98: A Message from Dad

98: A Message from Dad

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving and Recovery

A Message from Dad

She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts.

~George Eliot

My 86-year-old father was dying of heart failure. My sister, brother and I wanted to care for him at home as long as possible so he could be with the family that loved him so much. During the last year of Dad’s life, we gave all our energy to our father. It was the most difficult time of our lives.

After Dad’s death I was devastated. Although I’d comforted friends who had lost someone close, nothing prepared me for the way I felt after his death. I had lost not just a beloved parent, but also a teacher and a friend who was always there to offer love and support. He shared my joys and hurts, accomplishments and milestones, and he had a generous heart, a playful side, and never lost his sense of humor. I missed him terribly.

Certain reminders were just too much to bear, and I battled emotional turmoil for months. Gradually, things began to get better, but the wound was still deep. One day, about six months after he died, I got a message from a stranger. Dad found a way to tell me he was still here. And with it, acceptance and peace finally came.

A World War II veteran, Dad had many medical problems, any one of which could cause many people to lose more than their sense of humor, but not him. He had a talent for finding humor in everything, and for making people laugh. He also liked to flirt. Once, during a trip to the grocery store years after my mother died, he asked a cashier who was in a bad mood to come home with him. “I’ll make you smile, honey,” he said laughing. At first I found this embarrassing but didn’t let on. But then, I was laughing with him.

I have vivid memories as a teenager of Dad singing songs in the morning. How I loved to wake to the sound of his voice and the aroma of fresh, percolated coffee. “Up, up, up! Rise and shine! It’s a beautiful day!”

Eventually, Dad’s health began to deteriorate. He was diabetic, and his legs were gradually becoming weaker. He started to have difficulty walking and he had to start using a cane. Then came the walker. Shortly after, a wheelchair became his mobility. But he didn’t lose his sense of humor. He would still climb stairs slowly, whistling all the way.

Every summer, my sister and I would help Dad with the garden that he loved so much, and spend many days sitting with him outside, admiring his beautiful flowers. Summers always ended too soon.

In the months that followed his death, I was overwhelmed with sadness. I took many walks in the woods with my dog, Remington. The quiet solitude and beauty of nature comforted me. One warm afternoon, as I strolled, I began to cry. I prayed for a sign that Dad was all right. Just then an elderly man walked towards me, singing “My Wild Irish Rose,” a song that Dad had sung often during the years!

As he got closer, I told him that I enjoyed his singing, and we chatted for a few moments. His presence comforted me enormously. I felt at ease talking to him. He told me he was 86 years old and offered some advice on exercise and diet for a long, healthy life.

“You’re a nice lady,” he said. “What’s your name?”

When I told him, a big smile lit his face. “What’s your name?” I asked.

“Just call me George,” he replied. I was stunned.

Before we parted, he mentioned that he had a son, also named George, a daughter who was 60 years old, and a sister named Virginia. “My daughter is separated from her husband,” he said. The similarities amazed me. I had a brother named George. My half sister, Linda, was 60 years old and also separated from her husband. My dad also had a sister named Virginia.

A few moments later, I heard a voice calling my name—the same way Dad had called out to me many times when we were in different aisles at the grocery store. I turned around and there was George running towards me.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I forgot to ask you if you needed any money or anything,” he said. “All you have to do is ask.”

I tried to hide my tears as I told him that I really didn’t need anything. “But thank you so much for the offer,” I said, recalling the same exact words I heard so often from Dad over the years.

“Well, okay, Linda,” he said. “But if you do, I’m here to help you.” I reminded him that my name was Kathy, not Linda. “I know that,” he said, smiling, as he walked away. A few seconds later, I looked over my shoulder, and he had vanished.

Suddenly, I had a “feeling.” As tears ran down my face, I knew that Dad had found a way to tell me he was never far from my side. I haven’t seen “George” since that day, but I do believe that it wasn’t just a coincidence. He was sent to comfort me. Dad found a way to tell me he was still here.

~Kathryn Radeff

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