So I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad recently-specifically the last conversation we had before he died. I’ll never forget it. It was such a powerful experience.
The story goes like this: I walked into the kitchen and stopped short of the telephone. I stared at it momentarily, thinking I should call my father as it’s been awhile since we last spoke. After some debate, I gave in to my guilt and dialed his number.
He answered and we engaged in some idle chit chat before things got-for lack of a better word, strange. He began to break down over the phone telling me how much he misses us –the grandkids and how much he loves us. I only witnessed my dad cry once and that was at my grandmother’s funeral many years prior. My knee-jerk response was a light-hearted “You ok man, you’re not acting quite right?!” He pulled himself together and we shared a bit of a laugh. He just reaffirmed how much he missed us and wanted so badly to see the kids again.
Without thinking too much of it, I told him we’d plan a trip over during the summer for a visit (he lived in Nova Scotia at the time, I in Prince Edward Island). He was so ecstatic – I mean, beyond normal. It sounded like he won a lottery or something, he was so excited. “You promise you will?” He confirmed. Feeling even more confused, I promised him.
When we hung up the phone, I scratched my head (literally) and played it off as an odd day for the old man.
I think it was two or three days later, I got a call from my mother after work informing me that dad had passed away from a heart attack earlier in the day. I fell in a state of shock of the news. I hung up and sat down at the kitchen table-not taking my eyes off the phone. The conversation my dad and I had just a couple days earlier began to play in my mind-the emotional awkwardness. He knew. He knew he didn’t have much time left. It all began to make sense to me.
If I had only known, I would have packed the kids up that night and drove the four hours to see him-to give him his final wish. But I didn’t know. I just moved on, taking my conditions for granted I guess.
The most disturbing thought I had in my moment of shock was reflecting on the time I took to contemplate whether to pick up the phone and call him. I almost didn’t because I was ‘too busy’. Not to suggest a divine intervention experience, but something drew me to pick up the phone. It was uncharacteristic of me to call home so early in the evening-especially when tasked with preparing supper, tending to the kids and so on. But I did, and to this day, I am so thankful that I did.
My dad died one day before my birthday. I snicker to myself thinking in all of that, he forgot to wish me Happy Birthday before leaving us.
I guess the underlying message in this post is that don’t hesitate to pick up the phone when you feel you should call a loved one. You just never know. If you have a strained relationship with a family member, I hope this note inspires you to reach out and bury the hatchet so to speak. You just never know. For me, I got lucky. I hate to think how I’d feel had I ignored my “signal” and walked away from the telephone that fateful day.