I didn’t want to see him the way he was. I wanted to remember him the way I saw him in my head. I wanted to remember his big belly hanging over his jeans with the bull belt buckle, his hairy chest with the gold chains around his neck peeking out from his shirt. Even the ever present cigarette dangling between his lips or his fingers. That was my father. That was how I wanted to remember him, but those memories were supplanted against my will.
I had spent almost every day of the past five weeks sat at his bedside having totally one-sided conversations. Conversations where I imagined what his responses would be, should be. I was an adult, yet still a teenager. I was too young for this, too fresh and too innocent, too newly born. But are we not all too young when a parent is dying? My innocence disappeared the moment I first saw him comatose and non-responsive, a wizened man in a biological shell. He was so young – how could God do this to him, to his family, to me?
Nothing prepared me. Words can only paint a picture, they don’t prepare you for the reality of a dead parent, lying there gone on his hospital bed. Move, I wanted to yell, let me at least see your chest move, prove to me that you can still breathe, dammit! Fight, fight so that you can walk me down the aisle, fight so that you can hold your future grandchildren, fight so I don’t have to name a son after you, fight fight fight – why did you give in? Why didn’t you tell God you weren’t ready? Why did you let yourself die?
I wanted to run from the room, but I was told I must say goodbye. What was the point? He could not hear me. His soul had departed from his body. I felt sick. My father was dead. When someone dies you are supposed to say Baruch Dayan HaEmmet – Blessed is the true judge. How does one say God is just and true when he takes a man in his early 40s, leaving behind a bunch of children? How do you tell a 19 year old girl that this was God’s will and she has to accept it? How does that girl accept that her dreams for any kind of relationship with her father are over? There is no comfort in words, in prayer, in funerals or mourning. Not for her.
This week this girl celebrates the barmitzvah of her son, the one she named for her father. His name lives on, his bloodline continues with many grandchildren. Still she carries pain in her heart for what could have been. What should have been. But it is the comfort of her husband and her children that bring her hope for the future. That have assuaged the pain of her loss and suffering.
Baruch Atah Hashem…..Shehechyanu Vekiyamnau Vehigiyanu LaZman Hazeh – Blessed are You, Eternal One our God, who has given us life, sustained us and brought us to this day.