After another long day in the classroom, Sarah went home to take a short afternoon nap. Teaching elementary school seemed to be in her blood, as it was the chosen profession of her mother and grandparents. As she stared at the ceiling fan moving slowly, she reflected back on her thirty-five years of life and didn’t have complaints. Though she had no children of her own, she had a loving husband, a great job, a comfortable home, and her mother lived nearby.
Then the telephone rang. The blast from the past was a cousin from her father’s side of the family. She hadn’t spoken to him in almost twenty-five years. Before he said it, she knew what was coming: Her father was dying.
She thanked her cousin politely for the news and sat on the bed. What to do now? She’d seen her father maybe three times since the end of her parents’ horrific marriage, and the night he held the loaded gun to her and her sisters still burned in her mind. Her friend at school saw it happen through her window. Did he feel sorry now? Could this be a chance for redemption and closure?
Sarah got dressed and went to her father’s room in the hospital. He was a mere shadow of what he was in the past, with wasting of chronic disease changing him into almost a skeleton. After exchanging hellos but refraining from hugs, she visited, listening to what he had to say to her.
The dark shadow of the past loomed over the room. He spoke only of himself, of the travels he did after the separation from her mother, the places he had seen while never paying support to help raise them. One unfamiliar name after another he mentioned, without asking how her sister or mother were doing. All Sarah had done was sit and listen to the words of a formerly violent, selfish man. After a couple of hours, she gave him a restrained goodbye and told him she’d be back the next day.
She never went back. After another telephone call weeks later from her cousin, she found out he was about to pass away. Sarah stopped by, looked down at him, and he said nothing. She told him she needed to check on her mother and left.
That night, she received the call that her father died. After years of swearing to never attend his memorial service, she changed her mind. Seeing him in the casket at peace made her glad he wasn’t suffering. Despite the person he was, he did not interfere with her adult life. While remaining unapologetic about his life, he gave her something with his death. He closed the window. It felt good to breathe again.