... 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.