Quebec City, September 10th.
I got to Quebec City right on time to hold your hand before it would turn cold. Your fingernails were long and stained from nicotine. You probably didn’t have the strength to trim them anymore. I played with your fingers in mine, noticing how your hand was the only part of your body that still looked strong. Sometimes you seemed to reply back with a little pressure, but I couldn’t tell if it was voluntary or just a muscle spasm.
I got there early enough to see you breathe still, even though it had become hard for you. You wanted to talk, but it made you cough. I gave up the idea of hearing your voice again and asked you to simply nod yes or no. When I asked « are you in pain, Dad? », you nodded « no ». When I asked you if you would squeeze my hand when you were going to feel pain, so that I could get you medication, you nodded « yes ».
I got there right on time to see you open your eyes, but it was already too late to find any expression in them. You only opened them when the nurses moved you, because you didn’t want them to. You didn’t even want me to wet your lips so they wouldn’t be so dry. You just wanted to sleep. You wanted to go.
I got there right on time to ask you if you knew that I loved you, even though it was probably the first time I told you out loud that I did love you. I waited until the other ones were gone, until there was no nurse around, to kiss your tiny head and tell you so. We don’t say these things very easily in the family. It always makes us cry and god knows we’re not comfortable with tears.
I did not get back to your room on time to be there when you died. None of your kids were there. Knowing you, you probably chose it that way. In social gatherings, you would come around to make us all laugh, and then you would walk away in your corner, turn on the t.v. and tune out. You chose to spend Christmas eve and other holidays alone when it was held somewhere else than your apartment. You didn’t like phone calls much, or visits. You wanted peace and quiet. You often said so. « La paix », we would often hear you mumble, as you sat down on your chair in front of the t.v.
I just hope it’s very, very peaceful where you are right now.