A soft spring morning rain was falling as I kept vigil near my father. Rain has always been a balm for my soul – especially this kind. It was a perfect rain – steady, thick, gentle lines, encasing everything that is precious to me. The sound and smell permeated me, like a salve seeping through my skin in search of the wound that needed healing. The raindrops dampened the air, creating a protective film around the house – a chrysalis preparing for the impending transition within.
During the night, his breathing had been audible. I shared a bed with my mother so we could both be close to him in case something happened during the night. My sisters were in nearby bedrooms. I lay awake, listening. It was the out-breath that I could hear. Long, silent pauses, then a quick, breathy release of air. Long pause, quick breath. Then, a pause that lasted too long. I got out of bed and walked over to touch him. My mother raised up as well. “It’s ok. He’s still breathing,” I said. I got back in bed, but very little sleeping took place. I listened and waited, listened and waited, occasionally glancing over to see the silhouetted rise and fall of his thin chest.
A long night.
It was the 20th of June, the cusp of the Summer Solstice, a time when the veil between worlds is considered to be particularly thin, where this world kisses the next. Tropical Storm Bill, my father’s namesake, had weakened and made its way to Kentucky, bringing with it the lovely, soft rainfall that was cocooning us all.
Coming in from the soothing rain, I wandered back through the house to his bedroom. My sister was there, watching quietly. I mentioned that some cultures believe that the soul cannot be free if the windows are closed. So, we opened the windows. The cleansing aroma and soft tapping of the rain floated in and filled the room. My father loved a rainy morning.
My other sister wandered into the room. We all chatted quietly about this and that, while watching my father breathe. Then, my mother wandered in as well. And we were all there, flanking his bed. Watching. Waiting.
The room fell quiet, except for his breath and the rain. And we watched. The pauses between breaths grew longer. We waited. He took what would be his last breath, as I held mine. And then, we knew. He was free.
And it was perfect. Peaceful. Beautiful. He left this world as he had lived in it, graciously and without fanfare, surrounded by love that he had created. We covered him with kisses and tears, touching his still-warm body and caressing his sweet face.
“I think you finally got what you wanted, Dad.”
I know you are not far away, just on the other side of that lovely veil. I will stay close, watching the thin places shimmer and waiting for a precious glimpse of you, until we are together again. I love you.