Last week, I lost my father. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August of 2017, was given 6-12 months to live, and died June 16, 2018, peacefully, while I was by his side. I wonder where he went. Where did he travel to? It’s strange to watch someone pass. Their eyes look at you, but you’re not certain they see. You speak to them but you aren’t entirely sure they hear. The night before my father passed away, he fought death. He struggled, he moaned, and writhed in pain. I spared my family the trauma of seeing him in such a condition. I asked him over and over, what I could do, if he was in pain. But he just looked at me. And I felt helpless.
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My father and I haven’t always seen eye to eye. I suppose it’s because we were so similar, that we were both too pig headed to concede our individual points of view. I never thought my dad was proud of me; For every accomplishment I achieved, his voice resonated to just take it easy and enjoy life. I didn’t understand him. I don’t know if I ever will. Ten minutes before my father passed away, I sat down on his bed. I bluntly told him, he needed to go. I spoke to him frankly, assuring him that his family could no longer see him in the condition he was in. It is too difficult to watch your loved one sink into a shell that is no longer who they are. My last words to my father was that he had to let us go. He was holding on, too tightly, even in pain, out of fear, out of love, out of things I’ll never know. And with those words, he just stopped.
Death isn’t always dramatic. In my father’s case, he just stopped. No heartfelt goodbyes, he just left. And I will wonder until my own last breath where exactly he went. Life is a journey, and we all travel to fantastic places. The world is a treasure to be discovered. But what I have also come to understand is that, sometimes, where we are, can be just as exciting, if we allow it. The years leading up to my father’s death, I was erratic, traveling for work and pleasure. I had loved the wrong people, people who cursed me, for loving them. I didn’t stop to breathe, afraid of what I already knew. Like my father, I knew that if I stopped, even for one second, that I would die. And now I mourn, not only my father’s death, but my own. I mourn the death of who I used to be, I mourn for the death of relationships I cared deeply about. I wonder about what my life could of been, if I had done something differently, or spoke more eloquently. I wonder how I could of been better. I think about what I did wrong, things I said, to hurt others who were also hurting me. I wonder about what love is; why I love(d) the people I did. And I am afraid, and alone. And the only person who always showed up, even when I asked him not to, is dead. But all is as it should I suppose. Death is also a destination – sometimes it happens at the end of life, but more often than not, it happens throughout our life.
About a week after my father’s passing, I received several phone calls from an ‘unknown’ number. When I picked up, there was only static and a hang up. I like to think that perhaps my father was calling me from wherever he was. Heaven, or some other dimension that is less troubling than this world we live in. My father was not perfect. He was difficult, and he angered me. But he was a destination I could count on, a place of respite when I was weak. His strength, and love, were like a comfortable bed, after a long nights travel. And I will forever miss him. But I know, that his final destination is more beautiful than any place I will ever see.
My Eulogy to Luigi Pitocco – June 5th 1950 – June 16th 2018
I’d like to say a few words, for my father who left us. I won’t bore you with stories about how much he loved us. Fathers love their daughters and in turn daughters love their fathers. And I won’t speak of the tragedy of my father’s untimely death- life is full of inequities and tragedies that each one of us has had to endure. I won’t ask God why, because as a person of faith, I will not allow myself to question God’s timing. And I don’t want to tell you how great my dad was – because the truth is that he was human, full of complexities, annoyances, misgivings and errors. Instead, I would like to recite a short poem I wrote. This is for my dad, who despite our differences, was a good father, a good husband, a good grandfather and friend.
All that You wanted was a stillness of mind. A peace in your heart that You could not define. Like a boat that was docked – You were free and yet not. In the in-between is where Is where you were caught. All that You wanted was true, loyal friends. Those who did love you, and remained till the end. All You desired was to sail away. To leave the safety and comforts, of being docked at bay. To find out for certain, that love does exist. And in your final moments, you did not resist. All you now need is a shallow sleep; shallow enough but ever so deep. Where You can walk away from all that’s old and past, and dream a dream, that is for you at last. The waters are lovely, dark and deep. You’ve kept all of your promises and you have earned this sleep.
Goodbye Dad. We will all miss you and will always love you.
Photos: Beatrice Pitocco