"A little is the sum of all."
Dying is both private, personal and public-a communal event.
In sharing with you about the last few minutes of my father's life, I am using it as a hologram for my relationship with him. Perhaps the sharing of this can serve as a window through which we all openly reflect upon the common experience of our departure from the earth plane.
I came into my parent's bedroom at the usual hour of 7 a.m. this past Monday, May 15th. My father had already washed and was getting dressed. As was our custom, we sat down and he shared with me his most recent night-time dream.
In the dream, he was in a railroad station; one part was broken down, with no tracks; the other part was so busy and crowded he could not find the tracks. He had to get on the outgoing train but didn't know if he would make it because of the crowds. End of dream.
My father, dressed and combed, walked into the dining room and sat down about 8 a.m. As he sat down, we began to discuss the day ahead: of going back to Mt. Ascutney to cardiac rehab, how much he was looking forward to returning to his swimming at the hospital pool. We talked about the visit later that morning to the chiropractor Dr. Mundy. He really liked how much more flexible he had been feeling. He then voiced his concerns regarding a sudden shortness of breath, and the feeling of his lungs filling up. Suddenly he bent slightly forward and three times gave a short expulsion of breath. He stopped breathing; a look of utter whiteness and surprise came over his face; he grimaced. It was as if Sister-Brother Death had come and gently invited him to leave now; there were three clicks of his jaw and he was gone. During that time, aside from calling 911, my mother and I were at his side. I was kneeling beside him holding his hand, telling him we loved him, "Go to the Light, you are safe, we love you, goodbye, Poppy, goodbye."
He died as he lived: with dignity, with gentleness, with courage, with his full aliveness ready to meet whatever came.
Outside: a rare sunshiny day, bird song. Inside, surrounded by the two women of his life, on the land that he loved, a perfect departure point.
What a privilege and honor it has been for me these past 18 months being with my father and mother. In March of 1999, the doctor at the convalescent facility said that my father was close to death. Upon hearing that, my father said, "I did not come here to die." With my father's determination, and God's grace, he made an amazing recovery: walking, swimming, writing, and fully participating in the family life for the next 14 months.
His perseverance, willingness, courage, gentle manliness, dignity, kindness and humility rated a brightness and a comfort that lingers even after his physical departure.
In ending, here is a verse he left with me:
"A little is the sum of all...
a little faith in days of change,
when life is stark, bare and strange,
a solace when our eyes are wet,
with tears of longing and regret."
No flowers please. Donations can be sent to INSPIRIT c/o Aneice Taylor, Woodacre, CA 94933. INSPIRIT is an organization directed by a quadriplegic woman to fundraise in support of quadriplegics living at home.
By Sunshine Appleby
To reach Sunshine: ClearBrook Retreat, Sunshine Appleby, POB 92,
Hartland Four Corners, VT 05049, 802-436-2483