Skip to comments.I lost my father, America lost a hero
Posted on 06/12/2004 5:08:29 PM PDT by MadIvan
Patti Davis famously fell out with her father Ronald Reagan, but was reconciled with him before his death. She was at his side when he died a week ago. Here she describes his final days, and the gap his departure has left in the life of her family
My father is dying. Only a few days left now. Maybe a week. Maybe his soul is already gone. It looks like that blue chalk eyes, more like a childs drawing then real eyes. No life in them, just existence.
Its been 10 years since the diagnosis. Alzheimers. A disease that arrives with death as its soulmate. I thought I was prepared. So many waves of grief have crashed over me during these years. But now I think there is another diving-down place thats still waiting for me.
Two days ago my fathers eyes stopped opening at all; his hand is as pale as the blanket covering him and sometimes his breath just stops as seconds pass by and I wonder and hold my own breath. My father is dying and it feels like Ive never thought about it before. Even though Ive been living with the thought for a decade.
My fathers voice fell silent weeks ago. Until then the sound of his voice hummed through the room sometimes not with words, but maybe they were words to him. I said to my mother, maybe hes getting us used to the silence.
She lives with all that silence, with the ticking by of minutes and the knowledge that death has to be better than ragged breathing and chalk-blue eyes.
Her husband is dying. The man she loved for 52 years. Here is a snapshot of the waiting: a daughter holding her mother while she weeps, tears staining skin, a body shaking with so much pain you think if you were at the centre of the Earth you could probably feel it.
My mother is tiny, her weight against me light, the back of her head is cupped in my hand. But her grief is huge and so heavy it pulls on the joints of my body. It will be okay, I tell her. But I have no idea if it will be.
His death will be a big unwieldy one a world event. Press stories and news specials and foreign dignitaries arriving in America in black clothes with typed-up eulogies in their pockets. We will grab onto the massive grief around us and go home at night to the shape of grief inside us.
My father has died. Five of us were there my mother, (brother) Ron, me, the doctor and the Irish nurse whose lilting voice always made him smile. We waited through the foggy morning, into the midday sunlight. An intimate vigil, a bond formed that no one will forget. The room was filled with whispers, shared stories, soft laughter over fond memories. Silence, as we measured my fathers breathing.
At the last moment, when his breathing told us this was it, he opened his eyes and looked straight at my mother. Eyes that hadnt opened for days did, and they werent chalky or vague. They were clear and blue and full of love, and then they closed with his last breath.
If a death can be lovely, his was. The greatest gift you could have given me, my mother managed to say to him through tears, through I love you, through the towering beauty of that last moment. The hush in the room broken then by quiet crying.
The world turns pages of my fathers life and wrestles with his death. There seems to be no other news story. A world event as we knew it would be. It used to be hard to share my father with a whole nation. Now youd have to be the most selfish person in the world not to take comfort from the support of so many.
Yet for me his death is simply this: one last moment of startling life, a memory seared into our hearts, the one antidote to the sorrow that will stream on with no end in sight. Death is eyes closing for the last time and other eyes opening morning after morning wondering if this will be the day when it gets easier.
My father told me when I was small that I didnt need to stand on my toes to touch God, because He is everywhere. He was right: God was in that room.
In his last moment my father taught me that there is nothing stronger than love between two people. It reaches past death and cradles hearts that weep. The last thing he did in this world was to show my mother how entwined their souls are . . . and it was everything.
Beautiful...she's become the woman he hoped she be.
The cold slap of reality affects us all differently.
God bless her.
Patti has come to realize how right/good/heroic her father really was.
Yes, very moving and loving of her to share.
God bless your Britain, MadIvan, and you.
I thought all three of the children were amazingly eloquent and the class of their father and mother came through. I think I may now understand how they felt shortchanged by their parents public life. He was such an amazing man that having to share him would make doing so all the more difficult. Sharing a lesser man would probably be much easier. Now it seems they have come to realize they were incredibly blessed.
Self destructive and a total waste of talent. How sad. By spiting her parents she spited herself.
**Beautiful...she's become the woman he hoped she be.**
I don't think so.
Thanks Ivan. It's beautiful. And it's so nice to see you posting again.
I couldn't agree with you more.
Very powerful description of her father's last days. Thanks.
I'm glad I wasn't one of the little soldiers in the war going on inside her head. She looked very troubled all week. A lot of pain.
And it's so nice to see you posting again.
Indeed it is.
Margaret Thatcher and you.
My two favorite Brits.
She is a lovely writer and she does justice to the emotions and to the moment. I hope her father's faith has moved her spirit as well as her heart.
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