Good Night Sweet Prince: The Passing of Jack Dupree
Oh, Dee if you could see what I am seeing! Look there... up above you... the triangles spinning in a circle going on... and on...into infinity... translucent in rainbow light... DeDe look up... you told me about this once, didn’t you? I’m going, sweetheart. I’m going soon...
"Daddy…? Are you awake?" I whisper.
He opens his eyes and sees me. There is the shock of recognition on his face and he grabs my hand as if anxious to tell me something—because of the respirator, he cannot talk, but he is clearly excited. The heart monitor speeds up. He makes signs with his fingers: a triangle and a circle. Then, he makes several triangles in a row in the motion of a circle. Finally, he makes an emphatic circle with his right index finger and thumb, then a triangle, then the circle again. I know he is trying to tell me something important, but the best I can do is, "The trinity has come full circle?"
He shakes his head “no”, and starts the process over again, but he has no strength for it, and drops his hands in defeat. He closes his eyes and goes away again.
He does not come into consciousness for a few hours. When he does he indicates that he would like to write something. I go to the nurse’s station to secure pen and paper.
It’s the end for me. Dad scribbles on the pad the ICU nurse provided us. The bleeping of the heart monitor and the swooshing sound of the respirator are a constant, rhythmic duet that makes the stops and starts of our labored conversation noticeable, painful even.
"Yes, the end of this life, but the beginning of something else, Daddy. All beginnings are difficult,” I answer and his eyes soften. “You are going on to do great things, and I will listen—and remember, and I will write them down."
Tears form in the corners of his eyes, then spill down over his face intensifying the smell of the lidocaine residue still there. He picks up the pad to write something and I leave him for a moment to go into the bathroom and get a warm wet washcloth. When I return he hands me the pad with the writing—indicating that it is for me. On it is written: Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet; all things are at risk. Emerson
I am astounded—at not only how lucid he is, but by his generosity. I can feel tears of sentimental longing pool in my eyes and I blink them back with a fierce determination endeavoring to keep his transition pristine and free from the pull of emotional attachment.
I gently wash his face with the warm washcloth. He tries to smile—because of the respirator the smile is awkward and lopsided, but his eyes make up for the impediment and convey the intended gratitude.
"You’re welcome," I say.
He picks up the pad and scribbles: Where’s Micki? (my sister).
"She’s gone downstairs to get us something to eat. She’ll be back any moment."
He scribbles again: I’m hungry, can I have a hamburger?
I chuckle at his sense of humor and he tries to laugh with me, but his chest just quivers. This struggle to communicate is deteriorating him and his lids fall heavily over his eyes.
I go to the window and stand facing east, watching the vast motionless sky over the still Earth fading in the gray afternoon light—nothing is moving, not a leaf trembles, not one bird breaches the horizon, the stoplight on the corner seems permanently stuck on green, as if indicating that it is time, all lanes are open; but there are no cars on the street to go.
I turn away from the window and go back to my seat beside Daddy—briefly wondering what is taking Micki so long.
When Daddy opens his eyes he frowns, as if rejecting the harshness of the reality that declares this moment. He alters his glance, and I can see that he is gathering from some far off distant place, an initiative that might temper this incendiary forum from which he is forced to speak and deliver him somewhere else.
I am overwhelmed with emotion again, but this time I allow it, because it does not originate from the feeling of attachment. The presentation of his continuing departure, declarative in itself, brings everything back into perspective and relinquishes any bitterness in good-bye.
Suddenly, there is excitement in his eyes—a joy born from surrender to the possibilities that are being presented to him in this other reality, and to the things he can finally accept.
He leaves me now to dance with his ancestors—his eyes take on the watery glaze of a distant stare as they lift toward the ceiling. He attempts a smile and his hands sway gently to what I can only imagine is music.
I feel Micki come into the room. I hear her put down our food tray and come over to stand beside me. She places her arm around my waist.
I whisper in her ear. "He’s visiting with the others."
Tears stream down Micki’s face. “Is this it?”
“Yes, sweetie, I think he is getting very close.”
“Should we tell him it’s okay to go?”
“Beautiful,” I say. “Why don’t you go first?”
Micki sucks in a deep breath, takes a small piece of paper out of her pocket and unfolds it, looks at what she has written there. She notices my glance. “It’s what took me so long—I had a feeling.” I smile and weep silently in admiration for the bravery of my dear sister. I watch as she walks over to Dad’s bedside, sits down in the chair there and takes his hand in hers. When he feels the touch, he frowns again, resenting the intrusion—not liking to be brought back. He glances in her direction—there is a moment of non-recognition, and then his eyes soften and return to this world.
“Daddy, I want to read you something that I wrote for you—for this…time, okay?” Her voice quivers with emotion.
He nods slightly.
“Okay,” she whispers, and looks down at the paper—it shakes in her hand.
We are sailors…
We come to you Dear Father, as hearts of pray on a stolen ship.
Stolen in time...
It sails so long to one endless horizon of dreams.
We rise above the mighty waters of endless depths to meet you…
Between the mist and the mast we touch.
She puts the paper down and kisses his cheek, and he cries. Micki cries with him.
“It’s okay to go. You’ll be between the mist and the mast, and I’ll find you there. I love you so much, Dad,” her voice breaks. “Go ahead and go.”
Micki stands up and wipes her eyes, then hugs me. We hold each other for a long time, then she makes an excuse to go blow her nose and I sit down and take his hand. He squeezes mine and I know he is with me.
"Hi, sweetie," I whisper into his ear. "I know where you are...and I can see how happy you are there. I’m okay — I have Ian and Micki. You’re job is done here, Daddy. You can go now. I know you will always be with me, and I’ll always be listening."
He squeezes my hand again. There is a look of absolution in his expression and I acknowledge it, and then relief spreads across his face erasing everything that once was present, replacing it with serenity.
When Micki comes back we each kiss him and stand beside him. He gives a furtive wave good-bye and slips into a coma. How extraordinary, I think. He seems casually at home.
The next morning, Dr. Lyon disconnects the respirator and turns off the machines. There is an eerie quiet, a stillness that contradicts the noise outside this corner—the faint ringing of phones at the nurse’s station, their voices—bringing with it not a sense of dread but of liberation.
* * *
It is not until a year later that I discover what Daddy was trying to tell me that day in ICU, regarding the triangles and the circle. I am having lunch with Sam and a spiritual friend of hers visiting from her small farm in Colorado. I am relaying the story to them of my father’s passing and Sam’s friend stares at me, her eyes shining with tears. She reaches for the chain around her neck and pulls up a pendant that, until now, was hidden under her sweater. She holds the quarter-size pendant out so I can see it. It is a myriad of triangles, formed in a circle, going into infinity. She looks up at me and says, “They call this the eye of God.”
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