I have been away from my blog for a while as I’ve been in Ohio with my family during my father’s illness. Sadly, I have to tell you that my father passed away on April 24th, 2011. I was able to be in Ohio with him before he died. We sat and talked and he told me what he wanted for his memorial service, who he wanted to speak and of course a saxophone playing. Daddy loved jazz and the saxophone was his favorite instrument. He had 10’s of thousands of songs that he catalogued on his computer. His jazz library could rival any formal library in the world.
As we talked I had one question for my dad.
“Daddy I know you want your ashes spread in West Virginia.”
“Yeah, your mama knows what I want. There’s a creek where I used to play when I was a little boy and that’s where I want the ashes.”
“Is the creek still there?”
With his typical eye roll, “Oh shoot girl, yes it’s still there.”
“Well I was just wondering if it would be okay to have some of Jordan’s ashes mixed with yours when we spread them.”
“Of course you can, even if it’s just a teaspoonful. You know Jordan is my boy. Now you notice I said is, not was.”
“I know Daddy.”
“Shoot, that boy and I threw rocks together when he was little down in West Virginia. Of course he can be with me.”
“Thank you Daddy.”
We sat quietly for a while after talking and I looked over and Daddy had fallen asleep.
Later that day he was moved from the hospital to an inpatient hospice facility. Our hope was that he would be able to come home in a few days after they transferred him to oral medications. Unfortunately, his condition deteriorated rapidly and by Friday he wasn’t talking anymore but didn’t seem to be in much pain. When my mom and I walked into his room on Friday as part of our new routine I asked him what music he wanted to hear.I rolled out the usuals, Stanley Turrentine, Gene Ammons, Jimmy Smith. He shook his head “no” until I came to Sam Cooke.He wasn’t in the mood for jazz, but for gospel.
I stood rubbing his shoulder as he seemed a bit restless and then he reached out for my hand. I took his hand and told my mother to hold his other. All the while Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers played, “Nearer To Thee,” in the background. After a few minutes of standing at his bedside holding his hands he gently pulled his hands away. Mama and I went to sit down. I looked over at my exhausted mother and saw that she had drifted off to sleep. Daddy would close his eyes for a few minutes and then open them again, putting his hands behind his head and then trying to turn in bed. He was too weak to turn and shook his head “no” when I asked if he wanted help. I looked over at him as he lay with his eyes closed and suddenly he opened his eyes and with perfect clarity winked at me which brought me to the edge of my seat. I smiled back, so familiar with that wink and knowing this time all the words that it conveyed, “I’m alright”, “Take care of yourself” ,”Take care of your Mama”, “Goodbye.”
That was the last time Daddy opened his eyes and his gift of a wink was the perfect goodbye. He was an amazing man who taught me so much about life and not fearing death. Sleep well my wonderful father. You have earned your rest.