Café Crem

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Final Words

*This post was written for my children,  F. and A., to hold in their hands and carry in their hearts when someday  I am gone. But it is dedicated to my father, Frank Spinale, who will always be my tallest memory.

After my father died at home of a shockingly short terminal illness, I spent months searching the house for a message he might possibly have left behind. In vain I rifled through all his books and papers, checked between the mattress and box spring of the bed he died in, and ripped apart the satin panels of his jewelry box.  When his pants pockets and underwear drawer yielded no results I even pulled the fiberglass insulation down from the basement ceiling to blindly grope above my head for a hidden note.

I wanted some tangible nugget of wisdom , or perhaps it was love, to hold in my hand and carry with me throughout the remainder of my life. It bothered me that though we’d had many intimate moments together in the weeks before his impending death, he’d ultimately slipped into a coma and I therefore did not know, when I heard them, that I’d heard his final words.

For years I rehearsed what my own final words would be to my children should I be fortunate enough to have such a dramatic opportunity for closure when my time comes.  But what I have come to understand since I lost my father is that final words don’t really matter all that much. Because now I know that what matters the most later, when you view the panorama of your life, are the  memories that stand out like steeples in the clouds.

And since only certain memories stand out it figures they do so for a reason, which is why bad memories as well as good ones are taller than the rest. Bad memories are inevitably associated with loss, which is why we prefer not to think about them.

My own worst memories: Being told of my young father’s terminal cancer. (He was younger than I am now.) That terrible, brave look in his eyes when I rushed to his side upon hearing the news.  The day my first marriage truly dissolved, when we sold our first home and handed the keys over to the happy younger couple who bought it. The day I was  served with papers in the ensuing custody suit and read that I must show “just cause” why my children should not be taken from me.  The day my little boy was taken from his sister and me to live with his father. I falter  even now as I try to list them. It hurts too much to  think of my losses. A self protective blankness arises. But I know that loss, like fear, must be faced in order to be conquered and transformed.

We cannot live without loss, but most of us don’t see that when we’re young. Maybe we’re not supposed to. We have the future with all its possibilities before us.  Might not the magnitude of such awareness stall us in our tracks?

With the passing years, as we lose youth, strength, loved ones, health, and outward beauty, the protective veil is lifted and the awesome paradox is gradually revealed: that we are most human when we love most deeply, that it is our innately human desire to hold on to what we love forever, but that the human condition requires that we  must lose everything we love in order to grow.

The first thing we lose is our symbiotic closeness with mother. We must leave the warm, safe womb in order to be born. We must leave our mother’s arms in order to explore the world. We must lose the innocence of childhood in order to survive the world. And then it begins again. We become parents ourselves. We love our infants but they grow into children. We love our children but they turn into young adults. We love our young adults but they separate from us and leave us to start their own lives. We find romantic love that cannot last. We love our parents and others in the generation before us, but they must die.

Each and every path through life is paved with losses, and sometimes we use poor judgement on our journey. This makes the losses even harder to bear, knowing in our hearts that the pain is self inflicted.  It  has taken me twenty five years to understand this about my own personal history. Now that I am owning it to myself and my  God,  the pain is lifting and  I’m beginning to grow wings.

Our biological and psychological mission on this earth means we must keep moving forward, continually leaving something behind. Because to grow means to change, and  we cannot change without losing some part of ourselves.  We must suffer the pain and loss of every person, state of being, or part of ourselves  that we love in order to be fully human.  Yet the more deeply we love, the more deeply we experience our humanity and the brilliance of our souls.

The only way to avoid the pain of loss is to be dead. But there is an alternative.  If we are brave enough to allow ourselves to feel the pain and mourning, to hold tight to the memories until we’ve squeezed every drop of blood from the experience, we are transformed. Our souls radiate previously unimaginable,  dazzling colors.

This, of course, is the hardest part of all. The natural tendency is to want to put the pain behind us, to forget about it, avoid it and get on with our lives.  When we do that without the lifework of suffering and introspection, we are depriving ourselves of the learning that experience is meant to provide.

In other words, our loss is meaningless.

And so, my darling children,  this post, these words, are my final words to you. Please forgive me for the pain I’ve caused you, and rejoice in the joy we’ve  shared. Always, always remember  the inexpressibly deep love I had for you. Hold on to it. You keep some and I will too. And when you arrive Home I’ll be waiting for you there, arms wide open, in the place where there is no more sorrow and no more tears.

By Psychscribe


January 24, 2009 - Posted by | Cafe Literati, death, life, Psychscribe's Essays | ,


  1. I cannot begin to praise this piece and I doubt I can ever do it justice because it is beyond my words to explain hoe moving and powerful it is.
    I’m a tough old bird, and words rarely move me very far, but my eyes welled up at this.
    A profound Thank you, psychscribe, from my heart.

    Comment by viv66 | January 24, 2009

  2. Thank you so very much viv – from my heart to yours.

    Comment by psychscribe | January 24, 2009

  3. I am perhaps not as tough as Viv, but I am quite tough too, and while I was reading your words, there was in my soul the deepest silence I have ever heard there… I couldn’t even hear the sound of my inner breathing because I simply stopped breathing…
    I would have MANY things to say… to you, to your children and to all people I love… but I will wait until I recover the sound of my words… for now, I am too much under the emotional hit…
    Tomorrow, Coeur de Rose, I will write here what I feel and think about your final words, and the initial message between them…

    Comment by Miki | January 24, 2009

  4. This is truly beautiful Psyche, and touched me deeply, particularly how you describe your search for your Father’s words. But beyond the beauty – a wisdom. Wonderful entry, how nice to have you back!

