goodbye Papa

I wasn’t with my father when he died.

He was in a hospital in Bakersfield, California.

I was at my sister’s home in Brush Valley, Pennsylvania.

It was the 5th of May, 1995.

The memories are vague now.

I awoke to my sister standing at the basement bedroom door.

The light was on behind her and it pierced the darkness of our room.

She was crying.

I took the phone from her, and walked out of the bedroom where my wife and children were sleeping.

I remember feeling awkward that I was wearing only my underwear.

It was my mother on the phone.

She said, “He’s gone.  Papa’s gone.”

She wasn’t with him either, and she was crying, too.

It was three o’clock in the morning in Pennsylvania, maybe.

Midnight in California.

Mom was in her apartment in Arvin, California, straining to get rest.

Only nurses and maybe a doctor, the night crew of strangers, were with Papa.

Maybe the night janitor was pushing a dust mop across the cold-tile floor in the hallway outside his room.

In some ways, except in his best moments, we were all strangers to him then.

He knew us, when he remembered us, but he was mostly forgetting.

He spoke mostly of his mother in the days before he died.

He spoke to her.

I didn’t know her, but I wish I had.

Her name was . . . well, I can’t remember.

I wish I could remember.

He always spoke her name with such affection.

I remember the affection, but not the name.

Perhaps she was with him when he died.

I wish I had been there.

I wish I could have said goodbye.

I wish I could have looked in his eyes, and held his hand, and said a proper goodbye.

I hope he was not lonely, or afraid.

I didn’t know, then, that I would wish I had been there.

6 thoughts on “goodbye Papa”

  1. Renee remembered: her name was Harriet. My family tree says she was Harriet Jane Lair before she married Willie Bohan Pratt on April 17, 1892. She was born in 1876 and died in 1941, twenty-five years before I was born. And, it was probably more like five o’clock and two o’clock, or six o’clock and three o’clock when my mother called. I remember that because my brother-in-law had already left for work, and he would have left around half past four. Somewhere in the crevices of my mind, my wife’s diaries, and my file of keepsakes, other details linger, waiting for desire and curiosity to rouse them.


  2. As I read this post, Dale, a myriad of thoughts and feelings flooded my mind and heart. My memories of Papa are limited, but vivid. Having seen pictures of him over various stages of his life, I prefer the ones that depict the Papa I knes. The thin, gray haired, and somewhat frail Papa. He was and remains an image of a wise, albe he, weathered & well worn, faithful follower of Christ.

    I thought it appropriate, in Papa’s honor, to quote “Divine Sonnet X”. John Donne wrote this between 1601 – 1610. It is quoted below, in the old English of that day.

    “DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
    Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
    For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
    Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
    From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
    Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
    And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
    Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
    Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
    And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
    And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
    And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;
    One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
    And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.”

    Death was the portal that led beloved Papa to his friend and savior. For we who remained it was good bye. To him it was ‘Good Day’.


  3. When my grandfather died, I didn’t know him well enough to even go to his funeral. However, with that bit of knowledge, I have made possible all the opportunities that I can for my children to konw all of their grandparents. Having said that, I don’t know that my grandfather would have known me in his later years either. He rarely knew my father in the last 5 years of his life, and in the last year, he rarely knew his wife. I am not afraid of dying, but the manner in which I end this life does give me reason for concern…

    As always, wonderful and thought provoking. Blessings to you and yours!


  4. It’s interesting to me how much death can impact our minds & lives…..especially as we get older. It’s inspiring to see how much this has stamped itself onto your brain…..thankfully death is not final for those who choose Christ & that is encouraging to me that even if I get old & start to forget the people around me that I love, Christ won’t forget me once my last breath is taken & He didn’t forget your Papa….he wasn’t lonely or afraid because he wasn’t alone in that moment.

    Oh, & you made me cry first thing in the morning…..good job!


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