53° Good Afternoon
53° Good Afternoon

OPINION: A homecoming with significance

It was the first week of October 2009 when a bad fall onto his hip proved too much for 95-year-old Arthur Siegelman's frail, failing body to recover from.

After he had spent a week in the hospital and a nursing home, my mother, Linda, my sister, Diane, and I brought my father back to my parents' assisted living apartment on Oct. 10 - so he could die at home, surrounded by his family. He could not, would not eat or drink, and his physical suffering was bad enough that hospice allowed his assisted-living caregivers to administer powerful painkillers every two hours, 24 hours a day.

It was in the middle of that first night, while trying to fall asleep on the living room floor beside his hospital bed, that I thought I remembered that his mother, my Grandma Susie, had died on Oct. 18, 45 years earlier. So the next morning I searched through thousands of loose photos that my parents had accumulated during 69 years of marriage. Eventually I found the pictures I had taken of his mother's gravestone in 1997. The close-ups clearly showed that she in fact died on Oct. 18, back in 1964.

Although the drugs that were keeping my father pain-free had rendered him virtually unconscious and unresponsive, I whispered in his ear that his mother had died on Oct. 18 - and that today was Oct. 11. I told him that since his mother had been waiting to see him again for so many years, it would be nice if he rejoined her on the same "day" she had died.

I continued to tell him this on Oct. 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 - despite my certainty that he could not hear a single word I said, and that there was no way his previously failing memory could possibly retain that long-ago date.

At 6 o'clock on Sunday morning, I told him that it was now Oct. 18, and that although we would miss him, it was the perfect day for him to go "home" to his mother. An hour later he took his last, labored breath.

Back on Oct. 11, I never believed that my father would actually end up dying on Oct. 18 - not with so many other days both before and after that milestone date. Especially since the odds of any person dying on their mother's date of death is 1 in 365.

While the time of my father's death, on the same date his mother had died, felt psychologically fortuitous to me, the setting could not have been more perfect. After having been a husband to my mother for 69 years, a father to me for 66, and a father to my sister for 62 years, he got to spend his last eight days at home in the bosom of his family.


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