    Comment by kevmoore | January 24, 2009

  5. Very touching and authentic.

    Comment by Michael | January 24, 2009

  6. Miki: your response was moving in itself…thank you

    Kev: THANK you.

    Michael: Thank you too…

    Comment by psychscribe | January 24, 2009

  7. […] commented on Final Words by Psychscribe and talked about the Kidz Dream Team in MiniBar in Cafe Crem and mentioned Remi […]

    Pingback by Window On The World by Remi Makhoul « Café Crem | January 24, 2009

  8. This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    shelleymouse: thanks for reading.

    Comment by shelleymhouse | January 24, 2009

  9. Well Psych, I said I would come back, and here I am.
    I must honestly say that I had an emotional shock yesterday as I read your words, they put back to my mind a lot of things which I generally try to avoid, not being able to cope emotionally with them.
    Generally I can say that I can’t cope with death at all!
    As I was a child, at a certain time I have had a very tough time, week after week. As soon as the light was off in my bedroom, I started thinking that my mother could die (there was no concrete reason to it, my mother was very healthy and still is with her 83 years!) and I imagined it intensely, so far that quite instantaneously I felt as if she was really dead. I then spent my nights crying about her death (I suppose one calls that auto-suggestion 🙂 ) and could not sleep of course. Every night the same, day after day, week after week. I was really a nervous wreck. I would love to remember how this process stopped eventually, but I can’t. Perhaps I simply succeeded in sleeping at some final point of exhaustion…

    But the thought of death and mortality has caused me a lot of pain again, later on… caused me a very long depression. Absurd is that I seem to have suffered for nothing, as I had never lost somebody who was close to me.

    Around Christmas this year the pain came back as we suddenly lost a person we loved. I still can’t deal with it today. I still can’t imagine this person dead. And in fact to us she is still alive… painful to me that she perhaps does not know how much we miss her… perhaps…

    Your words made me think that in fact, as long as we are alive, we should indeed prepare “things” for afterwards, to help the people who love us to go on living without us.

    I have no idea how hard “life” is for dead people, but I do know how hard it is for the people who love them and have to live without them. I will have to think about it, try to find something which might help my loving survivors if something happens to me… what a wonderful gesture to your children, Psych!
    What a wisdom and what a deep truth is written is these final words… which don’t really sound so final to me, but much more like a beginning…

    Comment by Miki | January 25, 2009

  10. Oh Miki! I am so sorry for the emotional hit my post gave you 😦
    More than one person, including my husband, has told me this.
    I’m sorry you have such a hard time with death…I really am….but if you think of other losses, and how you’ve coped and survived, you’ll realize that you can handle it – even the deaths you’ve mentioned here…you ARE coping, and you ARE surviving, in your own way… Thank you for the kind words about my post…Hugs, Psych

    Comment by psychscribe | January 25, 2009

  11. Don’t worry, Psych, I love big emotions! 🙂
    And your post is so wonderful, it is worth the hit… and Kevin is always there to catch me if I fall…
    It is strange, you know, the day before yesterday, in the evening, we looked at a wonderful film called Billy Elliot (about a young boy realising his dream of becoming a ballet dancer), and there was a scene there, where the boy is reading a letter which his dead mother left for him… he should read it first when he is 18 years old, but he could not wait to open it.. it was very touching…

    Comment by Miki | January 25, 2009

  12. Wow, sounds like a movie I might like. I will check it out on netflix.

    Comment by psychscribe | January 25, 2009

  13. We loved that film, Psych! I shouldn’t perhaps say it, but Kevin was in tears more than one time…
    Please tell me if you can’t find it, we will find a way…

    Comment by Miki | January 26, 2009

  14. I just came across this post on a most important issue that many of us think about.

    In our family, my grandfather was estranged from his son (my father), and somewhat from our whole side of the family. I once made an effort to go visit him for a week or ten days. Nothing extraordinary happened during the visit, but seveal years later I was overseas on an extended trip (before the internet). When I returned, I was told he died, and that my estranged family members had gone to the funeral. My brother asked me if I felt bad having missed his funeral. I said NO, because I had taken the time to visit him when he was ALIVE–which in my book is a lot more important than going to someone’s funeral after they are dead.

    I do my best to keep my business “finished” with the people I care about EVERY DAY, because you NEVER KNOW if that might be the very last time you see them. I always take an extra minute to kiss my husband and daughter goodbye, and tell them I love them regularly, even if we are late!

    Madame Monet

    Comment by wpm1955 | January 31, 2009

  15. Hello Madame Monet, Thanks for your thoughts on this…how sad for your grandfather and your whole family to suffer the estrangement…Isn’t that the truth that YOU NEVER KNOW if that might be the last time you might see them, i do the same thing, kiss my husband and children and tell them that i love them every single day.

    Comment by psychscribe | February 1, 2009

  16. Hello MM, and hello again Psyche -its true that time spent with loved ones ‘this side of the veil” is much more important than attending the funeral. When Miki and I lost a very dear friend recently, I was in two minds as to whether to fly over to the UK, but we were so lucky to have spent some time with her just a few weeks previously when she’d been out to Spain. Being there when she clearly “wasn’t,” wouldn’t have achieved much, and knowing her, she’d have been shouting down “don’t waste your airfare you fool!” I’m sure you’ll not be surprised when I say that Miki and I kiss and say “I love you” every single day also.

    Comment by kevmoore | February 1, 2009

  17. … every single night also, and much more than once… 🙂

    Comment by Miki | February 1, 2009

  18. kev and Miki: she sounds like she was just wonderful, and feisty as all hell! As far as kissing and saying I love you “every single day….and night also”….I personally think that you two are such little love bunnies that you’ll find any excuse for romance!!! And I do mean of a physical nature..;)

    Comment by psychscribe | February 6, 2009

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