In Memoriam, Robert D. Henry, aka Dad

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Today marks the one year anniversary of my Dad’s death. My mother has posted a memorial in her local newspapers, which is customary in the rural area where she lives. About a week ago, she asked me to write something for that memorial as I am “the writer in the family”.

I selfishly didn’t want to write anything. It would hurt, make me cry, make me think about Dad and the last year of his life. I didn’t want to feel that pain over again. So I looked through pre-written, memorial prose and poems. I copied a few to share with Mom before it really hit me that I should make an effort. I should try to say how we miss him, because remembering Dad, with all his silliness and smarts, is a good thing. Dad was more than just that last year of hospitals, nurses and blood tests. Dad was a storyteller, an educator, a bee-keeper, a fisherman, a builder, a cowboy, a gardener, a husband and a father. So, I wrote this poem.

When I read it to my Mom, we cried a bit and decided this would be something to share here, as a memorial for my Pop:

World Without

Time has passed
differently since you left,
headed for Heaven
to watch over us

The bees reluctantly make honey
The fish are slower to rise for a juicy worm
The tomatoes struggle to plump
on their garden vine

And the old black dog still
waits for you to walk
through the front door

There have been moments
or whole days
when we expect to hear your laugh again
to get wrapped up in your big, generous hug
to see the twinkle in your eyes as you plan something ornery
to hear your Eddie Arnold baritone work through half a song
to get advice on a million subjects only you knew best

Our memories of you
will bind us in love
as we wait for you by the front door.

Dad died on August 26, 2009 at 5:58 am. I remember his last breath, the troubled night before and the grief that followed that exhale. He left us, as the sun came up and poured pinks and pastel blues of the flat Colorado prairie where he had spent the entire experience of his life. We were with him; 5 kids, one granddaughter and Mom. We were holding his hands, holding up Mom, telling him it was okay to let go, be at peace.

So he left us.

I remember afterward, that I took my phone and walked out the front door of the hospital. It was a beautiful summer morning. The air was about as clean as it can get just about anywhere and a couple of stars were still blinking on the horizon.

I perched on the end of the little stone bench. I would have sat fully, but the sprinklers had left a puddle in the little ridge that ran down the center of the marble seat. I needed to call my support, my oak, my own husband and tell him.

So strange to think that the whole world didn’t automatically know that everything had changed. How could the breeze blow the same way? or flowers grow to any height? My world had lurched like a train making an unexpected pick up. Everything I had ever known seemed to stop. So how did the globe keep spinning?

It’s been a very surreal year. When I see pictures, it seems weird that Dad isn’t around any more. Time passes and the memories of Dad, when he was healthy and ornery and goofy, are starting to come more frequently than the memories of him when he was sick. Still, I have dreams about him walking on the beach next to me, explaining how the ions in salt water can heal me. Dad liked to educate me, and everybody, on stuff like that. I like those dreams, even though they make me miss him more.

The wound of losing him has healed so it isn’t as raw, but that scar will always mark me. I will miss my Pop for the rest of my life.

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Showing 4 comments
  • Elizabeth

    As my brother likes to say, “A life well-lived is never wasted, just missed.” I still miss my Papa too, thirteen years later. Thanks for this.

  • Anonymous

    Perfect. Thank you. We were so wonderfully blessed to have Robert Dixon Henry for our Dad.

  • Aggie

    You said it all so well. You reminded me of how happy people irritated me after Dad was gone. It was amazing that the rest of the world just kept going. But, now I do remember him more and more as our lively loving Dad with a big smile and a ornery twinkle in his eyes. Thanks Amy.

  • ItsJustShannonP

    I happened upon your blog while avoiding mine. Having just lost a wonderful friend, in June, your words were a comfort — thank you.

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