Dad died in the earliest moments on April 3rd. Conan O’Brien was on the television, his wide mouth open in a laugh muted by the remote control. It was just 10 minutes past the end of my brother’s birthday; a blessing perhaps. Jesus died the following week, but the vague promises of redemption remembered from years of Catholic education didn’t provide an ounce of solace.
Where is my holy spirit?
There was nothing there to catch me when the hard hospital room floor rose up while I crashed down. Conan was still laughing, but I only heard the shrieks I uttered. I think I was clutching my chest like the victim of a heart attack as more unfamiliar sounds escaped my throat. The coolness of the wood was refreshing against the warm tingling inside my head, but there was my mother and the hospice doctor tugging at my arms to right me again.
“He is still your daddy,” she said.
I’ve sat with deceased patients before, washed them, whispered to them. There was never such terror before. Where did he go? I forgot how quickly the body grows cold without the steady thump of the heart to warm it. I forgot how quickly the fingertips and lips become pale, how the jaw slackens, and the cheeks hollow. The sound of silence is the worst of all – no crackling breaths, no beeping machines, no agitated sighs.
They made me sit in the pink vinyl chair beside the bed. I reached out for the hand that lay on the blanket and lightly brushed the skin. The only softness remaining in its dark hairs. His head lay on the pillow as if he had just breathed a deep sigh in his sleep. He must have breathed too hard – he let his soul escape. He blew it right out of that diseased body and into some other realm.
Where did he go? Just over my shoulder? Behind me? There is such a delicate membrane between the here and there.
Heaven seems absurd and contrived. There cannot be such simple answers for life’s big questions. Either your heart beats or it does not.