Deborah's brother, Walter, an amateur photographer, chronicled their father's dying. The photo of Deborah with her father was taken several weeks before he died.
Deborah’s brother, Walter, an amateur photographer, chronicled their father’s dying. The photo of Deborah with her father was taken several weeks before he died.

At one point when I was sitting with my father, I said, “Dad, are you afraid of dying?” And he said, “I was, but not now.” He didn’t speak of death a lot. There wasn’t a lot to say, really, it was so in your face, so obvious. And he wanted to live up until the moment of death. He didn’t dwell on the fact that he was dying and he didn’t deny it.

I remember giving my father a little teaching that said, “Death is like taking off a tight shoe.” I put it on a piece of paper for him and gave it to him. He kept that by his bed.

I didn’t have any formal practices that I shared with my father. When I was in the room with him, that was the practice. It felt to me that doing anything else was taking me away from the moment. Looking into my father’s eyes was the practice, touching his head, changing his diapers. Just being with him was my practice. There were times, many times, when I lost it. When I couldn’t be mindful, when I couldn’t see my true nature at all. And I was just a daughter mourning her father.

It was six months before he died when hospice came into the home, and I began coming more frequently. Each time I came it would be a shock, because I wasn’t able to see the gradual changes. At some point he needed a wheelchair, and all along the way his body was changing.

 

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