THE DAY MY FATHER DIED
June 5, 2004 was damp and thick with fog. I drove to my parents’ house at 5:30 in the morning after a restless night — waking up often thinking the phone would ring at any moment with news that my father was gone. My brother Ron was flying all night from Hawaii where he’d been vacationing with his wife Doria — I prayed my father would hang on until Ron got there. When I walked into my parents’ house just before dawn, Ron was there and my father was still alive.
As close as he seemed to death, hours went by. The fog burned off and a weak filmy sun shone through. We drank coffee and water and talked about our memories. A little before one o’clock his breathing changed. The doctor checked his heart and said it’s almost time. That’s when my father gave us one last gift — a miracle. Seconds before he died, he opened his eyes — eyes that hadn’t opened in nearly a week. They were blue and clear and present. Over the years his eyes had faded to a grayish color, but right then they were blue as the sky. He looked at my mother, lingered on her face, and then he died.
I think of that moment often — it’s the silver thread I hold to as life moves between light and shadow, but always keeps moving. He showed us that the soul can shine through even when the body is spent by disease and death is whisper-close.
It’s been ten years since that day, but every year when June arrives — when the Jacaranda trees leave blankets of purple flowers on the ground and the air smells like jasmine — part of my soul returns to that room and my father’s clear blue eyes the moment before he died. In so many ways, I have never really left that room.