By Sarah Cronick
These last few months have been hmmmmm, how to describe…heavy, beautiful, unnerving, expanding, graceful, divine.
I was home in Alaska visiting family early March. During that time, we received a call that my dad was in the hospital and very sick. Not sure with what, but important we make our way to him in NH. So my siblings and I headed out there, not sure what was happening or how long we had with him. Upon arriving, he was on a ton of oxygen, in a lot of pain, and not doing well. But he hung on. It took the docs 10 days to finally diagnose: terminal pancreatic cancer that had spread everywhere. Days, weeks, months at most. Shock.
I spent the better part of the last 4 months back east with him. Taking care of a million loose ends that he had (this was not expected nor planned for) and doing my best to love him in spite of all the things that drove me mad (our relationship, like any, has its twists and turns). It was, overall, a sweet, challenging, beautiful time. To be together with family in that capacity and see how we are as a unit is a special thing.
I went to Boulder for about 3 weeks in this time period, to try and restore and work a little. In that time, my grandma Baba (the one with dementia- who yes, I am very close with) began her dying process. I was alone with her as she took her final breaths. It felt like a huge, beautiful, all-expansive gift of unconditional love as she passed. I seriously felt ecstatic. Intense nonetheless. It was such an honor to be with her and guide her in the process of letting go. All the while during that time I had a strong feeling that I would be in a similar situation with my dad- sooner than later.
Well, I was. My dad’s health declined rapidly while I was in Boulder, and it worked out that my siblings and I would drive out to NH immediately following my grandma’s funeral. So that is what we did. It felt so heavy, like I couldn’t celebrate my grandma and her incredible legacy (she had 8 kids, 28 grandkids, and 3 great grandkids- we were all there!) because I wanted to get to my father before it was too late.
When we arrived to my dad, he didn’t look well. We were told he was hanging on for us and not sure what to expect- was he going to die the minute we got there? What do we do? So many questions and unknowns.
He hung on for about 8 days. It was an interesting, funny, heartbreaking, and beautiful time. Song, loving touch, tears, laughter, anger, all of it. Seems so surreal, still.
I was alone with him as he passed. Unlike my grandma, he was in a lot of pain, and had a very hard time letting go. That morning, I did not want to be awake and taking care of my other grandma (there is a whole backstory I won’t bore you with), but I was. When I checked on my dad, it was clear it was time for him to move on. After getting out of my own willful way, I let go to the flow of it and let the divine work thru me- lighting candles, calling in his guides and ancestors, and asking god outloud (something I never do) for help. “coaching” him, saying words like “it’s time to go, it’s ok, you are doing great, and just keep exhaling.” he left shortly thereafter. Whew. I felt traumatized and full of adrenaline. Went to the woods to shake and cry it off. Felt his presence there and assured me that he chose me to be there with him for a reason- that I had the tools and could handle it. I trust in that.
Sooooo, that’s what’s been going on. He died a month ago yesterday. The “honeymoon” phase of the grief seems to be transitioning into something else, another heavy slow weighted sadness. I need to constantly remind myself that this is a process and to be gentle with myself. Again and again. Right now I want to not do the work I do, and leave the country to retreat to other worlds.
Here is a photo of him when he was younger, as well as a picture of me holding him after a terrible coughing fit that he experienced regularly towards the end. It was such a gift to be able to do that with him- so tender and loving, so this picture is very special, powerful and sacred to me.