Café Crem

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To My Everlasting Shame

I did not stay at my father’s bedside, to be with  him until he passed. There he was, right upstairs in the bedroom, while I hid like a coward downstairs and out of sight. We knew it would be that night. The doctors had called the family in and said so. 

All his brothers and sisters, the aunts and uncles I grew up with,  had been pretty much staying at my parents’ house for those last weeks.  The pasta pots were always boiling. They brought Italian bread and provolone cheese and sweet salami with big green olives. Most importantly,  they brought the black humor which is our family trademark , especially during our darkest hours.  It sustained us and carried us.

And yet, there was an age regression that took place for me. At age 32, they were still the grown ups and I was like a child again. That’s just how the dynamics morphed. When it was soon to be time, my favorite aunt had a talk with me and asked me if I really wanted to watch my father die. She explained to me, 32 going on 8, that dying was not like in the movies. It was quite a frightening thing to see.  She encouraged me to have my quiet time alone with him, now in a coma, and say my good-bye. I did so. Then I walked out of the room and all his siblings and my mother went in and the door was firmly closed.

And so he died with his wife, brothers and sisters all around and me nowhere in sight. They later said it was an awful thing. Blood and God knows what everywhere. Even his brothers were shaken by it. It was not something I should have had to see, they told me. As if they had protected me from something.

But not long after, I realized it was my own father’s awful thing. I should have been there. I allowed myself to be shielded by my beloved and well meaning aunt with childlike trust.  I should have been there. I was not a child. I was not, in truth, protected or shielded. I was written out of the last line of the last page of his life.  No, we wrote me out. 

And I am so ashamed, sorry, and regretful… What if my father knew or sensed I wasn’t there, right through the invisible walls of his coma? My shame is this: that I, his oldest and most responsible child, should have  accompanied him on the final stage of his journey. I should have been there. 

No tidy ending to this post. I should have been there.  

(This post was inspired by a poem by Cordie entitled:  If I had it to do all again)

February 6, 2009 - Posted by | death, family, Parents and Children, personal, Psychscribe's Essays | , , , , ,


  1. Dear Psychscribe,
    If you had the chance to spare your own child the terrible experience of watching you die, would you? I would. I’ve sat with the dying a couple of times but so far not someone as dear to me as my dad, and knowing him, he would not want me there. I’m not sure to be honest who he would want actually. I’d probably stay if I could.
    The two deaths I was close to(but absent by chance at the very last) were extremely peaceful but my husband has sat with many in his role as priest and many, as you say, are far from peaceful. His stepbrother’s death 12 years ago was so hideous, his stepdad sent his mother away.
    When the body goes into coma, it is my belief that the soul has actually fled, and is no longer tied to the body. IT may hover nearby, in the same house until and for some time after the last breath. I believe when you said goodbye, your father left. He was waiting for you to go so he could also go. When my stepfather-in-law passed last March, he too was in a coma but I am certain he waited till me and Zoe, his daughter were gone from the room(we took a break being told it would take all day) before he passed completely. His wife(my mum in law) and my husband were with him and he went less than an hour after I went for a coffee and to sit with Zoe.
    I know what I say may not help, and you may not believe it, but I hope it does help. In my family, I suspect my father would want me to remember him passing as a quiet thing, without pain or suffering, so that I can remember him “asleep”.
    with love and prayers,

    Comment by viv66 | February 6, 2009

  2. A very touching post, Psych. Very very touching.
    I can understand your actual shame and regrets, I just don;t know if it right to have them. But on the other side, only you can judge it, and anyway these are YOUR feelings, and there is no way to control them. I would spontaneously say that you did right in the past, not to be there in these last awful moments, but you seem to suffer about this decision, which is a sign for me that perhaps you should have been there…
    But I really doubt that your father would have wanted you to be there there to see “these awful things”. Now the question is:
    What is more important” What HE wanted or what YOU want?

    Comment by Miki | February 6, 2009

  3. He was a very macho, alpha male (hmmmm…have we heard this word on my blog at all?) and he DEFINITELY would not have wanted me to see him like that. He knew he was my hero. How much you helped me with that simple question!!!!! Thank you SOOOO much and may God give you heaps of blessings today! 🙂

    Comment by psychscribe | February 6, 2009

  4. Viv, I saw Miki’s post before I saw yours. What you said also helped me IMMENSELY. To think that maybe my father was WAITING for me to go, so he could go, would be so…..Dad…..protective to the end….God bless you too my dear. God bless you. I have tears of relief in my eyes as I write this.

    Comment by psychscribe | February 6, 2009

  5. Although I left a comment on your blog. . . the two bloggers before this say basically what I was trying to convey. I honestly believe your father was waiting for you to leave before he took his last breath. Once you said your goodbyes, I’m sure he felt more comfortable about moving into another realm. He did not want his baby to witness this. I would not want it for my children. Perhaps this is something that you wanted more so than he. But somewhere in your psych, you could not do this. The love you have for your father was most likely too strong for your mind to take it at the time. And the love he had for you, most likely would have made it that much harder to move on. I’m glad you are able to remember him in a good way. No need for shame here. . .

    Blessings. . . . C.

    Comment by cordieb | February 6, 2009

  6. Thank you so much cordie. Again I feel tears of relief in my eyes. You are such a special, beautiful person. And welcome to Cafe Crem! PLL, Psych

    Comment by psychscribe | February 6, 2009

  7. In one year I lost my father, my grandmother and my best friend and I learned one thing.

    Life is death and death is life.

    I uncosnsciously did not hide from their deaths; on the contrary I felt a presence within without that guided me. I was there at the moment of their passing and experienced the most profound sense of love ever experienced.

    Do not be afraid for it is in living we move toward death; and death should be all about ones greatest moment experienced in ones lifetime.

    I wish more people would know this and they will suffer and feel the loss but at the end of the day it is the love that will remain and that persons last breath experienced as pure love.

    Death I am not certain about; what I am certain about is life.__Copyright(c)Michael Pokocky

    Comment by Michael Pokocky | February 8, 2009

  8. Thank you Michael. This is beautiful.

    Comment by psychscribe | February 8, 2009

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