It was a long year, during which he rarely left his chair in the living room and, later, the hospital bed. His was a slow ride: painful, desperate. At the end he was so weak he could barely speak, yet so strong he clung to life for days after he’d stopped eating and drinking.
My father in-law is not for me to eulogize. He didn’t even like me all that much at first, truth be told. After five or 10 years I really think he started to warm up to me, but I’m not fit to interpret the arc of his life.
Jim belonged wholly to his wife and to his daughters, who rarely left his side since last Thanksgiving, when things started to go bad. My wife and her twin drove down to that tragically beautiful seaside town of Beaufort, SC every other week to cook meals and clean house. Later they’d rub his feet to help restore circulation. Finally, there was nothing left to do but hold his hand as he suffered.
And suffer he did.
It was beautiful to watch, this final act of caregiving against the inevitability of death, in the same way the Spanish moss in Beaufort is beautiful at sunset as it catches the last of the light in its tangles, when the water in the bay ripples down into flat glass and the sky, slowly, goes quietly dark.
All around me now I sense the end of things — of people, of places, of ideas that have served us so well for so long. I can feel the wheel turning, one generation replacing the next like a shark’s teeth, growing from the back.
We’ll head down to Beaufort one last time to send him off, to gather with the people who loved him and do things the way he would have wanted, because that is what you do.
And maybe we’ll walk down to Pigeon Point at sunset to watch the water turn to gold, perhaps catch some dolphins breaking the surface before we go home.