My Late Father

Me and my parents a month or two before Dad died.

I was recently asked if I wanted to contribute to a series called “Thanks, Dad,” over at ManOfTheHouse. I jumped at the opportunity, even though I knew that in many ways, the exercise would prove to be a difficult and emotional one.

I was wrong. It wasn’t difficult. But I was also right, as it proved to be an extremely emotional endeavor. That said, I’m so glad I wrote it. I was happier still to share it with Mom on Thanksgiving Day. It was invigorating to feel Dad’s spirit as we sat around the table.

I hope you’ll take time to read it. I think you’ll like it. It may even spark some memories of someone you love who’s no longer with us. If it does, I hope you’ll share some of those memories with me via a comment. After all, it’s the holiday season. And there’s no better time than now to reflect upon the people we love.

Here it is:

*  *  *

Early one morning in 2002, my brother picked me up from the airport and drove me to the hospital to see my dad. He had been unresponsive since the afternoon before. His rapid turn for the worse was what had prompted the previous night’s phone calls urging me to catch a cross-country flight – if I ever wanted to see him alive again.

The second I walked into his room, I was devastated. So that’s what it looks like, I thought, with equal amounts of fear and awe. It was dehumanizing. Which made sense to me. What was happening to Dad is what sets our spirit free. And our spirit isn’t human.

I sensed that though he was still with us, he was gone nonetheless. But I was wrong. Dad came back to us later that very day. Shortly after he regained consciousness, he told Mom something she’ll never forget.

“I died last night, Martha Lee.”

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About john cave osborne

John Cave Osborne is a writer whose work has appeared on such sites as DisneyBaby, Babble, YahooShine, TLC and the Huffington Post. He was also referenced by Jezebel one time, but he’s pretty sure they were making fun of him. He and his wife, Caroline, live with their five children and spastic dog in Knoxville, TN. Nothing annoys him more than joke-heavy bios written in the third person, with the possible exception of Corey Feldman.

  • Juli Westgate

    I think it is wonderful you didn’t miss that extra moment with your Dad. Although I lost my Father when I was just a baby, my maternal Grandfather was my father figure growing up. He passed away unexpectedly while I was in school. For many months after he passed he would come to me in my dreams and we would have conversations. Many about his memories of my Grandmother (they were married 62 years), stories he had never told me before about places they had traveled around the world and different little things that happened when my Mother and uncles were children. To my surprise, these dreams were not simply dreams but a testament to the strong bond my Grandfather and I shared. As I related these dreams to my Mother and Grandmother, once the initial shock wore off, they confirmed everything I had told them. It was a wonderful gift to us all but especially to me.

    • Anonymous

      i have chills. that was beautiful. more later, but wanted to get at least this much out to let you know i had gotten your comment and that it had moved me so.

    • Anonymous

      okay, i’ve been meaning to get back to you on this and am just now finally doing so. your comment BLEW me away. i completely believe in stuff like that and grow frustrated with people who don’t. hopefully, you’ve not encountered too many skeptics, but if you have, i’m sure you promptly blew them off.

      who really knows how the world works, you know? it’s certainly not for me to say. but i can tell you this. i believe through love virtually anything is possible. and your dreams of your grandfather are such a precious gift that love, itself, delivered. i’m so sorry to hear that you lost your dad when you were a baby, but i’m so glad to hear of the love you shared (share) with your grandfather.

      i’m grateful you commented about it, my friend!

  • Juli Westgate

    Oh, and I like the changes to the format, btw :)

  • Loukia

    Just read the entire article and it brought tears to my eyes, John. :) So well written, it gave me chills. xo

  • Terry Bennie

    Thank you for that story. It was beautiful. It made me think of the day my grandmother died. We were very close. She was very sick for a long time, and my mother, aunts and uncles were all taking turns caring for her. I will never forget my birthday that year. It was a Monday. After dinner my mom had given me the 10th birthday card from my grandparents. We were all already in our PJs but I insisted I had to go see grandma right then. I was really annoying my mom so we all threw on our shoes and drove the 7 blocks to see her. We all sat together, I laid on grandmas bed with her and watched Wheel of Fortune, like always. It got pretty late, so we said our goodbyes and gave her gentle hugs and kisses. She was very frail so we had to be gentle. The next day was the day I had CCD after school. after CCD, something wasn’t right. My aunt picked me up, and said we were going to grandma’s house after we got my sister from band practice. We got to grandma’s house and everyone was there. I knew something was very wrong at that moment. All of us kids were sat down in the living room and they explained to us that grandma was in heaven now. I was crushed to say the least. She had died in my mother’s arms. That weekend instead of her being at my birthday party, I was at her funeral instead. When my grandfather died the next year we moved into their house, and I chose the room she died in as my own. It made me feel close to her. I am so grateful that I got to hug her and kiss her that one last time. My mother still thinks it is amazing that somehow I knew I wouldn’t ever have another chance. I still miss her greatly to this day, and I named my oldest daughter after her.

