Besides the brief weekend back to Colorado for Nolus’s memorial, I had been in New Mexico for four weeks as mid-July approached, and I thought it might be nice to spend a few days back in Colorado. I had spoken with various members of the hospice team and was told that it was a good time to go. “He’s dying, but he’s not actively dying,” one of them told me. Our in-home assistant echoed that opinion. So I felt it was a good time to get back to Boulder.
All summer long I had been waiting for the right moment to have with my dad the one conversation that I felt still needed saying. I hadn’t had it during my first days in NM, when things seemed stable, and when I got back from the memorial, something happened. I remember the day. It was like a storm hit behind his eyes, wind and clouds and rain and lightning inside him, his eyes grey with it, grey with some interior tempest. Afterwards, there were occasional moments of lucidity, but he never really came back, and that was when he truly began the process of dying.
I came over every day. I kept hoping there would be a time for that conversation, another lucid moment when we were together, but there never was, and so on July 13th, the day before I was to go to Boulder for those few days, knowing that I couldn’t take anything for granted, I came to say to him what needed to be said.
I told him that it was okay for him to go.
I told him that it was okay for him to go because he’d left us all in a good place. I spoke of each of us in turn, my mom and my sisters and myself, and described how he had provided for each of us, how each of us was going to be okay. I spoke very specifically: Mama will be okay for these reasons. Hana will be okay for these reasons. Abigail will be okay for these reasons. I will be okay for these reasons.
He heard me. It’s strange because he wasn’t conscious in any ordinary sense of the word, but he heard me. He opened his eyes a little bit, just a little, like they were deeply heavy, like he was pulling himself out of the fog of a heavy sedation (true enough, with the morphine) to communicate just enough, before sinking back down into what I envisioned as a featureless but not uncomfortable grey-white mist, where time no longer passed in the way we understand it, a weightless place of no light but no dark either.
I told him that I was going away for a few days, and that I’d be back on Wednesday, the 17th. I told him I’d see him then.
And of course I told him that I loved him.
And then I kissed him on the forehead.
That was the last time I ever saw him alive.