Three years ago I sat at his bedside and watched him dying.
waiting for him to die.
waiting for his suffering to end.
Death’s rattle, that’s what they called it— my older family members who had watched and waited for others to die.
I had never heard the phrase before, at least not that I can recall. But now I know the sound.
It’s inside of me now.
I prayed with my family, all of us gathered around his frail body.
I prayed not for me, not because I “believe” — but because he did. Maybe they did, too. I don’t care. It was for him.
Flashes of the funeral, the smells and sounds, the ritual
scrambled in my memory
It’s the feeling, the sensation, that stays. Details aren’t important.
He asked her if I was happy.
I think she told him I was.
It was his one wish for me. I’ve known that my entire life.
I’m selfish. I wanted his life for me— more than for him. I feel guilty for that, too.
I feel guilty that I couldn’t be and do more for her. Or that I didn’t.
The sadness had enraptured us both. And I held onto mine, alone.
At the time I thought I was doing that for her— that it was all I could do— to just not share it.
I still smell him. I still hear his voice— “mija”
and I cradle it in my heart, in my head.
I see his hands— that I know have worked so hard, have scars, but are gentle and soft.
He wasn’t perfect, that’s not the point.
He was my warmth. My father. My protector. My support. My example.
Selfless even if he was wrong— it was the intention, the love, that we were left with. And it was all encompassing.
He was easier on us, I know it was harder to be his children. We got the best hand, my brother and I.
It is true. Time does help. The tears don’t flow daily. And I can sleep some nights.
But the emptiness, the void, still fills me.
It’s like a chunk of flesh has been ripped from my body. And yes, I can continue. My body functions as it needs to, as it’s designed to and utilizing its miraculous healing abilities— red and white bloods cells, regenerating growth to create a new layer of skin over the gaping wound.
And yet, it’s forever there. Not the focus but the reminder, the memory, of the former whole.