What I wanted to say
What I wanted to say (with gentleness):
Dad, you’re worrying me. Your breathing doesn’t sound right. It sounds labored and difficult. It scares me. We need to call the doctor and get some help.
What I said (out of fear):
Why are you breathing so hard? Can’t you breathe more normally?
What I wanted to say (with deep concern):
Dad, you’re worrying me. You’re walking slowly and unsteadily. You’ve gotten old on me all of a sudden.
What I said (with sharpness):
Straighten up, Dad, or you’ll trip and fall!
What I wanted to say (with compassion):
I’m so worried about you! You’re not eating. Your pants are all too big, and your shirts are hanging off of you. I’m using all the recipes Mom used to make. I know they’re not exactly the same, but I’m trying my best to make what you like. Please! You need to eat to keep your strength up.
What I said (out of frustration):
Don’t you like my cooking? I went to all this trouble and you’re barely touching your food!
What I wanted to say (if I could do so without tears):
Dad, I love you, and I’m so worried about you. I see you aging in your attitude as well as your body, and that really scares me. You’ve been able to beat so many illnesses. Now it seems you aren’t willing to try anymore. I’m concerned about you—I don’t want to lose you. I need you. You’re my support, my advocate, my teacher. You and I depend on each other—it’s not just a one-way street. Please, fight to stay well, Dad, fight. I love you.
What I said (to prevent me from crying):
What’s happened to you? Don’t act so old! Stop acting that way! This isn’t like you at all!
What I wish
I wish I could take back all the words that sounded so harsh. I wish I could have always been patient, loving, and understanding. I wish I could have made everything better. I wish I could have simply accepted what was happening.
What I did
Though I stayed with you and tried to do all I could for you, too often I gave way to my own fear and frustration. I couldn’t get through to you when I spoke calmly, so I let my words become sharp and biting. You heard me then—and didn’t like what I had to say.
Deep down, I think we both knew what was happening. We both knew you were on the slippery slope downward in this life so you could prepare for rising in the next.
But we both clung as tightly as we could to the reality we knew, hoping against hope that our will—for one more year, one more month, one more week as we knew it—would be granted. God had different plans.
I had to let you go, and you had to let go.
I know you understood every word, harsh or gentle, was spoken out of love for you. I know you did your best out of love for me.
From the drug-induced haze of your final hours, you rallied one final time to look at me with your beautiful blue eyes and say softly, “Marianne, I love you.”
And all I could say—all I really ever said—was “I love you, Dad, with all my heart.”