November. For most people, it is the worst month of the year. It is cold and rainy. Days are getting shorter and the month basically feels like the boring interlude between the wonderful colours of fall in October and the wonderful magic of Christmas. I would feel the same way if it was not for my birthday at the end of the dreary month. But this year, November was even more gloomy than usual.
At the beginning of the month, we celebrated my father’s 79th birthday. He was in good spirits and in relatively good health. Having a number of chronic diseases, you would never know exactly how my father was feeling because he would NEVER complain. And when I say never, it was never. He never complained about anything actually, he would take things as they came and made the most of it.
On November 9th, both my parents tested positive for COVID. While my mother came out of it without too many problems, on November 19th, my father was hospitalised as he was completely disoriented and was not doing well. The list of issues was long, too long - COVID, double pneumonia, renal deficiency and the list went on. During my last conversation with him the next day, he told me that his. body was giving up on him. He could feel the time approaching and that his body was no longer able to fight the good fight.
Despite strong antibiotics and mechanical help to breathe, he was not getting better. On November 28th, while my brother, mother and I were with him, in his isolated room, dressed in our Covid gear, he had made peace with the fact that he had lost the battle and was ready to go. Knowing that someone you love is ready to go is both a blessing and a dagger into your heart. Leaving peacefully and in confidence, is in my mind the most beautiful way to go, but for those who are left behind, it means that the fight is over and that you have to let go.
After seeing a priest, hearing all of his grandchildren tell him they loved him on the phone, the respiratory aid came off at 5pm and both my mother and brother left around 8. I spent the night at the hospital with him, talking to him, praying and trying to sleep a bit in this unfriendly environment. His breathing was loud but he was unconscious and didn’t seem to be in pain. At one point, I put on the noise cancelling feature of my Air pods and I could still hear him breathe. It was as if he was in the water, making bubbles almost. A sound that I never had heard before.
My father believed in the afterlife. He had a strong faith, which again, he didn’t talk about but every Sunday, he would attend mass with my mother. My father was fiercely independent, of thought and action, and he was not easily swayed one way or the other. As such, no one could have made him attend church all these years against his will. Not even my mother.
The day before, my brother had asked him if he saw his family and my father said that he saw his father. When morning came, I was texting my cousin whose father - my dad’s brother - passed away a number of years ago and all of the sudden, the faucet behind me (about 5 feet away) turned on by itself. Noting how weird this was to my cousin, we started to think that perhaps his family had arrived to get him. A few minutes later, while I was holding his hand and talking to him about his family, and flowers (he loved gardening), he closed his mouth for a second (which had been open all night), seemed to look up and just stopped breathing.
I was honoured to be there when he passed. It was important for me that he was not alone when he passed. But, regardless of my presence, my experience of seeing him go was that he was not alone. I have no idea of what he saw or who he saw but I know that I was not alone in that room and that he was welcomed by love on the other side.
When I think of my father, the word that comes to mind is courage. He was the 6th child of12 and was a very bright kid. At 11 years old, he left home and his small village to go to Quebec City to study and live. Can you imagine leaving your parents at 11 or sending your child away at 11? He came home every summer and when he graduated from Laval university, he came to Ottawa to work in the public service, not knowing any English. This was in the 60s when bilingualism was not a thing, or barely a thought. He managed to excel nonetheless and become a senior executive within Statistics Canada and had a wonderful career, while taking care of us.
When you look at his journey, there is no doubt that his formative years led him to become independent and self-sufficient. He was such a hard worker and he instilled his rigour and work ethics in me. He was always there to help me, especially in my school work, when he would read my essays and help me with math problems. He was immensely proud of us and of his grandkids. He was a man of few words but he had his own language of love, that passed often through humour.
Je t’aime papa. Merci pour tout que ce tu nous a donné - tes efforts, ton travail et ton amour vont continuer de briller au travers de nos yeux et de nos mains. Tu étais au service des autres, humble et brillant. Veille sur nous tous. On a encore besoin de toi. et n'oublie pas de venir me chercher quand mon tour sera venu.
P.S.  please get vaccinated for COVID.  I may not kill you but it may kill those around you.
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Mireille. Quel beau texte. Ton papa était un homme humble et vous a laissé de belles valeurs. Sois en fière. Ton papa veillera toujours là pour toi et ta famille. Qu’il reposé en paix.

Lyne Levac

Quel beau et touchant hommage ! Qu’il repose en paix !

Cristiana Pescarus

Beautifully written!! Yes I had tears in my eyes as I read it. It is an honor to be there at the end but yes it is heartbreaking as well. I am a firm believer they are never far from us. There have been times when I have felt virtual hugs from my parents that helped me get through challenges Take care my friend!

Terrence Doucette

A very touching and beautiful tribute to your dad. I am sure he will always guide and love you. God bless his soul. 🙌 🙏🏻

Surinder Sharma

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