Early Morning Phone Calls Never Bring Good News
Alone again, and this time truly alone, I looked at the body lying in the bed. My father was not there. And now, I had no right to be. When the nurse came in again, I asked him if I needed to leave. He kindly told me I had a few hours yet to make whatever calls I needed to make, whatever arrangements, before his body must be removed to the morgue. He gave me a folder that contained all the information I needed to make final arrangements.
“If there’s someone you should call…” It was a reminder he should not have had to give. I had been on the receiving end of those early morning phone calls too many times. I had always felt pity and sorrow for the person who had been obligated to make them. This time that person was me.
“Yes,” I said. “I suppose I should call my sister and my stepmom.”
I called my sister first. She lived an hour away and it was with her I would be staying. She’d have to come get me. I remember worrying how to convey the message simply and clearly, even while she struggled for lucidity, pretending to be more awake and coherent than she was. But she had known the call was coming. Perhaps she had not expected it to come so shortly after my arrival, so shortly on the heels of her own departure. Four hours. I had only been there four hours. He might have died while I was in the air, or on the train. But he hadn’t. He had hung on, just long enough. He might have hung on for days more, as my sister expected he might. But he didn’t. I had come to offer him some peaceful space in which to depart this life, and he had done it. I knew he was no longer fearful. I knew he was reunited with the family he had been separated from for most of his life, the parents who had left him an orphan at the age of three, those whom he had spent his life resenting for their abandonment of him, however involuntary it had been. And with countless others, most of whom I could not begin to imagine. The parents who had raised him, perhaps. The grandfather who had emigrated from Switzerland at the turn of the century and the grandmother whose name and identity have been lost to us, possibly. My brother—his son, who had died eight years prior—most certainly.
Death is part of life. My mind knows this with certainty. My heart, even now, when my religious beliefs have been replaced with those more spiritual than dogmatic, struggles to understand the letting go process. But it delights in the thought of reunion. I no longer believe those loved ones are as far away as Heaven or Hell. I don’t believe either of those places exist, not really.