Final Dance with Dad

I learned about this in my training
Have walked with people through it
But now, it’s my turn

Dad’s always been a determined person
Deeply devoted to his work
Insistent on doing things his way

When we learned about the cancer
We saw a new side–
“I’ll do whatever they tell me”

He’s become more malleable, open
Using tender terms of endearment like
“Thanks, doll” and “Hi sweetie pie”

Yesterday he was angry when he woke up
He’s ready to die, start his new life
We’re trying to respect his wishes

I’ll always treasure the gratitude
We’ve expressed in these final days–
A balm for what’s to follow

And I’ll always cherish knowing
At the end, I was the apple
Of my dad’s eye, as he was mine

Notes from the interview that inspired this poem:

When I spoke with this person, she was visiting her parents’ home in another state. Her dad was in hospice care, after receiving his diagnosis just a few months ago. She told me she was incredibly grateful for this time with him. She’d spent the last few evenings staying up with him, helping him and keeping him company when he was awake. “We’ve been able to express gratitude for one another, and he’s calling me ‘doll’ and ‘sweetie pie.’ It’s been so nice to hear these terms of endearment,” she said. She smiled as she reflected on this tenderness and openness that had been a rarity earlier in life. She was conflicted whether to stay with her siblings, or return home the next day to attend to other responsibilities. “Family is a treasure,” she said. She wanted the poem to capture the love and concern she felt for her dad in these final days of his life.

Interviewee: Anonymous, Physician
Listener Poet: Jenny Hegland

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