I should have been there as you slipped away. Before you became cold. When your heart was still beating deep within you chest, no matter how weakly.
I’ve been told by others who were there in the early hours of that December morning that you saw something in the moments before you left. Your last words were of seeing something pass before you, something in that windowless room, that only you could see.
“She’s beautiful,” you said softly.
Someone had to shut your eyes for you after that. I hope they did it gently and with love, with the soft palm of one hand.
You left the earth without your daughter; I was not there to see you off, I did not get to say goodbye.
I didn’t think I had to. I actually thought it would be okay in the end.
The last time I saw you was just the day before you murmured those last words. I cried, seeing you in that stark white room, a team of doctors crowded around your bed. They all spoke in what seemed to be their own secret code, trying to convey a reality that none of us wanted to believe.
You said things that broke my heart that day.
You said you wanted to die.
You said you did not want to be burned.
You said it clearly for the three of us to hear.
I’m sorry that afterwards I didn’t fight harder for you. That I was not strong enough to speak up. I’m sorry that I did not shout your truth from the top of my voice from the highest plain so as to grant you the dignity that you deserved after death.
I wish you could have seen the church that day, flowing from it’s brim with people who had at one time or another been granted with your kindness. People told stories about you that day. Stories of you making pancakes with them in the early hours of the morning. Stories of your charm, your warmth and humility.
But that day I did not tell a story to all the people who sat in the church’s pews, nor to the ones standing in the back next to small basins of holy water.
I stood in front of them all in my black dress and read from a book that I did not believe in.
I spoke words that did nothing to convey the person you were in life or what you meant to me, the impact you made in life or the memories you would leave behind in death. Instead, before they burned your body, I wrote you a letter and tucked it safely in the front pocket of your black suit.
A letter that I found a copy of today.
A letter that I couldn’t get myself to read over again, not after five long years of trying to forget.
I hid the copy of the letter away for the second time. I may not ever read it again. It may eventually become lost within the shuffle of moving to new places, within the chaos that often comes with life.
The original copy of that letter was burned with you, set on fire and churned to ash. The words were my own, words that represented a list of lasts between a father and a daughter.
The last thanks for making me a dreamer, for making me believe I could be anything.
The last apology for not being there when I should have.
The last promises for the acts I would complete in your memory.
The last goodbye to someone who was made to leave before he was ready.
Innately, I don’t believe in any sort of afterlife, but I hope that somehow you were able to read the words I wrote you, the ones that were meant only for you.
I hope that they’ve reached you.
I hope that your received my message in a bottle and know that I meant every word.