It was time. He had faded away and it was time to let go.
I sat with him the last couple of days, reading some of his favorite poems: Tennyson's Charge of the Light Brigade. Gray's Elegy In A Country Churchyard. Millay's Renascence. Frost's The Road Not Taken. All kinda depressing poems...but the ones he always read or quoted from while we were growing up. He used to tell me a good poem inspires thought, a great poem makes you wanna go hang yourself. And then he would laugh and say that wasn't true, but he still liked the overly dramatic stuff best. I don't think too many people knew that the funniest guy on the planet really liked depressing literature. But that was the conundrum that was my dad. So I read him all those depressing poems until I couldn't stand it any more and switched over to Tehillim (Book of Psalms.) And those were not exactly uplifting either. I mean, I get why we read them, but lighthearted fare they are not.
On Thursday evening, just as Mom was being wheeled over to the dining room for a light supper, I went back to Dad. I saw him take a breath. No breath came out. It was over. I silently signaled the nurse to return. Then I went to tell Mom.
This morning, Sunday, we had a service here in St. Paul for Mom's sake. We already knew she would be unable to make the trip home to the family plot, so Rabbi Allen and I figured out what we could do. I expected a few friends. The room was packed. And from what I hear, the little graveside service I thought would be attended by a few cousins will be more than that. My dad was always full of surprises. Even now.
Monday, I will stand at the family plot beside my big brother and the senior son. A large gathering of family and friends will support us, including Dad's sister, my 91-year old Tante who flew up from Florida. Just about all my cousins will be there. We will hug and hold hands....and tell Sidney stories. And we will laugh. A lot. That's what we do when we're together. Definitely Dad's fault that we laugh at everything.
Meanwhile, junior son and our friend Arthur will be with Mom, manning the technology that will, if all goes well, allow her to see everything happening at the cemetery. We will lower the box, cover it, and walk away, but it really isn't goodbye for me. His voice will forever be in my head, telling me where I need an extra comma, or explaining how something should work. It will be the voice reminding me to do my due diligence. That voice is as much a part of me as me. I'm sure my brother will hear it in his head, and the kids will hear it in theirs.
Judaism doesn't say much about the Olam ha'Bah, only that there is something beyond this world. I have no idea what it is, but for now, I am sure Dad is at Aunt Ruthie's, martini in hand, laughing with his best friend, his dad.... my Grandpa Moishe, and his two cohorts in crime, Uncle Marc and Uncle Lenny. Right now, I need to believe they are all together. Whether that's true or not, I don't know, but it makes me feel better.
Dad's memory will be forever a blessing not just for us who were privileged enough to call him Dad or Zayde, but by everyone who knew this honest, forthright, and morally centered man.
Be of good cheer and all that jazz.
For a little more about my dad: Happy Pappy At 90