My Dad, And The Dying Before You Die

By Chris Palmer,

There’s a hole he lives in that’s darker than any human kind of place.

It’s empty and cold and unfeeling. But you feel everything.

Every pain and fear and worry. Every insecurity and torment.

And the endless paranoia.

It doesn’t make sense. The muttering and rants. The moments of recognition of what’s good, alternating with time in that dark hole alone and scared and empty.

I think it’s worse than death for him, dragging his 88-year-old body, or what’s left of it, in and out of these punishing zones of consciousness and less.

I’m like a spectator yelling through the glass, but my words can’t reach him. Not in a way that matters.

Sure I’ll get groceries or take him to the doctor. But none of that fixes the real problem.

He’s just dying. And no one can fix that.

To be clear, it’s not that he’s terminal. There’s no diagnosis that says the end is near, except for being 88 and falling apart in the usual ways. But you can see it in his grief.

It started when mom died several months ago. They were together 69 years. I’m sure they became one.

So it’s like one minus one. Or a half. But nothing is whole anymore.

Or at least that’s my best explanation. Because nothing’s the same. The bad is magnified. The good is reduced to nearly nothing.

He’s alive, if you can call it that. But it’s really more like someone’s occupying his dying body. Like some remnant of him was replicated and reduced by exponents.

So he struggles for normal. Whatever that is. It’s purgatory for a man who was made whole by a woman, only to have her torn away. Pain cycles in echoes. Even sleep becomes haunted.

So you reach to help, to comfort, to do anything that feels like something.

But it’s nothing. This is just the end, and it may be a while.

It seems like cruelty that you can have such a fullness in your heart, only to have it ripped away at the weakest moments of your life. That’s where he lives. The darkness is deafening.

So I’ll visit and call and try, knowing I’ll fail to give him a wholeness he once had.

And I know there’s comfort, at least for moments. A meal he enjoys. A song he plays over and over while staring at her picture. It’s something and everything.

And the tears tell his story.

I often write that I am an agnostic who prays to Christ with apology. Maybe He has a beautiful purpose for so much agony.

I hope so. Because I can’t see it through the fog of his unbecoming.

And in a moment, I hear their song again as he sits alone, looking at her picture, his eyes flooded. My eyes fill in uncontrolled sympathy.

He asked me why it has to hurt so much. Maybe falling apart is just the price you pay for 69 years of a kind of love that makes a person feel like a human. There’s just something about love and connection.

In the end, behind the density of this great unraveling, that’s all there is.

And maybe that’s all there ever is…

I write about life and I coach what I know. You can contact me at