Tonight, My Dad Flew Away

family, Life as it is, Love, Spiritual Journey

The phone rang just a little over an hour ago. It was my step-mom calling to tell me that my father had passed away and was now in a better place.

My Dad
A photo from Dad’s 80th birthday party earlier this year

I had visited earlier in the evening, and the visit began with security stopping me from rounding to corner to my dad’s room as they were moving one of the residents out of the hospice after they had died. The guard commented that it was four of them that day, but wouldn’t tell me who it was or what room number they were from. I was scared it was my dad – he had already stayed with us much longer than the doctors suggested a couple of weeks ago when this journey began.

When I could finally move on, I found my dad asleep in his room. I felt relief to see him still there. Unbidden, I remembered Dylan Thomas’s poem, Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I had the strongest desire to both cheer for him and to weep. I felt the impact of the thought behind the line of “Curse, Bless me now…” as I didn’t want him to stay and suffer but I was still blessed by his continued fight. Right or wrong, I needed to see him wanting to stay here a bit longer, no matter how prepared I knew him to be to go through that door. There should be some sort of barrier there, some sort of guardrail – or at least speedbump – between life and death. I know we all will cross that line, but I needed to see the resistance there.

He couldn’t speak tonight, and I realized on my drive home, I had already heard him say my name for the last time yesterday. While there, I visited with my step-mom and got her something to eat. I held my dad’s hand and left a long and lingering kiss on his warm forehead before leaving – promising to be back again at the same time tomorrow as I had been doing. I told him I loved him.

Last week he had all of his children by his bedside at the hospice, and we all discussed his plans for his funeral. He requested his friends’ bluegrass band to play, and said he wanted them to play, I’ll Fly away. My dad turned 80 years old earlier this year and the band played for that occasion as well. When they were finished, my dad raised his hand and asked them to sing that song then as well. I think we all felt some foreshadowing at the time, but he was having fun and the party was a joy, and really, it’s a very happy song.

I’ll Fly Away

Some bright morning when this life is over
I’ll fly away
To that home on God’s celestial shore
I’ll fly away

I’ll fly away oh glory
I’ll fly away (in the morning)
When I die hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away

When the shadows of this life have gone
I’ll fly away
Like a bird from these prison walls I’ll fly
I’ll fly away

Oh how glad and happy when we meet
I’ll fly away
No more cold iron shackles on my feet
I’ll fly away

Just a few more weary days and then
I’ll fly away
To a land where joys will never end
I’ll fly away

My dad has now flown away. I am grateful for all that he taught me. Even tonight, no longer able to speak, he was teaching me about how precious life is. And he teaches me still as I listen to the song now on my MP3 player. I feel sorrow and loss, but I also feel gratitude and joy as well. It’s a strange mix, and I m grateful to have the chance to share this with y’all.

I love you, dad. Fly high and free to that land where joys will never end.


11 Responses

  1. Imelda says:

    James I really am sorry for your loss but your father is in a better place. He is out of pain and so happy. I went to a memorial service just this afternoon. Your father is here always.

  2. Sheryl says:

    Thankfully your father left so much of himself in you! I’ll keep you close in my heart and thoughts throughout this emotional time. I’m here for you, so don’t hesitate to lean when you need to!

  3. Fianna says:

    What a beautiful post. The love shines through in the words, your dad must have been quite proud of your eloquence. I am very sorry for your loss.

  4. Jim Hughes says:

    What a great picture! From what you’ve written, I feel like I know your dad, at least a little. And I know some very important things about you. Your father raised up a good man. God bless you guys!

  5. Ardis says:

    Your words are that great, golden note in the symphony of remembrance. Thanks, James. No wonder we chose you to speak.

  6. Lori says:

    A powerfully beautiful tribute, James. I’m so sorry for your loss. I know your father must have been incredibly proud of raising a son with such great love and wisdom. Please know that my thoughts and prayers, as always, are with you, and I’m just a phone call away if there’s anything I can do.

  7. Melissa says:

    Grief weighs heavily on the heart, James, but it’s not a burden anyone has to carry alone. It seems like you have a very strong support network. We have to use the people in our lives. That’s what they are there for. My sincerest sympathies. Take great care.

  8. gini says:

    So sorry to hear of your father's passing — the love between you two was a strong bond and that love and wisdom will stay with you. My thoughts and prayers with you and your family

  9. andrea says:

    Thank you brother…I love you.

  10. Nina says:

    So sorry to hear of your loss. My grandmother died November 5th. “I’ll Fly Away” was sang at her service. Beautiful.

  11. […] the way home, I remembered a recent memorial service we attended for my father who flew away in October. In this service, they lit four candles and read a special celebration for each candle and what it […]

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