Dad called out, "Is anyone awake?"
Mom made some reassuring noises, but it was the middle of the night, so she was hoping he'd go back to sleep, and of course was trying to sleep herself. (Oh, how this reminds me of parenting my daughter when she was little!)
Dad was still wide awake, though, and still wanting companionship. Mom heard him say, "Perhaps I should sing..." and then he launched into "Nature Boy."
When I phoned Mom later and she told me about this, I found myself laughing through tears. It was so funny, and so very much Dad.
When I learned that he died, and for several days afterward, that song stayed with me. It isn't a very long song, really, and I found it looping through my consciousness, again and again, especially when I was driving. I found this comforting, cathartic, and companionable. I found myself clinging to this song as if it were Dad's special secret final message to me. Maybe it was.
Last summer, when I learned that Dad was terminally ill, I began to imagine what it would be like to be beside him in his final days or hours. I planned to sing to him, and simply to be present for him. I have done hospice work as a music therapist; I knew that I could do this for Dad. In the end, though, it didn't work out that way. The last time I saw him in person was in early April, when he was still receiving chemotherapy treatments, a bit weak but not bedridden, not actively dying. His final decline was so sudden -- only about ten days, really -- that it surprised everyone. Guessing that he only had months to live, I planned to visit over the summer. Then I spoke to his hospice nurse, who told me that in her best estimate (with the understanding that such things are difficult to estimate), he only had weeks remaining. So, I changed my plans and scheduled a visit for week after next. Then my sister, who was there, told me that she didn't think he'd make it another week, and I planned to drop everything and make the ten-hour drive the next day. Then I got the call telling me that he was gone.
My daughter and I sang for Dad when we visited in April, and he loved it, but I never got to give him the gift of bedside music that I had imagined. Instead, I cling to the music that he gave himself when he needed it.
There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far, very far
Over land and sea
A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he
And then one day
A magic day he passed my way
And as we spoke of many things, fools and kings,
This he said to me:
"The greatest thing you'll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return."