Me, Dad, and my daughter on Halloween 2002.

It was the most surreal moment I had ever experienced in my life.

It was 8:05 am on March 13, 2oo3 when life left the room. No seriously, I could feel it.

It was a long night in the nursing home as my dad, now in a coma state, was quickly shutting down. In this, this was it. The end.

The walls of the facility echoed loudly that night from the random TV’s left on in the various rooms. Oddly, it appeared every TV was on the same channel which only accentuated the effect. There were no other noises that night. Just that of the echoing TV’s.

Inside room 42, me, my brother, and my mom sat patiently around my dad as his breathing began to drift across that bridge in the sky while his body grew colder and colder.

We laughed, we cried, we prayed.

All the while, the elephant in the room was what we were all thinking and asking of ourselves…

What will it be like when he takes his final breath? Will I be in the room when he takes his final breath?

We knew it was over. The fight was complete. The end was near.

In this, all I can say… no one can ever prepare you for that moment.

And yet, as I sat their at my dad’s side next to my brother, hospice had entered the room to change his shirt when “it” happened.

Mom had just stepped out of the room as we sat down next to him. It was as if he knew.

As if to say to her… it’s ok, you can let go now, I will be alright.

It was 8:05 am when life left the room. You could literally feel it. Never had I ever experienced anything like that in my life. Yet there was such peace in that moment, it came upon the scene like that of ones final exhale blowing forth their soul into that which lies beyond this life.

You know, I sat there next to my brother and yet we have never discussed what we felt. Odd.

I recall not longer after my dad’s passing as his now still body laid in waiting for the funeral home to arrive and take him to his final resting place a moment that will stick with me forever…

As my family and close friends gathered in the hallway outside of his room, my daughter, who was 5 at the time entered the room. As I looked up, she had got up onto a chair next to dad, knelt down over him, kissed him on the cheek, and said… bye bye Papa Bill.

My eyes well up with tears as I recall this now 9 years later.

Moments later, the funeral home arrived to get dad. It again… was surreal as they place dad in a bag and sought to zip it up all the way. Nearing his face, my brother motioned for them to hold off. Not till we get around the hallway corner in respect for mom.

And with that, me, my brother, and daughter then escorted my dad’s body out of the facility and into the hearse. With this came my third surreal moment that morning.

As we escorted dad out of the building, the other residents, many of them too, facing the same scenario, simply stood in silence through the building. They knew what they were seeing.

From my eyes, I saw not them standing there, but the cries of their souls standing there at attention honoring the recently departed soul of my father.You could see it in their eyes. You could feel it in your bones.

And with that, we turned the corner. And with that, came the motioning from my brother to go ahead zip the bag up completely.

“Not yet!” spoke my daughter as she knelt over from my arms to kiss dad’s cheek one last time.

It was then that it set in.. this would be the last time this world would see my dad’s face. This would be the first time that I would see the face of this world without my dad in it.

It was like everything was new all over again. Sure, I had driven by these places a million times before, but not without dad in this world.

It was a sense that the world had moved on while my heart screamed out loud… stop…. you’re forgetting somebody… dad.

And so I sit here 9 years later and return to that day where I said goodbye and with this, I know two things..

I will see him again and I will never forget.

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11 responses »

  1. michelle (reich) myre says:

    beautiful, Gunnar. you have a wonderful way with words.
    i remember my grandma’s passing – although I wasn’t there for her death, we were all invited to come and say goodbye before they took her shell away.
    miraculously, we could all still “feel” grandma.
    one of her children hadn’t come yet.
    once auntie leslee came through the door, crying “No, mama, no!”
    Then she hugged and kissed her, and said “Goodbye, mama, oh I love you so”.
    It was then and only then that we all felt her spirit leave, even though it had already left her lifeless body in the bed.
    my grandma margaret (you probably remember her) talked often of how she could “see” into heaven in those last days before her physical death.
    she saw Christ walking on the beach towards her in a painting on the wall, and near the end saw many heavenly beings who were “there to take her home”.
    for even though my 15 year old heart was breaking because i would miss her so much, i was content in my peace that she would be in Heaven and would be waiting for me so we could walk those beaches together with Jesus.
    thank you so much for sharing your beautiful experience. because that’s what it is. as painful as death can be for us left behind, i am so glad that your daughter was blessed with being able to say goodbye and become a part of your memory of your father.
    god bless you guys,
    michelle (reich) myre

    • @gunnarsimonsen says:

      Thank you so much for your words and sharing your story, too. Yes, I do remember grandma Margaret. She was an amazing woman. I remember being at a beach retreat with D and C when she passed and was the one to tell them. It is so great to be reconnected with you!!

  2. I lost my dad in 2007. Thank you for this post. I am sitting here crying at the recognition.

  3. Karen says:

    This made me cry. Touching. My dad passed away on the 11 Th of this month, 4 years ago. I replayed the day many times in my mind on Sunday. Weepy all day as if it had just happened again. I was frightened to be by my father’s side as I had no idea what death was like. I remember thinking there would be noise, maybe lightening crashing down and it hit me that in his last breath life simply continued for those of us around him. It was like you said, calm and peaceful and I had that sense of relief. I am glad I could be there. So nice that your family was all there for your dad. Hospice is wonderful. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • @gunnarsimonsen says:

      thank you so much for sharing your experience. I am moved by that and am sorry for your loss, as well.

  4. akimynation says:

    so sad. but you will soon meet. im sorry for your experience.

  5. Remember talking to me the day my brother died. I said I was so tired. Thanks for writing your story, it took me back to the day at the hospice my young strong brother died. I’m sorry you miss your dad.

    • @gunnarsimonsen says:

      wow. I am so moved by your words that this would take you back to a place in your past, too. words cannot describe the loss of a loved one. peace, my friend!

  6. […] After my family went home for the night, it was just myself, my brother, and mom as we stood by dad’s side as he began his final journey from this world. It was surreal. […]

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