In my many years in the communications industry I have written nearly everything one can write as well as spoken to countless groups on a myriad of topics. This past week, with the passing of my father to Alzheimer’s, I wrote his obituary and delivered his eulogy. No amount of experience – career or life – can prepare someone for such events.
My entire life I have focused my interests on various forms of communicating – through music, writing and the spoken word. Over the last 2-3 years of my dad’s 10-year battle, 2-way communication was often difficult if not impossible. In his final 6 months, it was largely non-existent. When I visited back in July when things appeared dire and hospice care was initiated, he gave me one fleeting look of what might have been recognition. Words were no longer possible for him.
Last Saturday, I received a call from my mom that he was fading. I immediately booked a flight back to Illinois for early the next morning but learned, on the way to the airport, that he had died at 12:45 a.m. In that surreal moment, I recalled a dream I had had the night before which took place in his room at the nursing home. In the dream, though laying down, he was aware, appeared as when he was healthy and was surrounded by a sort of aura. He acknowledged my presence and we spoke very briefly as he understood my words; something we had not been able to do for some time. When I awoke, I recall looking at the clock. It had read a quarter to one.
I share this experience with some trepidation as it is extremely personal. At the same time, writing and speaking of it is both comforting and cathartic. As I said at the eulogy, for the first time in years I feel like I can communicate with my father once again, perhaps like never before. In that way, his loss is a gift.