As my Dad lay dying a few weeks ago, I began to see his body as a house.
His transition from this life to the next was not the first time I witnessed the passing of a loved one. I’ve seen it with my grandparents, my husband’s grandparents, my husband’s parents, and a brother-in-law.
Unless something catastrophic happens, our bodies take time to die. The process can leave the people sitting by the bedside watching in agony as a loved one’s body shuts down.
As I sat holding my Dad’s hand, I thought about how important it was for him to have these last moments of life on his own terms to do whatever it was he needed to do.
He needed to go through his earthly house – the place that housed his spirit – and prepare for his leaving.
Closing Down the House
I imagined him beginning at his front door, and locking it, then turning off the front porch lights.
With his family surrounding his bedside, slowly and methodically, Dad went room by room, making sure the windows were secured, the rooms were tidy, and then turning off the light of each room of his earthly house.
The hospice nurses told us to try and keep the environment calm and peaceful. We were told that if someone were to yell for him to come back, he would try and wake back up from his slumber. Because he was in the process of dying, that could cause him great agitation and possibly pain.
I would look at his peaceful face and imagine that when people by his bedside began to speak enthusiastically to him, he would leave the room he was closing up. He would turn the hall lights back on, walk to the front door, turn the front porch lights on again, and unlock the front door. Then, his eyes would pop open, and my Dad would struggle to speak to the person by his side.
After a short while, his eyes would close once more, and he would go back to work, closing down his house, light by light, room by room.
Dad held on for several days beyond what was expected. The hospice nurse would say, “Did everyone say goodbye? Did he get to talk to everyone?”
To which my sister and I would say, “Yes.”
As I sat by his side, I mentioned my shutting down the house metaphor to the family members gathered around his bedside. Dad responded with a subtle nod of his head and a gentle smile.
It was important to give him time to go room by room, mentally and spiritually closing each room of his earthly house.
Room by Room.
Lights turned off.
Room by room.
I was the last of my family members to leave my Dad’s home, flying back after extending my flight to be by his side a little while longer. My Mom and sister live in the same home as my Dad, so he was not alone, but I was out of place.
When my plane touched down, my Dad took his last breath. It was as if he had taken his time in my room and would not turn the light off and close the door until I was home safely.
With his house in order, my Dad left this world. The last light in his earthly body darkened as the light of his spirit traveled to a new home.
I will miss him greatly.
I had not tried to read this until today…I gotta say sis you nailed it. Miss you. Thanks for this.
Thanks for reading my blog!
I miss you too.
Wonderful post! We will be linking to this great article on our site. Keep up the great writing. Sandra Travis Jolda
You have been on my mind lately.
In my imaginary world I sent you and the family a beautiful card expressing my love and support while your father was transitioning, and another one even, when he passed away. In my real world, I can’t look at sympathy cards. Please know that I was thinking and praying for you throughout.
Today I was struggling when I was driving home from school- it has been a long week, and I wanted nothing more than to pick up the phone, hear Nick’s voice and share teaching woes with him. Instead, I just drove and let the tears flow. Again, my mind was brought back to you and this blog. When you first published it, I was scared to read it. I don’t know why, because I have immersed myself in every grief book available- diligently underlining and marking notes, searching for solace, rationalization and peace. Still haven’t found it.
But your story, this story, gave me a momentary comfort.
Thank you so much for your kind words. Losing someone you love is beyond difficult. Nick was so loved by our community.
I was searching for your contact info since it’s recruiting season here in teacher-land and we need a good AP teacher, but I didn’t see you on the directory for the last school where I knew you were teaching. I came across your twitter, your YouTube playlists, and finally this comment. I started reading your message and was excited you were still in teaching (…driving home from school) and was immediately heartbroken at the rest of your message… I am so sorry for your loss and I will pray for you and your family. Here I am at work, crying for you. I don’t know why, but I considered you a mom all these years. Maybe because you recruited me to go teach with you, or because me and Nick were classmates so long ago. I hope this message reaches you somehow.
I had the privilege to work side by side with Byron on occasion. I always enjoyed being around him. Like family and good friends, even though we were working, time seemed go by in a positive and good nature. Even though we’ve never met, I’m positive you’re an anchor for your husband.
Our family is experiencing the death of a loved one currently. You sharing the passing of your father has blessed us tremendously. We have shared this heavenly annointed story in remembrance of your father. Thank you for sharing.
Dow, Barbara and Belle.
High Point, NC
Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words. I am very sorry to hear you are going through the loss of a loved one. It certainly is a hard journey to walk. Just remember you and your family will never need to walk it alone.
Blessings your way,
What a lovely metaphor for our exit from our physical selves. I feel your dad did wait til you were home before he left. We all want our children safely home. Take care.
Thanks so much for reading my blog, Gail. I hope you are well!
That was a beautiful description of your precious Dad’s passing. I pray you grow in peace as your Dad would have you do. May God comfort your soul with sweet memories. Big hugs to you, Laurie.
Thanks so much, Donna!
That was a beautiful story about your Dad. My thoughts are with you.
Thanks for reading, Santa! Hope to see you soon!
Thank you, Mom. This was very beautiful.
Thanks for reading, Bronwyn!
Laurie. So sorry to hear of your Dad’s passing..what beautiful words..he is a very proud Dad looking down on you and you all. Beautiful photo of you both ?xxxx
Thank you for reading! It sure is a sad time for us, but we’ll be OK especially in the knowledge that my Dad is in a joyful place.
This is beautiful
Thanks for reading!
Sorry but only got half way thru your beautiful message…will try again?
Thanks for reading! When you’re ready, it will be waiting on you!
Laurie, that was a beautiful tribute to how your Dad transitioned. How wonderful if it was like that for all of us. I had similar, although totally different experiences with each of my parents, each very different. I think even though it has been over 40 years I would like to write their final stories. You have given me incentive to do that but more importantly, you have allowed us to walk these steps with you and your Dad on his journey. Sounds as if he was at peace as were you. Love and Hugs my Friend.
Thank you so much for reading, Beverly. One day soon I hope to read about your experiences with your parents. It’s a hard walk sometimes. I’m so thankful we don’t have to go it alone.