I. Punchline

I. Punchline

Pneumonia was the bitter punchline, really, to a death well crafted.

Things were going so well.

II. The Shaman

II. The Shaman

Chris and I separately arrived at the same idea shortly before we had received word that Dad was wrapping things up—that we should mark Dad’s end run with something ceremonial.

III. Unraveling

III. Unraveling

The hangovers Chris and I suffered were well-deserved. I fell asleep after texting a message to Lars around three that I might finally come home around dawn. I never made it, instead falling asleep on Dad’s small leather loveseat.

IV. Living in Twilight

IV. Living in Twilight

“I’m like a refugee who only grabbed random crap on my way out the door,” I said, sitting in front of Dad somewhere in his house, sometime in the previous day or so.

V. The Schtick

V. The Schtick

Despite my being a neophyte in reviewing oncoming mortality, Chris opted to spend that night driving full bore to get back to Portland.

VII. The Cat

VII. The Cat

I was in twilight again, where I had been two weeks before. Dad had been watching television when he became feverish and then collapsed. It was like clockwork: the hospital bed had arrived from hospice that afternoon and by night Dad was in it.

VIII. The Bill of Goods

VIII. The Bill of Goods

Hampered by Dad’s surprising endurance and without Chris’s company I tried helplessly to make sense of the house. I was still using dishes, so I couldn’t pack up the kitchen.

IX. Limbo

IX. Limbo

Traffic jams, border back-ups and a late start got Chris and Ray to Dad’s door at around six in the evening, though they intended to arrive much earlier. I practically collapsed with relief when I saw Chris’s car pull up, both because I wanted to see him, but also because I hadn’t slept in days.

X. The Marathon

X. The Marathon

If there's such a thing as truth, it’s that dying with comedy is hard

I know because we tried. When Dad hit the skids and there were no more visits to the doctor—or anywhere—any longer, only a bed in a living room filled with the remaining hours, we laughed.

XI. A Little Night Music

XI. A Little Night Music

Chris and I were alone with Dad again in torpid August heat, the sun dipping slightly in its southerly course but scalding the earth. Dad was tenuously balanced between here, with us, his champions and light, and his event horizon was near but murky.

XII. The Coffee Mouse

XII. The Coffee Mouse

I would, by my proximity and a settled life in Portland, be with Dad to the end. We knew this: Dad, Chris and myself. But a decision fell to Chris. It was onerous, unfair and heartbreaking, but it was his alone.

XIII. Waiting for Charon

XIII. Waiting for Charon

When his lungs began fighting the very air, Dad confided, “Maybe there’s something to it.” 

“What?” I asked.

“I was waiting for Chris after all.” 

I didn’t rub it in. 

XIV. The Horizon

XIV. The Horizon

Dad spoke about his horizons diminishing when he talked about dying, and I understood his perspective as his needs and wants contracted into smaller spheres towards a vanishing point. 

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