birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

My Father's Death

The year that my father died, I was working on the psychiatric at Childrens Hospital as a staff nurse. I loved what I did but it was a very stressful place to work at that time of my life. My father was taking treatment for leukemia and was living two streets over from my house. I was taking him meals and helping him with chores around the house and trying very hard to keep up his spirits. 

My co workers encouraged me daily to take some leave time from work to be with my father. I kept putting it off and looking back, I see that I thought perhaps that I could hold off the inevitable letting go of my father. 

At Christmas, I was sick and I went into work anyway because calling out on Christmas day earned you working an extra weekend. At lunchtime, one of my favorite co workers came to me and said that he was going to personally escort me to parking deck if I didn’t go home because I was so pitiful. Working kept me distracted. 
My father decided three days before Christmas that he didn’t want to be treated for the leukemia any longer. He said he was tired and he wanted to “go home.” I knew what he meant and was trying to help make him comfortable. My brother and I had arranged for sitters because by this time, my father could not walk without falling. 

I went home that Christmas afternoon and decided to take family leave.  

So I went over to the house and cleaned out the fridge. I began to think about what exactly that I was going to “do” with all my time. 

The sitter was watching a movie in the bedroom where my father was trying to sleep. He was tossing and turning.

I convinced the sitter to go into the den to watch her movie and we sat there together watching some movie with Beyonce while I knitted. We both walked back and forth from the den to the bedroom to check on my dad. 

I remember the exact minute that I began thinking - this is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life and being startled by the realization as if a mouse had run over my foot. 

I guess it had not yet occurred to me what I would be doing. Waiting on the pain of letting go of my first definition of love. Knowing that the pain is coming; knowing it will be the worse pain of my life and being unable to stop it. 

I went over to his house on his last day and was there with him when he took his last long slow breath. I had his hand in mine. When the funeral home came to take his body, they wrapped him up all the way with just his face showing. They wheeled him out into the foyer and began trying to figure out how to get the rolling stretcher down the stairs. I looked at my father and all of the crystals that Mother had left in the living room window were shining rainbows from the afternoon sun all over my father’s body. It was a glorious sign from somewhere that my father was not only ok but was actually shining happily through the air to tell me so. And I got to be there. 

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