Four a.m. and the phone call comes. Already I know as I rush to the phone exactly what waits on the line: My sister’s voice, struggling to get the words out. “Dad’s dying.” The words still a shock, words that speak reality into being. Don’t mention it. Don’t say it. Don’t make it real. A code my parents lived by for so long. Maybe it will go away, without doctors, without help, by faith alone.
Faith. That word, too, hangs empty in the air.
Four a.m. and there’s nothing left to say. I wish I could be there. I wish I could’ve talked to him. I wish I had spoken up. It doesn’t matter now. Words don’t matter now. Perhaps they never did.
Four twenty-six and there’s nothing left to do. The ER doctors have done all they could. “I think they’re going to pronounce him soon,” my sister says. They’ll say the words. The end will come. Like magic, speaking death into existence. Don’t say it, and maybe it won’t be true.
Four thirty-eight and there’s nothing left to feel. Shock, disbelief, anger, sadness have all washed over me in waves. They will return to scrub my mind again until it’s clean and whole, ready to face the pain that comes with living, and the cruel fact that everything must die. Even you. Even I. Those we hold closest to our hearts. Those we wish we’d held closer.
Five thirteen and there’s nothing left to write, except, “I love you, Dad.”