My father crossed the River Styx in his 92nd year. He did not go gentle into that good night, but after diagnosing his own problem, fought to keep his promise to my mother and not leave her alone after nearly 70 years. He was a lateral thinker and lucid to his last breath.
My parents were very private people who shared seven decades of being together, not only as husband and wife but also in a lifelong working relationship. They described themselves as dinosaurs in this modern world of open marriage, divorce and single motherhood, and were as much in love on their last day together as on their first.
From the time of his initial diagnosis, mother assumed complete charge of my father’s home care and did this adequately until the last weeks of his life, when Dad needed more physical help than my petite mom could handle.
My sister and I were more than willing to assume the responsibility of caring for him, but he resisted. He was a very proud man, and to preserve his dignity, we acquiesced and allowed him to refuse our ministrations.
Protecting their privacy, my parents resented the intrusion of outside help until one morning Lavinia appeared at their door and it was love at first sight.
If there are angels amongst us, surely this hospice home aide is proof of their existence. With her calm, quiet, capable manner, she won the trust and admiration of both my parents. She ordered devices to make my dad as comfortable as possible and stayed to help hours longer than her hospice agreement.
In the short time we knew her, Lavinia became our rock, our caregiver and our trusted friend. She was with my parents that last evening when she heard my father tell his beloved wife that his only regret was leaving her alone and she heard my mother give him permission to leave by telling him not to worry, she would soon be with him. Lavinia saw them embrace and watched as he breathed his last breath in my mother’s arms. Sitting on the edge of his recliner, my mother held him close, his head against her breast, as if he were dozing, and they were that way still when we arrived.
My father’s epitaph is one of greatness and simplicity. Every note of condolence described him as the quintessential gentleman. And so he was. A gentleman and a gentle man. With these qualities, my father appeased Charon and quietly crossed over the river.