The Day My Time Ran Out

We never talked about death. Not after the doctor diagnosed him and used the word terminal. Not after he landed in the hospital, or the nursing home, or while he ping-ponged in-between both. We didn’t even talk about it after his final doctor’s visit when the oncologist told him, “My friend, this is the end.” Nobody asked what that meant. They left that part up to me. Somewhere in the explanation that followed I heard the words, “A few weeks,” but they didn’t register.

That night I had a very vivid dream. In the dream, my dad was seated in a wheelchair looking at me with the same stoic expression in the photo above. He didn’t say a word. He just sat looking right through me. His wheelchair, a new appendage, was parked at the entrance of a dark tunnel. It was my own voice and the words, “Are you afraid?” that abruptly woke me from the dream. Hours later he was dead.

I regret we never had a conversation about death. I wish I knew if he was angry, or grieving, or at peace that day in the doctor’s office. I wish I knew if he thought about it every minute of every day leading up to that visit, or if he tried not to. Most of all, I wish I knew if he was afraid.

One year after the anniversary of his death, I miss my dad more than ever. It seems like today I should be celebrating his life, but all I can think about is his death and those final weeks. It was during those last nights that I eulogized his life any time I closed my eyes.  I could not make the words stop. They washed over me, drowning me in sorrow and smothering me with fear, even though naively I believed we had more time.  I was convinced we had conversations to start and finish, the twins’ birthdays to celebrate in April, our family visit during spring break, summer plans to make, and most certainly, one, final Diamondbacks game in person.

Maybe I never asked dad if he was afraid because on top of everything else, the answer to that question would have been too much to bear.  For me, grief and reality were like star crossed lovers, never meant to coexist. Denial, on the other hand, was a warm embrace from a long-lost friend.  I held on for dear life and didn’t want to let go.  I still don’t.

My dad was one of the most important people in my life, yet the intimate conversations I wanted to have with him–especially toward the end of his life never happened.  It always felt like there would be a better time.  I always assumed I had more time.  I never gave it a second thought until a year ago, April 1, 2014.  The day we buried my dad. The day my time ran out.

This is Vitas, my dad.

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21 Comments

  1. Linda Plummer said:

    Thank you for sharing that we need to make memories with those we love and share how much they mean to us. I’m calling my mother right now.

    April 1, 2015
    Reply
  2. Laura Johnson said:

    That was so beautiful. <3

    April 1, 2015
    Reply
  3. Katie Schaefer Bishop said:

    This is beautifully written reminder for me to risk starting the difficult conversations before it’s too late.

    April 1, 2015
    Reply
  4. Kira said:

    Beautifully said, and so difficult to feel. 🙁 Sending love.

    April 1, 2015
    Reply
  5. Robert Plummer said:

    I didn’t get to know Vic the way I wanted. He was always so great to me and to our kids, but I can’t say I really got to know him. I think about him all the time now that he is gone, though. I sure feel my mortality as a dad now, and I hope my kids remember me with as much love as his kids and his grandkids remember him. His quiet strength and his simple joy, his pride and his willingness to give unconditionally, his love of sports and his love of family touched me, and though I didn’t know much about him, I miss him a lot. He was a beautiful stranger to me. Thanks for reminding me, Audra.

    April 1, 2015
    Reply
  6. Andrea said:

    Audra, this is such a powerful story. Thank you for posting it.

    April 2, 2015
    Reply
  7. Stacey Christensen said:

    Audra, such beautiful words! I have such find memories of your dad, he loved you very much! Please keep sharing your w

    April 2, 2015
    Reply
  8. Audra, again you made me cry. Such fond memories of you and your family, it seems like just yesterday. Hugs my friend, xo

    April 3, 2015
    Reply
  9. Rick said:

    Wow… wow.

    April 6, 2015
    Reply
    • Thank you Rick. It’s always great to get a response and “wow” is a good one (I hope!).

      April 7, 2015
      Reply
  10. Kristan Kosmos said:

    Audra, your poignant words have touched me deeply. Vitas was a wonderful man–so very kind, warm, calm and grounded. His solid and tranquil presence remains fresh in my mind, and always will. My thoughts are with you my dear friend and all of your family.

    April 7, 2015
    Reply
  11. Thank you Krissy for your very sweet words and support…and for visiting on your special day!

    April 7, 2015
    Reply
  12. JIM RUSSELL said:

    I AM SO SORRY TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR DAD. I WORKED WITH VAC AT ROHR AIRCRAFT FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS. HE WAS A GREAT ENGINEER AND HE KEPT EVERYONE ON THERE TOES. HE WILL BE MISSED.

    December 13, 2017
    Reply

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