one small breath

As I write this post, I am thankful that September has arrived in Michigan and gifted us with a lovely late summer day. I’ve planted mums in the flower garden by the mailbox, planned a barbecue for the holiday weekend, and yet I can’t help but think about the fragility of life this afternoon. My daughter texted me last night that her and her partner have to put one of their beloved cats to sleep this week. A friend called to tell me one of the week old baby twins born to the son of another close friend is gravely ill, a blogging buddy has been asking for prayers for neighbors who lost their five year old daughter in a backyard swimming pool accident, and this month is bittersweet for me and my family as we will mark the one year anniversary of my mother’s passing. On Sunday, when I asked my father if he wanted to do anything on the 30th to commemorate the day, he silently shook his head and I suddenly felt how alone he has been for the past twelve months. My sister and I have made an effort to see my dad every week, and we talk about my mother often, but still, after fifty-one years of marriage I know there aren’t enough dinners or walks down memory lane that can change the fact that his wife is no longer sitting on the couch across from him reading her books with her little dog Ellie curled up on her lap.

Several weeks ago my dad woke up at dawn. When he looked toward the foot of his bed he saw the misty outline of a woman standing there, just looking at him. She was wearing a long white dress and he couldn’t make out her face. All at once, his two dogs who sleep in the bed with him, woke up and began barking in the direction of the ethereal figure. After a minute or two, my dad got up and took the dogs outside to try and settle them down. When he went back into his bedroom the woman was gone but the dogs were still nervous and it took them quite some time to go back to sleep. My dad said he would have thought it was a dream if the dogs hadn’t apparently seen the woman too. He said he assumed the figure was my mother.

So I don’t know, maybe my father isn’t alone. Maybe all the tender moments shared, all the joy filled beginnings and the sad goodbyes, all the threads of love and longing and regret that join each life to another, maybe all these things really do survive long after we are gone. And just maybe, if you are very lucky like my father, when you feel most alone they will gather together in the haze of the early morning light and give you peace. That is my wish for my friends and family on this bright September day, peace in knowing that it doesn’t matter if a life is measured in days or in years, in good health or in trial, each life is worthy and perfect just as it is – beginning and ending with one small breath.

14 thoughts on “one small breath

  1. No matter what anyone believes, to your dad, I’m sure it WAS her and that’s all that matters. Especially if it brought him some comfort.

    I’m so sorry to hear about the other events going on in your life right now. Such hard times for folks. I will be thinking of all of them.

  2. Oh Lilli, This post brought tears to my eyes. I am sure that your Dad is not alone. Bless his heart. After so many years of marriage, I’m sure that it’s doubly hard. I always have said that once Dad Adams dies, that Mom won’t live much longer (or vice versa). They have been inseparable for 69 yrs.

    Life is fragile—for all of us. We all need to live each day to its fullest for sure. I will pray for those special people in your life (and for you and your Daddy) who are going through heartaches and sorrow.


  3. What an absolutely lovely post…I share your mixed feelings about September but I was not as eloquent. I am praying for you and your Dad that you have a peaceful and gentle month.


  4. I’m sure there are lots of skeptics – but I’m not one. I’ve had an experience like that with a family member who passed. It does fill you with some comfort…

  5. What an experience. What a tender moment that your father can hold on to . Knowing that your mother is waiting for him has to be of great comfort on this first anniversary. Hang in there.

  6. Thanks you so very much for your beautiful comment on my site. I appreciate your kind thoughts and beautiful words.

    Here is to happier months and precious memories! -Kathy

  7. It is such a painful transition for our parents, to deal with the loss of their spouse (my dad’s been gone for 4 years, but it seems like yesterday). What a comforting visit your father had. Best wishes to you and yours

  8. “Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world; a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream; a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, a flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream” ~Buddha

    Your post is very moving and thought provoking and it spurred me to share something with you.

    When my beloved old grandad was near the end of his life (he died in December 2008 aged 100 years and 4 months old) ~ his wife (who died in 1996) started to “visit” him regularly. She too would stand at the end of the bed and sometimes even sit beside him on the bed or lay down next to him. She was an ethereal figure too ~ but he knew it was her. She never spoke but her presence gave him great comfort. he told me every time she visited and would describe the event in detail.

    At the time I wasn’t sure if he was imagining the visits ~ or maybe beggining to lose his mind slightly due to his great age. However, I retained an open mind and decided that if it brought him comfort then it was OK by me.

    On the day of his death I received a phone call at crack of dawn asking me to go to the nursing home as he was fading fast. I spent the last few hours of his life sitting next to him and holding his hand ~ and talking gently. He could no longer speak but was conscious ~ and responded occasionally to me by opening his eyes or squeezing my hand when I asked him to let me know that he knew I was there.

    Just befire he died (his breathing had changed and he had the death rattle) he suddenly lifted his tired old head and looked at the bottom of the bed ~ he also raised his hand and pointed with one finger and his face was full of joy and surprise. Then he died.

    I swear that his much loved wife of many years came to collect him. And seeing her filled him with joy.
    I wrote about these incidents on my blog and if you read the posts in the “grandad” section on top of my blog ~ you will see them (scroll down for links to the posts). The specific post I refer to is here:

    So I do believe your dad. There are more things in Heaven and on Earth than are dreamt of in our philosphy (mis-quoted from Hamlet)


    • I was a little worried that my mom had come for my dad, I’m not ready to lose him too, but so far he’s still here and doing fine! My mother had a similar experience when her dad passed. She was sitting with him when woke up suddenly and smiled looking toward the end of the bed, reached out, and then closed his eyes and died:)

  9. What a beautiful and thought provoking post. I know this last year has been very hard for you. I can only imagine how it must be for your dad. Sending some love to you both…

  10. soul strikingly beautiful! ! !

    I think the crux of loss it to realize we are soul and not just the material body. Blessings to your heart on this day, and happy birthday to a fellow Virgo.

  11. I can’t even imagine my husband not being here anymore to sit with and talk to and cuddle with. And after 51 years … God bless his heart!

    The night my grandmother passed away, I “dreamed” that she stood at the foot of my bed. I really do think she was there to say goodbye and I really love that.

    I’m so sorry for your family’s loss.

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