My dad was living in Florida with my sisters. He had been in the hospital since September and on Friday, November 13th, at 3 a.m., we got a call from my sister Bella.
He was starting to fail and had asked her to call all of us in Boston because he wanted to hear our voices one last time.
Immediately, we got on line to find the next flight to Tampa. My brother, his family and I got on the first flight out and arrived at the hospital early Friday afternoon.
Poor Eric, my husband, was two weeks shy of recovering from knee replacement surgery or he would have been there with us.
When we arrived, he was lucid, awake and totally aware that we were all there. He was also extremely calm and told us in that no nonsense kind of way that he was “ready to go.”
He was so very happy to see us all and while he was weak, he could still communicate clearly yet slowly. He told us how much he loved us and that he was a rich man because of his family. He did not want us to be sad or to shed any tears because he had lived a good life and he was not afraid to pass on. He was ready.
Later on that night, we moved him to a beautiful Hospice House. My niece, Kelly, and I stayed with him there through out the night and he was still awake and aware till about 1 a.m. Saturday morning.
He kept on asking for hugs, so we got to exchange a lot of hugs and kisses with him. I even got him to agree to “how lucky he was to be spending the night with the two prettiest girls in the family.” That got a big smile out of him.
After that, he started to slip into that semi conscious state and, then, in the morning everyone came back to be with him: daughters, son, sons and daughter in law and grand children. It was not somber; it was nostalgic, happy, bitter sweet, funny just like he’d want it to be …Us being us. He passed away at 6:06 p.m. on Saturday, November 14th.
And here is the kicker:
About 15 minutes or so before he passed away, I remembered what he had requested a year ago. He said that when he turned 90, he wanted a big birthday party just like the one we had thrown for Eric’s mom. This was a very odd request because my dad never ever asked for anything for himself and especially not for anything that put the spotlight on him. He never even opened any of his presents in front of us. Whether it was Christmas or birthdays he’d always say “thank you” but would later open up his presents in private.
Last October, my dad turned 89 so he was officially going into his 90th year. So of course, Miss Party Planner here, said, “we have to throw him a Birthday party. Right Now!?”
We asked one of the nurses to get us a piece of cake from the dining room and to find a candle so we could sing “Happy Birthday” to him. A few minutes passed and my sister noticed that his face was getting cold. When I looked over, I could see that his face was changing and his breathing was getting labored.
I recognized this from the time I was with my mom when she passed. I called out to everyone to “come around him right now because he was passing on.” I sat on the edge of the bed, holding his hand, everyone gathered around him and we all started singing ”Happy Birthday to you … Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday dear Daddy. Happy Birthday to you.” And as the song ended, he passed away, with his hand in mine and his family all around him.
Our dad passed away just the way he wanted to in peace and dignity, surrounded by love.
Emily Haggman is the Executive Vice President, Director of Client Services at the Haggman Group, a premier advertising and public relations firm located in Boston, New York and London. Her telephone number in Boston is 978.525.3742 or you can reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.