom and sister were downstairs fighting the floodwaters. I was upstairs with a friend as we were supposed to be going to a Sunday play. Instead, I found my dad writhing on the floor, in cardiac arrest, struggling to breathe a few more gasps of life. I ran as fast as I could and I yelled down to the basement from the top of the stairs for my mom and my sister – “something’s wrong with Dad!”
Oddly enough, when I’m having a really bad day, or if I’m feeling lost, I remember that rain, and that day I watched my dad die. And no matter how bad my day today has been, or what is upsetting me, it suddenly pales in comparison to how I felt on that stormy Sunday in 1982. And I know that, because I survived that, I can get through just about anything.
One of the worst days of my life, now helps gives me the perspective to get through the storms, as an adult. That, along with my memories of my Dad, on better days, make me realize how fortunate I am to have had him even for a few years.
When I had a dad, life was all about ice cream, bike rides, barbie dolls, and fireflies. My greatest responsibilities were doing my homework, making my bed, and helping with the dishes. Because I was so young when I lost him, I become ten years old again, whenever I think of him. It was short, but it was a good time in my life, when I had a Dad.