Amazingly, I am calm. My Dad is struggling to stay alive and I am calm. Hospice has come and gone and told us to expect his death perhaps sometime tonight or during the next day or so…and I am calm.  Teri is gone to work in Texas and I had to phone and tell her and listen to her sob…her heart broken breaks mine….I am calm. Mom is walking around in a daze, not knowing what to do or what to say, in her own private hell, and I am calm. How? I do not know. This response does not fill my expectations.  In my projections of these hours, I always thought I would be sobbing, anxiety-ridden or even yelling at the top of my voice and demanding that God do something to keep this man, my father, alive.  Right now Dad is laying in his bed, breathing shallowly and his good friend, Chuck Harvey, is reading the Bible to him.  These are his last hours, according to the Hospice nurse. He is in no pain, but fading fast right before Mom and I.   I am calm…yet  I am perplexed by what I am feeling and also by what I am not feeling.  How do you watch someone you love die? I cannot find the instructions.

I look at this dying man, whom I have called Dadda, Daddy, Dad, Father and sometime; I admit, I have called him some other names, albeit under my breath, that were not so pleasant. I know…Shame On Me… but that was when I was a rebellious teenager and he really made me mad. This is afterall, Former Drill Instructor, Sgt. Rayford Cook.  This man is responsible for my birth, for raising me…I am who I am, in a large part because of Rayford Ennis Cook. The range of emotions that course through my heart are too complex, too special, and too immeasurable to describe in words. The relationship that I have with Dad is amazing and it is all my own. When you share a father with four other siblings, you sometimes feel like he belongs only to you. Sometimes I forget that my siblings have their own version of this story…But this story belongs just to Dad and Me, we crafted it together since 1958, and I cannot imagine closing this chapter just yet. I will always cherish the unique and wonderful lifetime of memories that my Dad has made with me…a precious gift.

As selfish as that sounds, it must be acknowledged, that when I think about the pain my siblings are going through, it breaks my heart all over again. Does anyone know how many cracks you can have in your heart before it falls into tiny pieces?  My Dad loves his family….all of them…each and everyone of them, right down to the newest baby in the Cook nursery.. He and Mom have done their best to create LOVE…and they have done quite well holding the apron strings just taut enough.

I will remember. I will remember my Dad. I will shut my eyes and see his healthy face, his stong voice and feel my hand in his big strong hand…I will rewind until I get to the times when Dad was invincible, before the “C” Monster gnawed on his soul and devoured his life.  Please be assured, the damnable “C” Monster did not devour my Dad’s spirit. That spirit belongs to my Dad and to his heavenly father, Jehovah…Jehovah will remember Ray Cook. Jehovah will remember my Dad and Jehovah WILL bring him back to our family.. STRONG, HEALTHY, VIBRANT, AND ALIVE. Dad’s hope is sure and he has a guarantee. So it is not a question of what will happen to Dad when he dies. I know. Shoot, it was Dad that showed me from the Bible the condition of the dead, where they are and how Jehovah will resurrect the dead to a Paradise right here on earth….That being said, Jehovah put eternity into our hearts, and death is our enemy.  I want Dad ALIVE. Not like he is now, but healthy and happy. I want my Ray Cook. I want my Dad.

 Dad tells me that I used to stand in my crib and call to him and say: “Daddy?”  “What Tamie?”  ” I love you Daddy!”  He said I would do it over and over again every night and even though it was a delay tactic on my part from going to sleep, he said he never got tired of hearing those words. Every single time I have visited him, he has reminded me of that story….he repeated it again the other day. I will keep repeating those words tonight and maybe tomorrow too, for however long Dad keeps holding on…I will say:  “I love you Daddy!”

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