My father is dying. He’s had heart trouble for years, getting a quadruple bypass, and later a pacemaker; he even tried an experimental stem cell therapy. Now his body is giving up as his liver and kidneys are also failing.
I went with my brother and sister to visit him last week and looked at his face for the last time. His mind was fully present, but his body was frail and he was barely eating. He’s being fully supported by his wife and companion for the past 10 years. We all talked about his life and the things he’s done. He feels he’s had a good life and is ready to go. He knows he’s dying, and tomorrow he plans on pulling the plug: he will be put on morphine and have his pacemaker turned off with the help of hospice. I’m proud of him for choosing to face his mortality rather than run away.
He is a deeply flawed and beautiful man. He is brilliant, but has never been very good at sharing his feelings. They’re there, but he cannot articulate them. Yet his silent presence was felt throughout my childhood. He was noticing and caring about us, and worked in his quiet and practical way to help us with our lives. When I wanted to play the guitar, he found and bought a beautiful Gibson ES335 electric guitar and started taking me to music lessons.
As his death nears, his flaws fade into the background, and his luminosity shines brightly. Even his lack of emotional articulation seems to have developed in me an ability to do an emotional CAT-Scan, diving inside his soul to find the love I sought. Though I’d forgiven him a long time ago, the flaws matter even less now. I’ve noticed before how death diminishes the flaws and leaves the beauty; even more is this true for my father’s passing. It seems that everyone I know well has this same combination of flaws and luminous beauty.
Perhaps these so called flaws that we perceive in others are really just an expectation that we put on them in our quest for security and certainty. It’s so easy to get caught up in the flaws that we miss the gifts that each persons brings. Would that I could be comfortable enough within myself to appreciate the luminosity of each person I encounter without needing to see then knocking on heaven’s door. I’m grateful for this glimpse behind the veil.