The past few weeks have been difficult. Watching a loved one fade into the end of life is heart wrenching. My stepfather came into my life about 24 years ago quite unexpectedly. When he and my mother met they felt an instant connection. They shared so much in common that it almost seemed like they were destined by fate to fall in love. They had both lost their first spouses to cancer, they were both staunch Democrats who felt compelled to campaign for their candidates, they had both camped across the country, and were both avid readers. After several short months of dating (another blog topic for sure!) they announced their plans to marry.
I was so unprepared to welcome another father figure into my heart. My dad had been gone for years, but I still wasn’t over his departure and didn’t know how to process a new relationship being added to my family. But I didn’t have a choice. They married right away, justifying the decision by saying that at their age they didn’t know how much time they would have to spend together. It was a lot to process in a very short amount of time. I will never forget that the priest who presided over their ceremony said he had little advice to offer to two people who had both been married for decades prior to meeting one another.
Phil was my mother’s new soul mate. They decided to reside in my childhood home, where my dad had been for so many years. It was weird at first, but after they made some renovations it seemed as if that house was becoming the home for these lovebirds who were young at heart, despite their chronological age. This was the beginning of their love story-one which would last almost 25 years.
How did the time go so fast? Looking back, it is now hard to imagine life without him. He taught our family about charity, giving away all of his excess income to causes and organizations that would help those in need. The consummate educator, who always had a historical point of reference to pass along, the doting husband to my mom, the step dad I never knew I wanted was now facing the end of his life. When hospice was called in to help, we reassured him that it didn’t mean that he was about to die, but in reality we all began to face the inevitable passage that was going to take place. This was the second time around with this process for my mom and our family. It doesn’t get easier. The ache of an eventual loss is like pulling off a band aid slowly-with stinging pain that goes numb within seconds, leaving a mark that displays itself. We all did our best to be optimistic through the final weeks of his life. We clung to any sign that his passing may be delayed.
On the day he passed, Phil woke up and announced he was “ready” to go. He said he was a peace with dying and so it was. He left us that evening. He had made the choice and was ready. What a blessing it must be to have the choice and know you are ready…so fitting for a man who was such a blessing to all who loved him.