    • Anonymous

      @terry bennie, that was so, so beautiful. several things stand out. your intuition, the fact that your grandmom died in her daughter’s arms, that you chose her room to be closer to her, your oldest daughter.

      i literally read what you wrote a second time just to make sure that i didn’t miss anything, if not to simply read it again. you have such a big heart! xo

      • Terry Bennie

        Thank you, I actually just saw this as I was blog hopping today. Hope all is well with the family. ♥

  • muskrat

    Aren’t you barely over 40? Meaning you lost your pop in your low to mid 30s? That’s really sad (and a bit of a kick in the ass, since I still have mine and am 35). I’m sorry he didn’t get to meet the “trips.”
    I liked your recount of his last few days and hours; I just hate that you had such a story to tell at your age (or any age, really, but it seems worse when you’re fairly young).

    • Anonymous

      So, muskrat, I was 32 when he died. And it was tough, but it happens all the time. That said, I hope it doesn’t happen to you for quite sometime. And the last couple of weeks were wonderful. I’m so thankful for them.

  • muskrat

    Aren’t you barely over 40? Meaning you lost your pop in your low to mid 30s? That’s really sad (and a bit of a kick in the ass, since I still have mine and am 35). I’m sorry he didn’t get to meet the “trips.”
    I liked your recount of his last few days and hours; I just hate that you had such a story to tell at your age (or any age, really, but it seems worse when you’re fairly young).

  • muskrat

    PS- What was the name of your beach music band at the time of that photograph’s taking?

    • Anonymous

      that comment was so well deserved. i was living in LA at the time, having just left the white-collar world. and, yes, i’m barely over 40. my dad was older. (about as old as i’ll be when #5 gets here.) he died when he was 72.

      • The JackB

        Living in LA and you never bothered to call or write- damn man, where is the love. 😉 This was a very nice tribute to your dad.

        • Anonymous

          Santa Monica, brother. If I woulda known…and thanks. It felt good to write.

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  • El

    Very touching. We were fortunate to habe been able to bring my dad home to die. After a long battle with Parkinsons and dementia, he developed a blood clot in his lungs. We chose to bring him home on hospice. He was having a good day and knew he had come home, and who we all were. We laughed and cried in the room all day of his last day. At home, surrounded by family, a good way to pass to the other world.

    Also, my dad was 47 when i was born. He was the most actively involved father i knew. It wasn’t til later when I realized how much older he wa than my friends dads. Age gave him a great perspective on life with small children.

    • Anonymous

      El, what a fantastic comment you just left. I so wish we had gotten the chance to get Dad home. We were looking into at-home hospices, too. But it wasn’t meant to be. So glad you had that day.

      And I love the note about your dad being 47 when you were born. Did you, by chance, mention that b/c you know I’ll be older when number 5 will be born? Or was it simply happenstance. Either way, I’m really glad to know, and I’m glad you mentioned it.

  • Miss A.

    What a great read. I’ve been following your blog for a few months, found you through Kate G. I’m neither married, nor have kids, yet, actually just got out of a really bad and quite long engagement, and reading you and Kate helps me keep the faith that I will, eventually, find that happiness. Until then, thanks for your posts, emotional or filled with good humour, they’re my morning joy.
    Miss A.

    • Anonymous

      @Miss A. YOU WILL! i promise. remember i said that. you know how i know? the fact that you were BRAVE enough to end a long but bad engagement. that takes great courage and faith. and a true heart. you’ll be rewarded for that. i just know it.

      thank you so much for reading. i really, really appreciate it. i’m proud to be a small part of your day! (btw…isn’t Katie great? we’re supposed to eat lunch next week. she’s tough to catch, you know.)

  • Jeff

    John …

    First … love the John Stamos look.

