In his photo album, my father kept several Father's Day and birthday cards Liz and I had given him. The fact that today's the three-month anniversary of his death makes the Hallmark holiday much more poignant than usual.
In one of our small-group sessions at the Narrative Medicine workshop yesterday, we were given the prompt, "Write about someone whose suffering moved you," and then wrote for ten minutes. Here's what I wrote.
Ambulance ChasingThis piece is about Dad's last ride to the hospital on March 2. The image of the ambulance window -- that rectangle of light, with his whiter face centered in it -- has haunted me, and I'm glad I wrote about it, even for ten minutes. I may do something more with this at some point. We'll see.
Through the ambulance window, I see your face, white and glowing. It's raining. I follow the ambulance as closely as I dare. We're on the highway, but it's late, a Monday night; there's not much traffic.
Dad, for almost all your life I feared your drowning as your father did, a suicide, that final visit to the river. They called you to identify the bloated body. For years I saw you bloated with alcohol, living on your sailboat; I feared a fall, or worse.
Instead, you moved to the desert to be near me. I never realized you could drown in the desert, too, the fluid from your CHF rising like tides responding to the moon. Tonight the paramedics said your lungs were almost full.
But you don't want to die, not now. You're going to the hospital, your face the moon I follow through the rain, my own face wet with tears.
Three weeks from now you'll die. The fluid from your skin will soak the sheets. I'll always have known it's you. I never lost you underneath the water. I kept close and watched you breathe.
Other highlights from yesterday: Talking to Marsha Hurst about the MS program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia, which I'd dearly love to do. Taking a year off for a $50,000 (!) degree isn't feasible, though. They're trying to figure out how to start a low-residency program, which would be much more practical. That's for the future, though.
Also, I had a lovely dinner with Daphne Noyes, the Episcopal deacon and chaplain. We talked about family and loss and chaplaincy and parish life. It was a great conversation.
I didn't write yesterday, because I overslept and had to race to the workshop without even showering. I did better today -- I've had coffee and eaten breakfast, and I'm obviously blogging -- but I doubt I'll write today, either. Maybe tonight, if I'm not too tired.
Happy Father's Day, and if whomever you call father's still alive, cherish him.