When we said goodbye last New Year's Eve, my father was already hard of hearing. The end was very near. In our last video chat I was able to show him how the rug from his childhood, which we carried across the Atlantic in an oversized suitcase on the plane, fits perfectly into our new living room. My father marveled at the size of our lush green garden, the towering, curved palm trees and the old olive tree on his small phone screen. He enjoyed our weekend hikes along the windy Mediterranean coast. From our terrace I could show it with my phone: a piece of turquoise in the hazy distance. He admired the view from my new home office, virtually visited the kids' messy bedrooms and toured the kitchen, and the stone climbed from the street to the front door.
The next day he called again, but somehow I couldn't hear the ringing, even though my phone was increasingly glued to the palm of my hand. The next morning, I spoke to him one last time between sobs when my mother put the phone to his ear. He managed to blow out my nickname, but nothing more before he disappeared. For weeks I wondered what he had called to say what I had missed that day before, when he could still pronounce words. What important message might he want to convey before the silence set in?
In the many sleepless nights since then, I've checked our past conversations. In the darkest hours, I revisited many of our last walks, our visits, those light-filled moments as a whole family, and finally I found comfort and consolation in the pattern of our chats, in the single meaning behind every thought my father shared.
Like the darkness that holds our universe together, there is a line in the sand that connects every grain of thought. He actually said more than I understood, overwhelmed by his death and my grief. His questions and enthusiasm for our future were not just vessels of denial or avoidance. There were no signs that he had nothing more urgent on his mind, nothing bigger to talk about.
This focus on his part reflected everything that was most important to him, namely his family; it was our happiness, our health, our well-being, our continued existence in this world that he left too soon. In the end, I realize that my father only left me the lessons I needed to stay resilient through this step, his illness and death, and now this pandemic.
My father was a fan of Winston Churchill, and as I carried my grief along with these teachings from the man who brought me into this world, I remember a famous quote from this politician that he admired: “This is not the end, ”said Churchill. “It's not even the beginning of the end. But it may be the end of the beginning. "
Although I've been in my life for decades, like a new phase of the moon, the loss of my father also feels like a new beginning – one without parents who have been there every step of the way so far.
Lorraine Allen is a writer and lives in Valencia, Spain.