    Second … I’m getting close to the age you were when you lost your father, so this is an incredibly impactful story for me. I hope that I will be fortunate to share a beautiful moment like you did with your father, when that time does come for me. But I wish for the time to come many, many years away. And as you embark on #5 … no that you what you are doing now, doing what you want and taking care of yourself … you’ll be around for a long while. Enjoy the holidays my friend.

    • Anonymous

      Jeff, great stuff all the way around in the comment.

      i do feel lucky that we had that last martini together and i’m also glad to have been able to get some meaning out of his demise, regardless of how long it took to get it. writing that felt great, even if i was a mess by the end of it. it’s true. there is much magic in the melancholy and beauty in the struggle.

      and yeah, my look was questionable at very best. what can i say? i was living in LA at the time. (flake alert)

  • Indigo

    Okay that made me cry. Than again today is the 3rd Anniversary of my MIL’s death. Strange thing is, I only knew the woman for four very short years. Still she had been the closest thing to a mother I ever knew, she was the embodiment of motherhood. She did make it through Thanksgiving in the hospital. Oh, she complained she wanted to go home and put up her Christmas tree. Didn’t you know Thanksgiving was the day for that? Smiles.

    I promised her I would personally put up her tree so it would be waiting for her when she got home. Nov. 30th – she had surgery, a surgery prolonged for over a month while she remained in the hospital as her Dr. feared it might be too much. It was. She never fully recovered or woke up. Yet…I remember bending over her and delicately brushing her short hair with my fingertips and saying “I love you mom”. She never openly said those words – I love you, they were reserved for the only deserving. Paul heard her mumble even then in her unrest, “I love you, too.” It would be the first and only time she ever said those words to me.

    I miss her….I miss her so very much.

    Thanks for sharing about your father dear friend. (Hugs)Indigo

  • Amy

    Thank you for sharing your story about your Dad. I have been writing about my mother’s passing at my blog, We too were able to bring her home and kept her comfortable there for over a month before her lung cancer took her. There is much I recognize in your story that I found in my own. Thank you for sharing it.

  • Julie

    I have read your blog a time or two – usually because of a comment katie g has made. You and she are both terrific writers:)

    The reason why I am responding to this story is that when I saw the picture on this page I recognized your parents! I worked at Naples for many years and I waited on your mom dad often. They were always quite charming and yes, a martini before dinner was imperative! …and please don’t bring the food before the martinis have been properly finished:) Not sure if you are aware, but they had a favorite booth – especially after we divided the restaurant into smoking/non-smoking sections.

    I have enjoyed my memories of table-waiting days – the owners, regulars, and fellow employees at Naples are an extended family to each other. I appreciate the opportunity to reflect on friendships (hopefully some of the girls are getting together next week after a too long period of being apart) So thank you for that!

    My own dad died suddenly in 1970 at the age of 51 of a stroke. I was 15. Too young to fully grasp what I was losing:( There is still an ache in my heart for the lost opportunity to know my dad as adult to adult. An ache that he never knew my husband of 33 years, my young adult children, my first grand-daughter (due in August).

    Again – thank you for this.

    • Anonymous

      oh, julie, i am, indeed, aware of that first booth to the left (i believe it’s the first one…it’s been a while, now), as am i aware of the incredible fellowship and warmth that greeted my parents each and every time they walked into the Naples. they loved that place and every single person who worked there. you, i’m certain, were no exception. i wonder if you’ve waited on me back in the day.

      i was as sorry to hear of your dad’s passing as i was touched to read about the ache in your heart which you so poignantly described.

      i have a similar ache, although, indeed, i had much more time with my father. my ache? he never fully saw me get my shit together on the personal front. how he would have loved Caroline, my wife. even more, he’d love that she’s pregnant with surprise child number five, just as i was to him and my mom.

      please know how warmly your comment was received. i hope you’ll come back to visit me sometime. before i let you go, i wonder if you’ll answer a question for me?

      did my dad ever say to you, after, perhaps, you’d brought him a martini “Ah, Julie, may heaven reward you?”

      i bet he did. even if you don’t remember. jco

      • Julie

        I am remembering, smiling…
        I will have dinner with a few of my old friends from Naples tomorrow and you can be sure that I will bring up this chance connection & memories. The others will certainly remember your parents as fondly as I do.
        Sometimes it’s the small things in life that can bring such great pleasure:)