I am publishing this from the snowy Berkshires of Massachusetts where I am leading a retreat at Kripalu. (Back again Feb 20-22.)It had been one of the single most incredible moments of my life. This piece was written by Heather McKearnan who joined my retreat at the last minute, along with her mother. Heather’s father passed away just last week so she happened to be in the next town over (she lives in Santa Fe) and, in her words, “there was no option of her NOT being here”. What a gift it was to have Heather and Betsey here all weekend. Below is what Heather wrote last week. The night her father passed.
By Heather Mckearnan.
I wrote this the night my dad died. I should write and I don’t and your writing has made me want to.
Tomorrow I am going to wake up without a dad. And I will never have a dad again. It’s not that the lessons he taught me will be gone or that the ways in which he shaped me will change or lessen. But the truth is that he is gone. I will never see his face again. I will never get to hear him tell me how much he loves me. I will never get to ask his advice and I will regret all the times I told him that I didn’t ask for it. it is not that he is not in me and all around me. It is not that I will not be able to conjure his spirit or his courage when I need to make an unreasonable request of someone.
My dad is gone. He died today. He died at 2:50 pm on Wednesday January 23rd. He finally broke free of his cancer ridden body and now I imagine he is flying very fast all over tarnation, going here and there, drinking and eating and dancing and listening to the best jazz. it was torturous to watch him deteriorate. To see him lose his joie de vive. To listen to him quiet down to barely audible. To see his body turn against him.
I have been with him everyday for the last three weeks. It has been a rapid and agonizing decline of the most vivacious man that I have ever known. I have no doubt that he knows how much I loved him, and I have never doubted how much he loved me. He was never shy or stingy with his love. Even when his anger got the best of him or he was being a total asshole. He was unbelievably strong right up until the very end. He fought hard and was never ashamed. He would NEVER say that he was in pain, but rather only that he was experiencing discomfort. There has never been a more stoic man.
Today I feel relief that he is free of that weak, diseased body. I am grateful that his suffering has ended. I could not bear it any longer. My mother is graceful, awe inspiring and strong . I look forward to seeing who she blossoms into. My brother and sister are here. We are all here and my dad is gone. Or at least his body is gone. It is strange for such a huge presence to no longer be present. It is quiet. Right now, I will allow myself to believe that I have been a good daughter and that I turned out alright. My dad would say ” if you’ve got to have a daughter- she’s a pretty good one to have!”
Tomorrow, I am going to wake up without a dad.