On December 14th 2016 I woke up at 6 30 am, looked outside my bedroom window and saw one of the most spectacular morning skies I have ever seen. My daughter had just walked into my room and we were both mesmerized; we went to fetch our cell phones to capture a little bit of what the lens could get. The sky was peach and pink, and there was still a big full moon floating above the hills.
I took a photo that did not do justice to what my eyes saw, but it was good enough to remember it. We both stood there, looking as the earth slowly moved making the moon disappear behind the hills.
Little did I know that at that same moment, my father’s heart was failing, and he was being rushed to the hospital. I went about my usual school day routine: breakfast, preparing lunches, getting dressed to take the kids down to school.
An hour later I found out that my Dad was struggling for his life in the hospital and my mind started going 100 Miles per hour. Should I fly out that same day? Or was it just a scare? Would he be OK? I had just spoken with him 2 days before and heard his many voice recordings on Whatssapp telling me he was so excited that I was going down to Mexico to spend Christmas.
This couldn’t be…
Fourty-five minutes later, while I sat with my daughter in the car waiting for her school to open its gates, I got the call from my brother. My Dad had passed. I reacted with screams, loud, hysterical, pained, I could not breathe , I started sweating and shaking. And then sobbing came, endless, out of breath, and it hurt. My chest hurt so much I felt I could collapse. My brother stayed silent, and waited for me to collect myself. It look me several minutes to realize that my daughter had been sitting there, on the passenger seat the whole time. I turned to see her, my face a mess; she sat there looking tiny, not her 10 years old and her regal 5 feet, but a little tiny girl that was terrified, not quite understanding what just happened, since my conversation had taken place in Spanish.
After ending my call I turned to her and told her “He just died”. Soft sobbing came, I hugged her and we held each other for a while.
This is how December 14th started for me, the day of my sister’s birthday, which will now be marked with the end of my father’s life but also with the joy of always remembering him as a loving, hard working, admirable and hilarious father.
Because both my Mom and Dad have had several health problems, more so lately, I have -reluctantly- given some thought to visualizing the day they are not with me any longer. When would the last day be? When will the last good bye? Will they go gently or will they suffer? Could I stand the tremendous pain of the loss? As tears always filled my eyes when reflecting upon death, I put those thoughts away and decided to move on and enjoy them while I had them both. Email, calls, messages and as many trips as I could afford to see them. To share my family stories, my worries, my joys. To say “thank you”, I miss you”, ” I love you”- over and over, because one can never get tired of these words.
That morning I stood in my closet with an empty suitcase, refusing to proceed pulling out my black pants and blouses. I wanted to scream, to curl up in a ball and disappear, to make it be yesterday so I could call him and say I LOVE YOU DAD.
A couple of hours later I was on a plane feeling numb, empty and full of sorrow. I wrote then, the letter that would be my fathers eulogy. He loved my writing so the least I could do was honor him in the presence of his family and closest friends with a letter that would attempt to describe one of the most wonderful man I will ever know.
Thoughts in Motion…and then words poured relentlessly; my fingers typed with care and tenderness. Warm tears came , non stop. I was grateful not to have any passengers on either side. Halfway between Dallas, Texas and Monterrey I finished my letter. I remember looking out the window, to the skies, the clouds, the immense space and wondering…where are you Daddy?
The next morning my father’s body would be ready for viewing. I needed to see him, to say good bye. Both my sister and I drove to the funeral home together. I saw his face and felt out of breath again, my Dad, whom I had just spoken to a couple of days earlier to gossip and chat about anything, was in the casket, handsome as ever, wearing his one black suit and a bright yellow tie. Perfectly groomed, with a peace in his expression I do not recall ever seeing. Sobbing took over me again, I wanted to hug him, to feel his soft hands, to talk to him. The glass that covered him was soon wet. I wanted to break it and reach in to be in my fathers arms again. But he was gone. I talked to him, kneeling by his side. Thanking him for being such a loving father, for giving me so much, and assuring him I looked my best for this day, clean shoes and all, as he taught me as a little girl.
My sister and I shared this very intimate moment that will forever be sealed in my heart. We cried together and held each other. Soon dozens of people would arrive and this moment would end. The thought was sickening.
My husband and children joined me the day after. We had a small intimate ceremony at home in which we spread some of his ashes in one of his gardens and I was very happy to have them by my side those days.
My Dad had been growing and caring for some fruit trees in the back yard for years now. He often bragged about all they fruit he got every year from them. He really enjoyed this as a hobby and often sent pictures of him sitting or standing by his trees.
After the ashes were spread , we had a party, -as he had requested in written form in a document we found from 2008- His family came from Chihuahua to the services, so we invited them all to our house to celebrate my Dad’s life, to share stories, mostly funny ones and moving ones. We played his favorite music (Zarzuelas and Spanish Opera). I barely remember any of it, I feel like I wasn’t really there. It was over before I knew it. Then everyone said good bye, they have lives to go back to, families, jobs…and the house felt empty again. My Dad’s absence became a presence.
The next morning I woke very early. The house felt very still, quiet, and everyone was still sleeping. I made myself a cup of coffee, black. I went outside in my pajamas still, and sat in one of the tables we rented for the party.
The wind was blowing very gently; all the leaves in his fruit trees were moving softly. I looked at all of them, and felt so calm. As my brain started waking up and awareness of the events registered, a sudden pain in my chest came with a deep sadness and realization. He was gone. And I missed him- a lot. I stood up and walked over to a tree that had some tangerine oranges begging to be picked. I took one, peeled it and took it back to the table. I ate it all, enjoying the sweet and tangy flavor, as he would. “You did good Daddy”- I thought.
I finished my coffee and sat there crying freely, no one to stare at me, to try to make my stop crying. It was me and my Dad there and then. Me and his trees. Me and his messy garden. I felt him there with me , at our last breakfast together.
I love you Daddy, always will. Rest in Peace.