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My Daddy's Passing...

... was gentle and peaceful.

He left this morning with his wife, my siblings, his grandkids, his only living sibling, my ICU nurse-cousin and the hospice nurse by his side.

As he was leaving this world behind, I received a call to go to a birth. After talking with my brother and then kids, I gathered my Self together and headed to the hospital.

However, after a couple three hours there, I found myself in a place of sadness, not whole-ly present as I should be. I called my apprentice Donna and she blessedly came to tend to my wonderful client. (Who was working towards a VBAC, but after getting to 10 and pushing for a couple of hours, had a repeat cesarean for deep late decels and an acynclitic baby. The baby is great and mom feels really good about how the whole birth unfolded. It seems Donna and my client did really well together, too, so I am glad about that.)

I drove home to spend a quiet day with Sarah, crying and talking as I needed - nurturing and doula-ing my own self as well as finding a way to be taken care of. It was funny when I was making the decision to leave the hospital, feeling guilty about leaving a client, but really, it would have been less responsible to stay and stifle the tears, unfair to my client and her birth. I wasn't in the best energy-place to foster a VBAC. As hard as it was to leave, it was a relief when I could.

I can't believe he's gone. Who will make me laugh about golf now? (Meghann told me I could watch golf anytime I wanted to... that Papi would appreciate that!) How is that someone is here one minute and then gone the next? Isn't it so odd/interesting/hard in our culture that we shelter birth and death so much from our experiences? My being in birth, birth is less of a mystery... and even though I have doula'd death before (with men dying of AIDS), it is still so... foreign? peculiar? frightening? to me.

As often happens, birth and death coincide. More times than I can say, I have attended a birth where someone in their family had just died... the whole "circle of life" thing. It just hasn't happened often with me being the one experiencing death.

When my parents moved to Orlando in 1965, I was 4 years old. They were very, very poor (and young! with three small kids), so going out to dinner was incredibly rare. The first place they went out to eat out was Rossi's Pizza (which opened in 1965), a tiny hole in the wall pizza joint that has remained a mainstay in South Orlando life for 30+ years. On my sister's birthday, October 2, my family went to Rossi's, dad included. While my dad wasn't the life of the party, he still participated, even eating some salad and breadsticks. I talked to him while they were there and he said he was "feeling poor." That night, my dad went to sleep and didn't wake up for 2 days. I was able to talk to him off and on after the Rossi's night, but the talks were momentary and far too brief. The last time I heard his voice, I told him over and over how much I loved him and he struggled out an "I love you" that would have sounded, to anyone else, like "ungh ungh." I knew what he said and could easily translate it.

In talking to my mom after my dad was unable to communicate anymore, I was sobbing in the phone and then started laughing so hard. My mom, worried about me, asked what was so funny! I told her how wonderful I thought it was that the last place my dad ever ate was Rossi's Pizza... how that restaurant has such meaning for our family. That was when my mom told me it was the first place they ever ate out in Orlando... and she added, "And I don't think they've cleaned it since." I cried from laughing and crying so much.

And so, if I were in charge of the memorial service (which I am not), we would be having it at Rossi's Pizza in Orlando. When everyone in Orlando gathers for my dad's service next weekend, I will sit quietly here in San Diego and have a spiritual lunch with my daddy at our favorite pizza joint.

Gently and peacefully - it's how we should all be permitted to go.

My dad's last picture... taken 13 days before he died... at Rossi's Pizza in Orlando.

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Reader Comments (29)

From a faithful blog follower, I am so sorry to hear about the passing of your father! Warm and gentle hugs across the internet!

October 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNew Moon Birth

Barb, what a beautiful post. I came on here to check in on your Dad, hoping for no news... But instead, i find this joyful memory of a wonderful man... and that makes me happy, amidst my sadness, for you and for me. My much loved doggy, who came into our family right after my father passed away nearly 11 years ago, passed away today, and so I have been thinking alot about my dad... And you have reminded me, in the midst of your own grief and loss that it is the good memories that we need to cling to, not the sadness of loss. thank you for that.

October 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTrin

im so sorry to hear about the passing of your father. my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family in this time of need. thank you so much for sharing your final memories of him with me... he sounds like he was a very beautiful man, very much like his beautiful daughter. take care. *hugs*

October 16, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermelissa

*gentle hugs*

October 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRebekah

Am so sorry for your loss and so happy that it was a gentle death. Peace...

October 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoulaMomma

De-lurking to offer my most sincere condolences to you and your family.

Strong are those that refuse to hide emotions from themselves and those around them. So scream, cry, rant, punch, kick and claw your way through this - we are right there beside you.

October 16, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterferretbees

Your dad sounds like a wonderful man. I'm glad he had a peaceful death, and that you're left with good memories of him. I'll keep you and all your family in my prayers.

