Let Us Cross Over the River

Dad pointing out fish on the North Umpqua in 1999, shortly after Mom's death

Dad pointing out fish on the North Umpqua in 1999, shortly after Mom’s death

With Mom’s death and now Dad’s, I’ve noticed that it takes time to expurgate the image of them near death – diminished and battling. In Mom’s case, I awakened after three days with a brilliantly clear “dream” of her at the kitchen table in her favorite pink quilted bathrobe. Blessedly, that became the image I carried with me as I mourned her death and celebrated her life.

With Dad, what keeps coming to me are images of water, which I shared in earlier blog posts. I thought the dream about safety drills under freezing water, dozens of stories below ground in a mine, and another about paddling a crew boat across a cold, choppy channel, represented how I was trying to rescue Dad.

Then I had the dream about entering my living room to find a group of seven caregivers. The six clad in white told me they were there to “lift Dad up.” When I asked the caregiver clad in a black swim cap what he was doing there, he said he was for “after.” I knew that he was there to swim Dad across the river, as in the River Styx.

Rereading my emails to my brothers, I came across some from summer before last. All that summer, Dad and I “shade hopped” from one side of the street to the other, walking down Mariemont Avenue, ending across from a large oak tree. Most days, before we crossed, Dad would recite Stonewall Jackson’s final deathbed statement, as transcribed by his physician, Dr. Hunter McGuire. McGuire wrote:

Presently a smile of ineffable sweetness spread itself over his pale face, and he said quietly, and with an expression, as if of relief, ‘Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.”

If there is life after death – and I believe there is – surely Dad is resting in the shade by a beautiful river.

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