Saying Goodbye to My Dad

A week ago I found out that my father died during the night. 

I had a complicated childhood, and he had been estranged from me for several years. A few years ago, he was hit with rapid-onset dementia and after a heroic attempt at caring for him by my mother and brother, he needed to move to nursing home. I had only spoken with him a few times in the last few years, the last time shortly before he had to move from his own apartment to the nursing home asked him to forgive me and forgave him. He didn’t seem to understand why I was asking that, but he told me immediately that he did forgive me. Dementia often takes the good with the bad, and I hope he had some peace mixed in with the frightened bewilderment that came from his own mind rebelling against him. 

Thinking of him reminds me somewhat of the father in great Russian novel The Brothers Karamazov. The poet Donald Sheehan, who died a few years ago, wrote this wonderful meditation on The Brothers Karamazov that also included his reflections on the death of his own father with whom he had a similar, complicated relationship. This meditation on his father begins halfway through this post and it rings very true with how the relationship with my father felt: https://web.archive.org/…/www…/~karamazov/resources/…

I will repeat Donald’s message to his father that he was only able to write seven years after his death. I don’t think it’s possible for me to craft words to better express my own feelings: 

“Thus I’ve come, Dad, to bury forever my needing to be in pain through you. And to let begin to grow from this seed of today a deeper, fuller loving between us.
I love you. You love me. Do not forget this.
Your son in loving, 

Donald Sheehan, in his note to his father seven years after his father’s death

Forgive me all my faults as a son. I love you, Daddy. May your memory be eternal.

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