October 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

Thank you all so much... I feel your love so acutely. It absolutely helps me to feel protected and tended to. Thank you.

October 16, 2008 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

What a beautiful picture! He looked truly happy. This post has brought back the feelings I felt right after my Daddy died in July. I'm glad your Dad's passing was peaceful. Lots of hugs and prayers and good thoughts to you.

October 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSandy

I am so sorry for your loss. {{hugs}}

October 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKarelle

I just went to your main page and saw your dad passed away. I am so sorry for the loss of your father but glad he died peacefully. My father passed away from cancer 11 yrs ago and a month ago I lost a friend to leukemia after she battled for over 7 yrs with myleodysplasia. It's sad, but I know they're in a better place and their suffering is no more. Thank you for sharing about your dad with us and here's another (((hug))) across the Internet!

October 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMelodie

If I knew you in person, I would give you a hug. I'm sorry that you lost such a precious person.

October 16, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteramelia

Barb, i'm so very sorry. I feel very humbled by your post. Don't you have your daddy's smile though? I can see him in you x

October 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

What a beautiful man...those happy lips, those bright eyes, that thick, glossy hair. What a gorgeous spirit...he just shines!

I am so sorry for your loss. So, so sorry.


October 16, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjanya

Barbara, I am sorry. I do not have many words right now, as I have been thrown back into grieving again. But I keep thinking of something when you write about birth/death. You know that quite whisper in birth, when the baby arrives & it is quiet, but there is this energy..you know what I am talking about. I remember that too when my father passed. This quiet energy just gone. Just the opposite of birth, but in death. Anyway...I feel it too.
Again, so sorry about your father. May you find peace during this sad time.

October 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCristina

loving thoughts from NYC.

October 17, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterdew

Please accept my condolences!

October 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCiarin

My mother died last month of lung cancer. It has been a tough month. My heart goes out to you and your family. The pictures of your dad are just wonderful. Everytime I see them they make me smile.

Take care.

October 18, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous

I am glad you got to have some good days with your dad before he died. I am sorry he is not with you anymore...

October 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDawn

Sending abrazos....

October 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSunshine

I am delurking here just to say I'm sorry for your loss, and so touched by your writing here and the photo of your father. I have a lot of feelings and few words so I'll leave it at that. Sending nurturing thoughts during your time of grieving.

October 18, 2008 | Unregistered Commenternikoline

I'm so sorry for your loss.

October 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEva

I just read about your father's passing. I'm very sorry.

October 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJenni

when my dad was dying, someone shared this poem it touched me so deeply that a memorized it:
Gone from My Sight

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side
spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and
starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty
and strength. I stand and watch her until at length
she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where
the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says: "There, she is gone!"

"Gone where?"

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in
mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and
she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her
destined port.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the
moment when someone at my side says: "There, she is gone!"
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout: "Here she comes!"

And that is dying.

October 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterErika

Sorry for your loss. May the wonderful memories you have of your father carry you through now and always.

October 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

I'm so sorry for your loss. You and your family are in my thoughts.

October 21, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterhsp

I'm so sorry for your loss, Barb. I'm glad it was peaceful for him. Good for you for taking care of yourself during your grieving process. Thanks for all the wisdom you share!

October 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCrystal

Barb- I'm so sorry to hear of your dads' passing. I've been coming over to "check" on you and on him but hadn't been online much this last week. I lost my father in 1987, in my mid-20's and it was an amazing transition in my life, in many ways. I felt as though I had suddenly crossed the threshold to "adulthood", even though I had been out and on my own, living a very 'adult" life, including attending births, for several years! I know that you are feeling your loss profoundly and I am, and will be, praying for you. I am heartened that he had such a peaceful and lovingly attended passing.......courage, my dear, courage! Love, Michelle.

October 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKneelingwoman

Erika, beautiful story and I shall share that with my family. Thank you so much.

Thank you all for your wonderful thoughts and expressions of sadness at my loss.

Something I learned after I wrote this post was this:

My Aunt Carmen was there. Her son Ricky, the nurse I speak about in the post was also there. Carmen called me and told me that my dad visibly relaxed whenever she spoke Spanish to him. My dad was Cuban and didn't move to the US until 1959, so Spanish was his main language for much of his life. As he moved towards death, my Aunt Carmen began singing lullabies in Spanish to him, the ones their mother sang to them so long ago. My father died hearing the lullabies of his infancy.

After he died, my cousin Ricky opened the window so my dad's soul could fly out and go to heaven.

He then dressed my dad in his favorite red golf shirt and a pair of red, white and blue shorts that we all adored on my dad.

Very soon after that, the crowd dispersed and my step-mother spent some alone time with my daddy before he was taken away.

I know those lullabies and will never forget that they ushered my father out of this world and into the next. It brings me great peace to know this.

October 21, 2008 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

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