The Witness

Have you ever seen someone take their last breath of life?

I have.

I witnessed my father’s last breath.

He died alone, with no one by his side but me, and a minister to guide his departure from this world.

I had no fear, but my heart clenched tight in my chest.

I listened as his breathing slowly became inaudible.

And many times, I thought he was dead before he was. Probably due to my inexperience with death up to this point in my life.

The minister however seemed to know exactly what was happening, and had his last breath almost timed to the second.

I looked to him for the nod or acknowledgement that the moment had come.

But it hadn’t happened yet.  He was still alive. The emotions that swirled around me in this sterile room were not what I thought would fill me.

I felt pride.

Weird emotion, right?  But if you knew the relationship I had with my father, this may not seem that off the wall.

I was proud that I was there.

I was proud that I had the strength to hold his hand.

A hand that never touched me with kindness.  A hand that was so large.  A hand I had feared most of my life.

Hands that had pushed me.

Slapped me.

Held me still.

Threw my homework across the room.

Scared me so that I peed my pants.

And the last time they touched me, I was strangled by them with my feet off the floor.


So, to be holding this hand before my father died showed that I was better.

I had moved on.  And I was proud of myself.

These last moments brought out my highest self.  I chose to do the right thing.

With no one else there and the minister seeming supportive of my presence; I held that hand that was still large and still warm, but slowly turning blue.

That’s what happens when someone dies.  They begin to turn from a warm pink to a cool blue.

But they still haven’t died.

The process was peaceful.

I used the last few minutes to fill my father’s mind and soul with forgiveness.

I let him know that I forgave him for everything. That I was going to be okay.  That he would go to heaven.  And that while his life on earth was filled with hardships, his afterlife would be full of glory.

I knew he could hear me.  And I knew these words were important.

I had brought pictures of my new family.  My husband and son.

My sister’s family.

And my mother.  His wife.

I held them up, even though he could not see them.  I described each one.  I let him know that there was a legacy that was going to continue.  That I was going to take the good he tried to impart on us and leave out the bad.

I let him know that there was one person who had pure love for him.

Surprisingly, it was my son.

It was through their visits that I saw the father I wished I had as a child.

The innocence of my son.

His innocent ignorance to the destruction my father had caused in my younger years, gave me hope that the past does not predict the future.

My son hugged my father.  Laughed with my father.  Had no fear of my father.

My father hugged him back.  And my father smiled with him.  And his eyes lit up when I would bring him to visit.

Such a weird feeling for me.  I had never seen this side of my father.  Ever.  And this let me know that this relationship was good.  It was right.  And it made me happy.

My son purely loved my father.

And this is what I let him know.

He was loved.


I looked at the minister and he softly said that his last breath would be any time now.

My heart was tight and I had a now or never feeling. A feeling I suppose you can really only have when faced with death.

I used this feeling to talk as fast as I could.  To say as many kind words as I could find.

I knew that my father was afraid to die, so as I spoke I let him know that all was okay.

He was okay.

It was time.

Please just relax.

It is okay.

I am here.

It is okay.

You are at peace now.

All is forgiven.

I love you.

It is okay.

And then I knew.

I didn’t have to look over at the minister.

I knew.

I knew that my father’s last breath had been taken.

The minister said a prayer.

I was grateful that this was done for my father, as I don’t think a prayer was ever said for him while he was alive.

The minister silently left the room.

All was quiet and still.

And I sat.

I sat and the tension started to leave my body.

It had happened.

I witnessed it.

My father had died in front of me.

I am alone in a room with my father who is now dead.

It was okay.

I was okay.

I held his hand.

I examined his hand.

I touched his body; his frail body. A body that once was full of muscle and strength.  Now was just skin and bones.

I felt his legs and his arms.

I touched his cheeks.  His ears.  His nose.

I didn’t want to leave.

I stayed for 2 hours. And it felt good.

I felt a sense of comfort.

Then the men came.

I was asked to leave and politely and firmly said no.  I would stay and I would watch.

I saw my father wrapped up in the blankets.

Lifted to a stretcher with a black bag opened up.

I watched as they closed the bag.

My eyes never leaving my father.  My mind racing as I realized that this was it.

This was it.

This was the very last time I would see my father.  His body.  Him.

My presence insured he was treated with respect and care.

A quilt was placed over the black bag he was in.

It was pretty.

It made it all seem okay.

And the men slowly wheeled him out.

And he was gone.

I was okay.

He was okay now.

His suffering was over.

My suffering was over now too.

My life would now begin.

It is sad to say that.

But as sad as it is to say, it was the truth.

I still have my father’s remains.  They are with me and have travelled with me throughout the years.  I am not ready to part with them for some reason.

And there are times when I wonder about something and know that my father was the only one who would have known the answer.  But I can no longer ask him.  This makes me sad.

But as sad as it all seems, and as horrible as it is to say and admit, my life is better with him gone.

And sadly, he knew that too.

But in death there came a joining.

A joining of spirits and understanding.

But mostly forgiveness.

Forgiveness, because death is the ultimate end.

There is no more.

I will forever feel privileged to have witnessed and experienced this passage of life.  And I know that my father would have been proud that I never left his side.  Always the teacher, he would have been proud that I took the time to examine death up close.

To watch it.  Feel it.  Touch it.  Protect it.  Keep it.





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