The Last Goodbye - through the eyes of an expat (Part 1)

I was fully determined to make my next post as morose as possible ... but my Dad just wouldn't let it end that way.

He just had to include talk of farts in our last goodbye.

I wanted to let the world - or at the very least my 16 faithful followers - KNOW how incapacitating, debilitating and earth-shattering a last goodbye could be for an expat.

I wanted readers to FEEL how powerless I FELT when I said my last goodbye to my Dad.  How I sat in the darkness of his room on a cold winter's night in Montreal.  

Him, sleeping in his big Lazy-Boy chair, holding my hand.

Me seated in a chair next to him, trying to come to grips with the reality that this was truly the last goodbye.

Me, praying that I would forevermore remember the feel of his hand wrapped tight around mine.  

 Holding on while letting go ...

Holding on while letting go ...

Him, rasping.  

Me, willing the thoughts and the love in my heart to reach through the darkness, through the cancerous pain that gripped him, through the murkiness of Alzheimer's in which he was drowning.  

Him, clinging to this blessed moment of peace enveloping him, dressed as sleep but actually concocted from a lethal cocktail of morphine and pain.

Two of my sisters, my brother and one brother-in-law seated down the hallway, allowing me a final 30 minutes of blessed quiet with this man to whom I owed my very existence.  Allowing me to close my eyes and shed tears in absolute silence as I tried to synchronize my breath to his.  Allowing me to pray to God in silence that I might find the strength to say the last goodbye to my Dad without shedding a tear so that he might believe this goodbye was simply a "good night" like any other that we'd shared over the last three weeks. 

Me and my Dad, seated side by side, so very like so many times past, yet so very different.  I'd never appreciated sitting next to him quite as much as I did on the night of February 26, 2014.  Knowing it was the last goodbye ...

He opened his eyes once and whispered to me that his wall was pretty full.  It was a wall that we'd literally plastered with pictures of friends and family.  I said: "Yes, it's a good wall", and he nodded.  "It's a good family."  And he nodded.  And he closed his eyes.

 It's a good wall; it's a good family ...

It's a good wall; it's a good family ...

Fifteen minutes before I had to leave for the airport, my Dad woke up, and I asked my family to come back in.  I didn't want him to be alone when I finally left.  Since he'd lost most of his voice by now (one of the sure signs that the end was imminent) and his ability to sing, we all sat in silence for a bit.  But my Dad could still whistle.  And so, despite all the healthy lungs in the room, it was he who - despite his crumbling lungs and pain-wracked body - finally broke the silence with a whistling tune.

I had put all my stuff outside his room.  When it was time to go I simply said goodnight and told him that I had to get to bed, hugged him, gave him a kiss and told him I loved him.  Because of his Alzheimer's, it was crucial that I not leave him with the pain of a last goodbye.  A "good night" meant I'd be back.  But he still had enough wherewithal to know what a "goodbye" from me meant.  I went out and put on my coat.  

But I couldn't help myself; I had to go in and give him one last kiss and touch him one last time.  

He smelled my coat and asked in a barely audible whisper if I smoke.  I said "yes".  

He asked if I fart too.  I said "yes".  

Somehow, beneath that veil of morphine and forgetfulness, it's like he knew he couldn't leave me on a sad note.  I avoided looking at my family; I knew that their teary-eyed smiles would break me.

I breathed in his smell one last time before boarding the 14-hr flight that would carry me 10,500 km to my husband and daughter and life back in Doha.

I said "je t'aime Papa."  He whispered "je t'aime aussi".

And I left.  I didn't cry in front of him.  God helped me with that.